Okay I admit. I can be stubborn at times and when you combine my stubbornness with my strong desire to be an entrepreneur, I can be like a runaway train.
About two months before I met Ernie, I was standing in my kitchen when my daughters heard the ice-cream truck coming down our road. As they ran by me to exit the house, I reached out my hand and handed my wife a twenty.
I decided to join them at the curb to at least get a glimpse of their faces. I wanted to see what a $20 smile looked like.
The driver was super nice and we started talking about the ice-cream business. I have always thought that being the ice cream man would be a cool job.
What I did not realize is how much revenue can be generated from one little ice cream truck. As we talked the wheels started to turn. If I could get a fleet of trucks I could…
After about 20 minutes my daughter returns with ice cream all over her face and says, “Mom said, stop talking to him, he has work to do.”
This should have been my first inclination that my wife would not be onboard with my new business venture, but I didn’t see it.
Over the next six weeks, I researched trucks, suppliers and even the licensing requirements. I was convinced I was going to buy a truck before the season was over.
Up to this point my wife seemed to be tolerating my grand plan. It was a Saturday morning, and I decided it was time to talk about the cost and potential revenue with my wife. It was that day that she told me how she really felt.
She was crystal clear that she was not onboard with this venture and under no circumstances would I being using our money, from our savings, to buy any trucks.
My stubborn response was “Fine, I have good credit. I will buy them on credit.” It was true, I had the credit, but I don’t like sleeping in the dog house. So I couldn’t move forward without her blessing.
There was only one thing to do, keep working on her. I worked and worked trying to convince her to change her mind. I pitched my ideas to her from every angle I could. I even pitched it to her friends, hoping they would talk to her on my behalf. I knew I was losing the fight, but wasn’t ready to give up.
That’s when God stepped in
It was an ordinary Wednesday night, my wife and kids had plans, so I was going to grab a bite to eat on the way home. From about 3:00 on, I had planned to go to McDonalds. For some reason, I was craving French fries.
I was almost to McDonalds when I passed a KFC and I immediately decided chicken sounded better than those fries. I quickly turned around and went back to KFC.
As I waited to order, a man walked in, he stood extremely close to me. You could say he was invading my personal space. He said, “Hi. I’m Ernie.” I extended my hand and said, “Hi Ernie, I’m Tom.”
He said, “I got me a little old job today. It’s not much, but it’s a job, it makes a man feel real good when he has a job.” I said, “Well Ernie, I am happy for you.”
I was hoping this would be the end of the conversation, but it wasn’t. He continued, “They hired me to clean banks. I used to deliver flowers, but nobody’s buying flowers unless it’s a holiday.”
It had only been a few minutes, but it seemed like I was waiting in line for 20 minutes. It was finally my turn to order. As I ordered my food, I kept thinking, I hope Ernie gets his food to go. I really want to eat my chicken and I don’t want to talk to Ernie.
I talk to people I don’t know all the time, but this whole conversation was weird and awkward.
As I turned to fill my drink, bam, there was Ernie. He said, “You sure are a nice dresser. You probably work in an office. What do you do?” I explained that I help people get out of debt and make good financial decisions. He said, “Well, let me ask you a question.”
On the inside, I was thinking why didn’t I tell him I was a janitor. No one has questions for a janitor.
But, I hadn’t. So, I politely said, “Sure Ernie, what’s your question?” He said, “I am thinking about starting a business and I am not sure if I should save up and pay cash or if I should borrow the money to get started?”
I said, “What type of business are you thinking about starting, Ernie?” He said, “I am thinking about buying an ice cream truck.”
I thought to myself I got this. I’ve been researching this for weeks. I said, “Ernie, the ice cream business is seasonal. In Michigan, that means you can only make money about four months out of the year. If you borrow money, you’re going to have payments for 12 months a year. You definitely have to save up and pay cash.”
He thought about it for a moment and said, “You’re right. You really know your stuff.” As I was mentally patting myself on the back for a job well done, Ernie started fiddling in his wallet for a business card.
I thought, oh boy, here comes his sales pitch. He is going to want me to sign up for some multi-level marketing pyramid scheme.
To my surprise
He handed me a card that said he was a real estate manager. He told me that he owns a house and an apartment building, both that he had saved up and paid cash for. He said, “I don’t believe in debt, but I never start conversations with people by telling them I don’t believe in debt, because that is just an awkward way to start a conversation.”
I was thinking this whole conversation was awkward, but I shook his hand and told him to have a good night.
As I got into my truck, chicken dinner in hand, I thought, “What just happened?”
That is when I realized that God had positioned Ernie in my life to get me back on track. That conversation was not for Ernie, it was for me. I was the one that needed that advice, my own advice.
I thought, “How could a guy that teaches people how to make good financial decisions even consider borrowing money to operate a seasonal business?”
God knows I am stubborn. If Ernie would have said, he was going to open a laundromat or a restaurant; I wouldn’t have realized the lesson was really for me.
God knows I lack patience when I get an idea that I am passionate about. He knows I want to move full steam ahead.
He knew it was going to take something out of the ordinary to get me back on track and He did just that.
At this point, only God knows if I will ever buy an ice cream truck, but if I do, you can bet I will save up and pay cash. I learned a valuable lesson from Ernie that night.
Thanks Ernie for your help, even though you had no idea what our conversation meant to me.
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