Every year in early July, millions of Americans get together to celebrate the greatest day in the world. But one day later, there’s another holiday, and I don’t think many people know about it. I’m speaking of National Workaholics Day on July 5. It’s a silly idea for a holiday but one that also strikes a chord. Workaholic? That’s me for sure.
I’ve spent more than a few holidays — including the Fourth of July — working instead of celebrating. Then again, I think that working on the Fourth isn’t such a bad way to celebrate the day. If you think that’s crazy, I’ll explain in a second.
But first I’m going to explain why it is that I’ve worked so hard for so long. Growing up, even the poorest of our neighbors considered my family to be poor. Our tobacco farm was on a dirt road, and the cows, pigs, and chickens outnumbered the people. We raised, caught, shot, grew, or traded for everything we ate. Most folks can’t imagine living without running water or indoor plumbing, but that was the way I lived until I was 15 years old.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, but when I left home, I knew I was never going to be poor again in my life. And I haven’t been, even when life threw me curveballs like getting married and having a child while my wife and I were still teenagers (we’ve been together 47 years now).
The secret was simple: I worked. Hard.
It started in high school. Classes ended at 2 p.m., and I went to work until 11 that night. On weekends, I would work for whomever needed a pair of hands, mostly doing farm labor. I’d worked hard at home and knew how to do a lot of things, so it wasn’t hard to find people to bring me on.
But in order to achieve my goal of never being poor, I knew I had to own my own business. I spent my 20s working and learning, and 35 years ago, Quality Plus Automotive was born. I was always a hard worker, but there’s something about owning your own shop that helps you put in those long hours at night and on weekends. That was my life for years. I was first in and last out. I worked on the holidays. I provided a life for my children that was far, far different than mine had been.
It wasn’t all turning wrenches and balancing books; I had to read some books, too. I was too busy to spend much time with my nose in a book as a kid or younger adult, but when I was in my early 40s, I began to read business books, just trying to learn and make the shop a better business for customers and employees. With two locations and 17 employees, I feel good about our growth and the people we’re serving. My own son runs the other shop, and those 17 people feel like family.
At the same time, I discovered that I like to read. I also enjoy golf, and I love my family very much. Those books helped me dial back my involvement a bit and gave me more time doing those things instead.
Looking back, I know my parents worked their butts off. But they didn’t make much money at it. I have a knack for that, and setting out to learn about business at my own speed allowed me to turn that knack into a profitable business.
These days, I’m still the first guy here. When I go home, I find myself cutting grass or maintaining lawn equipment until it gets dark. That’s how I am, to a point. But past that point, it’s a choice these days: I don’t have to be the workaholic I was as a younger business owner.
And that’s where this ties back into the Fourth of July, because we live in America and there is no place like it. A person can be born here or come here from another country with nothing and make a good living for themselves and their family through sheer hard work. That’s what I did, and I’m not special. I just live in a special place, and I know how to work hard.