By Brent Allen
In the last issue of the Med One to One publication, my partner Larry Stevens shared some things he has learned from starting a business. I’d like to tag on to his insightful remarks and add my perspective as well. His article prompted me to reflect on some of the lessons I have learned over the years. I like to refer to them as life-lessons. From my experience with Med One, I know that with any endeavor, we only get back what we put into it, nothing more and nothing less. Sometimes we win, and even if we don’t win, we learn. What comes back to us are life-lessons that will be with us for the rest of our lives. One person pointed out that these life-lessons are gifts, and they come back to us gift-wrapped. Recently, I paused to take inventory of these gifts. I am in awe at the gift-wrapped life-lessons that have been returned to me. In this article, I will elaborate on a few of these gifts.
A GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP
I recall the story about a young couple touring southern Florida and stopping at a rattlesnake farm they discovered. They engaged in a conversation with the man who handled the snakes.
“Dangerous job…don’t you ever get bit by the snakes?”
“Yes, occasionally,” was the reply.
“What do you do?”
“I always carry a razor-sharp knife in my pocket. I cut across the fang entry and suck the poison from the wound.”
“What if you sit on a rattler?”
“That is when I find out who my true friends are.”
Hopefully, none of us will ever need to utilize this test to discover a friendship.
I am grateful for the gift of friendship. I first met my business partner Larry Stevens 58 years ago. Since that day, we have had a unique friendship. Larry had a wonderful impact on my life. I can hardly remember what life was like without him. He accepted me for who I was, and his friendship helped me achieve my potential. In our life, we cross paths with many good people. These good people bring us happiness. Sometimes we encounter “not-so-good-people” from whom we learn many valuable lessons. Occasionally we rub shoulders with great people. These are the people who give us memories. I have built many wonderful memories because of my association with Larry. Someone once said, “There are friends and there is family. And then there are friends who become family.” Larry is one of these friends.
A GIFT OF CHOICE
I am grateful for the gift of choice. Prior to starting Med One, both Larry and I were victims of acquisitions…not once, but several times. In my case, every company for whom I worked, except one, was sold. The owners walked into the sunset with a bundle of cash in their pockets. The employees were left with a huge unknown future. Each time we were told what a wonderful opportunity it would be for us. In every case, it turned out to be a disaster. From these experiences, I discovered that life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you are going to get. Sometimes we need to make a choice and take a chance, or our lives will never change. C.S. Lewis once said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning. But you can start where you are and change the ending.” Embracing this philosophy Larry, and I (with two other partners) decided to change the ending. Thus, in 1991, Med One was born.
A GIFT OF EXPERIENCE AND LUCK
I have learned over the years that in every worthwhile endeavor, we begin with two bags. We begin with a “full” bag of LUCK and an “empty” bag of EXPERIENCE. The challenge is to fill the bag of experience before the bag of luck runs empty. Let’s face it. Life can be tough. It’s easy to get down when things aren’t going our way. Sometimes, all we need is a little bit of luck. I will be the first to admit that I am a very lucky person. I don’t own chickens but, if I did, I believe that even my roosters would lay eggs. Sometimes luck is just believing that you are lucky.
Frequently, we run into people who have been highly successful. If they refuse to attribute some of their success to luck, I personally believe they are kidding themselves. Every morning I pray that our bag of luck doesn’t run dry before our bag of experience fills up.
A GIFT OF HARD WORK
I am grateful for the gift of knowing that it takes more than luck and experience to be successful. It takes a lot of hard work. Thomas Jefferson said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” Someone else said, “Luck is a dividend of sweat…the more you sweat, the luckier you get.”
Many years ago, I spent a long, hot summer working at a poultry processing plant. My job was hanging live chickens on shackles prior to each chicken being processed. It was a dirty, sweaty, dusty job…not the kind of thing most 18-year-old boys enjoy doing with their summer. I returned home each night filthy and exhausted. One by one, I watched co-workers quit. But I stuck it out. Today, I look back on that experience and I am so grateful that I didn’t quit. I learned something about myself…I learned that I can do hard things. I soon discovered that I was making a significant contribution to the world…I was making it a better place “one chicken at a time.”
Hard work defines the character of people; some turn up their sleeves and go to work; some turn up their noses, refuse to work, and take the easy way out; some just plain don’t turn up at all. Which one are we?
A GIFT OF PATIENCE
I am grateful for the gift of patience. One author gave the perfect analogy for patience. She said, “Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.” Another said, “Patience is when you are supposed to get mad… but you choose to understand.”
I love the patience and strategy demonstrated in the following story about a couple who had been married for 30 years. The wife had a “special box” that she had asked her husband never to open. He had honored her request for their entire marriage. One night, when his wife was out of town with some friends, his curiosity got the best of him. He opened the box. Inside, he found 12 crocheted doilies and $7,500 in cash. After opening the box, guilt set in. When his wife returned, he confessed and apologized for his actions and asked for her forgiveness. She was very understanding and admitted he had been very good to honor her request for 30 years.
“I have learned over the years that in every worthwhile endeavor, we begin with two bags. We begin with a “full” bag of LUCK and an “empty” bag of EXPERIENCE.”
“By the way,” he said, “What’s with those 12 doilies?”
She responded, “When we first got married, I decided I was going to be very patient with you. When we had disagreements and I felt like yelling at you, I decided to excuse myself to another room and vent my frustrations by crocheting a doily”
“WOW,” he responded. “12 doilies over 30 years of marriage. We did pretty good, didn’t we.”
“Yes,” she replied.
“I have one more question,” he said. “How did you manage to put away $7,500 in cash?”
“That is the money I earned from the doilies that I sold,”
To lose patience is to lose the battle. My experience at Med One has taught me a lot about patience. Success didn’t come quickly for us. We had many disappointments and setbacks. I learned that patience is not simply the ability to wait…it’s how we behave while we are waiting.
A GIFT OF OPTIMISM AND ACTION
Consider this very profound quote: “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails”. For 32 years, we have constantly focused on “adjusting the sails.” We have done our best to avoid the scare tactics of the pessimists. Early on, we lost our main funding partner. The pessimists told us we were doomed and would never survive. We didn’t listen to the pessimism. We acted, adjusted our sails, and we are in a better capital position than we have ever been. At one point, we lost our main rental partner. The pessimists told us we would need to abandon our rental efforts because we couldn’t survive without this partner. We ignored the negative input, changed our direction, and we are healthier in our rental offering than ever.
Over twenty years ago, we began offering an “equity rental” option to our hospital customers. It is a very creative tool that offers many advantages to a hospital but comes with some risk to Med One. We were told by some that we would sustain major losses from this innovative approach. We ignored the pessimism, continued offering it as an alternative, and today the equity rental remains one of our viable options.
“As I peer into the rear-view mirror, I cherish the gift-wrapped treasures that have been returned to me. They have had a huge influence on how I have lived my life.”