Originally Published in Materials Management & Distribution Magazine
Picture a teenager arriving in Canada in the early 1970s on his own with very limited English, no job prospects and an immediate need to earn a living. Fast-forward 40 years and picture a successful husband, father, grandfather and business owner. That’s the story of my friend and client “J”.
J landed in Canada with no job skills or experience and zero connections. What he did possess was absolute determination and a belief that he would succeed in his new home country.
And so he immediately focused all of his energy on ﬁnding a job. Of course in those days there were no Internet job boards, and newspaper “help wanted” pages were a challenge for someone with a sparse command of English and no résumé.
Knowing he would not rank very high on a list of potential employees, J realized he had to do something to stand out from the crowd.
So J arose early each day, packed himself a lunch, and rode the bus to areas of the city with the highest concentration of industrial job opportunities. He then walked door to door seeking employment. The answer was invariably “no,” but J was not deterred. Each day he continued knocking on doors.
Finally one morning while walking towards another potential factory job, J saw a Cadillac drive in and park in the owner’s parking spot. J walked right up and greeted the man with a ﬁrm handshake as he got out of his car.
Surprised, the owner asked him if he worked in the factory. J’s response was, “Not yet, sir, but I would certainly like to and I am ready to start right away.”
Obviously impressed with J’s positive attitude, and noting he had his lunch with him, the owner asked J to take a seat in the lobby while he checked with his foreman. Just a few minutes later J was put to work for the day, recalled the next day and ultimately spent several years progressing through a number of jobs with increased responsibility within the factory.
You can be sure J put in more than an honest day’s work, and in his off hours improved his language skills. At the same time, J was always thinking about how he might become an owner himself one day.
In a few years his opportunity did come and with the usual combination of fear and excitement around launching a new venture, J opened a small trucking business. One truck and big plans. That single vehicle grew into many, and over the years J built a successful transportation business, providing outstanding service to customers and livelihoods for many employees.
J’s story, like that of so many other entrepreneurs, is both impressive and inspirational and I believe some lessons can be learned from his experience.
J was absolutely determined and willing to do what it takes to succeed. Not many of us can say we’ve gone door to door seeking a job. He did, while enduring countless “no’s” and continuing to persist until the answer was “yes.”
J had an attitude that anticipated success. Remember, each day when he left to pursue work he took his lunch with him. Each morning he anticipated that today would be the day he would win full-time employment and sit down to eat his lunch with his coworkers.
My friend used his outgoing and charismatic personality to his advantage. It was pretty unusual for a teenager to introduce himself to a business owner in the parking lot, open the door for him and announce he was ready for work that day. In that brief “moment of truth” J impressed the boss and created his own opportunity.
J worked to overcome many obstacles. Being a teenager with no immediate family, extremely limited resources, minimal understanding of the language and no clear-cut skill set did not keep him from a positive intentional attitude plus a drive to keep moving forward, and ultimately great success.
Finally, he was patient while learning what he needed to know in order to build a business. His lifelong dream was not to work in a factory, but he knew instinctively that the initial factory job was a gift and he would use it well.
He learned all he could about the business, he observed his managers and no doubt saw their strengths and weaknesses, and all the while kept his eye ﬁxed on his dream of building his own business. When the time came to step out and take the risk, J grabbed hold, and the rest, as they say, “is history.”