Article Date: 4/1/2010

Too Inept To Get Rich
lessons learned

Too Inept To Get Rich

The best laid plans of mice, men and fathers often go awry.

JACK RUNNINGER, O.D.

“This is a ‘must read’ story that will really touch your heart,” a friend recently e-mailed me. It went like this: “One day a construction crew turned up to start building a house. The six year old daughter of the family next door started hanging out with the workers. The construction crew, gems in the rough, adopted her as a project mascot. They let her sit with them for lunch breaks, and gave her little jobs to do to make her feel important.

“At the end of the week, they even presented her with a pay envelope containing a dollar. The little girl excitedly took the dollar home to her mother, who suggested they go to the bank and open a savings account.

“ ‘Where did you get the dollar?’ asked the teller.

“ ‘I've been working with some men building a house all week,’ she proudly replied.

“ ‘Will you be working on the house again this week?’

“ ‘I will if those %$#@& idiots at the lumber yard ever bring us the %&*$!&! lumber,’ answered the little girl.”

A financial failure

Her financial success reminded me of the mind-warping entrepreneurial failures I suffered as a youngster. These failures may provide a lesson to others. My father was a school teacher who was never very happy with the remuneration his profession afforded. Thus he decided his eldest son should early on learn the attributes of a successful businessman, so that I could one day attain the financial success that had eluded him.


ILLUSTRATION BY AMY WUMMER

His first effort came when I was 10 years old. To develop my salesmanship skills, he had me selling magazines door to door. This was back in the depression of the 1930's, and the magazines sold for 10 cents. For each one I sold, I received a commission of two cents. After three days, I had earned a grand total of eight cents. Seventy-five percent of this sum came the day I took my cute four year old brother with me, and let him ask the question, “Wanna buy a mazzanine?”

The egg and I

My old man recognized that this enterprise was not developing the salesmanship skills in his offspring for which he had hoped. However, he was persistent. He came to the erroneous conclusion that the problem was not in the abilities of his eldest son, but instead in the product being offered.

So when we visited relatives who lived on a farm, he purchased 20 dozen eggs for me to peddle door to door when we returned to the city, pulling them behind me in my wagon. At this undertaking I was numerically more successful. As I recall I was able to sell eight dozen eggs, as compared to just four magazines. The remaining 12 dozen were pretty well divided between those that got broken, and those that became less than fresh before I got them sold.

He gave up

The final accounting of losses incurred in the egg business easily cancelled the eight-cent profit I had made in the magazine business. My sire finally recognized that he was probably going to go broke if he continued to finance my entrepreneurial enterprises. From then on he steered me into salaried positions, such as lawn mowing, caddying, grocery clerk, etc.

But I guess I've always been a slow learner. Forgetting my childhood lessons, I later still kept seeking easy ways to make money. OM

To be continued…


JACK RUNNINGER, OUR CONSULTING EDITOR, LIVES IN ROME, GA. HE'S ALSO A PAST EDITOR OF OM. CONTACT HIM AT RUNNINGERJ@COMCAST.NET.

Optometric Management, Issue: April 2010