Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Things that are well executed have their own reward. Today's photo is of a large skylight feature for the University of Minnesota Microbial Building. This unit is about twenty feet tall and fifteen feet in diameter at the widest part. Architects would come to Gruppo (that was my company's name and yes, there was a cycling tie-in) with their ideas and it was our job to make their dreams come true. This thing was a computer illustration and basically it is a transected cone made from a special acrylic that looks like glass (green edges you know...) affixed to a stainless steel frame with stand-offs. The geometry involved was pretty intense, especially when it came to cutting the holes in the acrylic panels. Well, it was our job and we did it right no matter how much money it took. The problem is, after the budget was gone it was the company's money that was taken. A company that does this kind of work tries to establish itself with these monumental projects in order to become the "go-to" guys for work such as this. In reality, the successful outfits have a bread and butter product that they churn out daily at an actual profit. We were the go-to guys for odd-ball custom stuff but it was the only work we did. This resulted in a large dollar turn-over at little or no profit as we were always trying to get through the problematic job in hand to get the future (theoretically profitable) job into the shop. Finally, there was a perfect storm of three big loser jobs in the shop at the same time and God in his wisdom showed me there was a better life for me as long as I left this one behind.

Change is good. Change hurts a lot but I have ultimate faith that things will continue to improve as they have in the two years since I put Gruppo down and started my quest for something that was rewarding and would allow me to sleep at night. I hear through the grapevine that former Gruppo employees have many negative things to say about me because I, well, failed. Failed big. I believe that their opinions help them to process what was undeniably a large part of their lives. Either the things they say are true or they aren't. I built Gruppo from nothing to thirty employees in a 20,000 square foot shop/office. After 9/11 things got tough. In particular, the metal fabrication industry had a very hard time of it and we were no exception. We could no longer operate and I took it down because it was my company to take down. There are a myriad of ancillary reasons why the company could not survive, and as I was the top dog, they all roost on my shoulders. I wouldn't have it any other way. The employees were, by and large, good people. Some of them worked hard and some didn't. I simply could not find the magic blend of personality traits in myself to make it all work. Instead, life gave me the opportunity to learn from failure on a pretty big scale. This has been the lesson of greatest value for me and I have taken it to heart. Oh, and I am prepared to fail again if that is what is meant to happen. After all, I am alive and my children are healthy. Only a fool wouldn't recognize the value of this.

I sell guitars now and that is a good thing because I enjoy being in full control of what happens in the company and therefore things are exactly as I want them. Every customer I have had to date is satisfied, and every transaction has been profitable for the company. It even looks like the guitar business is going to break even year one. Gruppo broke even year five, I believe. Yes, change is good. Living is good. Learning from what life teaches you is good too.


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