Hanging out my sign

. . . continued from Growing Up Volume I . . .

After about a year and a half of operating my paper route, the area manager decided he wanted to give the route to his son. He hit on some technical reason or excuse for taking the route away from me.

Over the next couple of years, I was a part-time stock boy in a downtown grocery store and did other odd jobs. When I turned 14, I was old enough to become a grocery packer/carry out boy for a regional grocery chain.

When I was about 15, I put a sign out in front of our Prospect Street house that said, “Larry’s Bike Shop.” I’d learned how to fix mine, my brother’s, a couple of friend’s and neighbor’s bikes. It seemed easy enough to me. I bought the parts I needed at the Western Auto Store. I repaired coaster brakes, replaced crank and front fork bearings, fixed broken chains, replaced tubes, tires, and pedals. Replacing spokes and straightening wheels was my biggest challenge, but I figured it out. Soon I could make the most warped wheel just like new.

I began to look for any old bikes I could buy at a good price. One of my buddies had a car. He took me out to Willow Run Village to look for broken-down bicycles. When I spotted one, I’d knock on the door and ask the tenant if they wanted to sell their broken-down bike. Very often they said yes. I’d buy their bike for about a third of what I thought I could sell it for after I fixed it up, put the bike in the trunk of the car and off we’d go. Soon, I had six bikes waiting out at the curb for buyers.

After nearly three years, I returned home after working in Cleveland and being in the Army for two and a half years. My Mom told me people were still knocking on the door to see if we could fix their bikes. I hung out my sign and soon I was busy again. This time I figured out how to buy parts from a whole-sale supplier in Detroit. I now made a profit, a markup on the parts prices.

The lesson I learned from this experience is the importance of taking the initiative, the importance of having the courage to knock on doors, how to negotiate price, and much, much more.

The action I call you to take is to take the initiative in important areas of your life. Don’t wait for something good to come your way, instead do what all leaders do, take the initiative to improve your performance. Soon people will be knocking on your door saying, “We need your help.” You will be in constant demand.

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