A Penny Saved…

Jim Hinshaw
Contributing Writer
Improvement Professional, President & Sales

Recently had a very pleasant dinner with Jim and Sandy Dee.  Jim ran the Trane office in Az, spent 35 years with Trane, the last ten as a member of the senior sales management team, working with distributors and dealers all across the nation.  Very successful, in fact the training center at Arizona Trane is called the Jim Dee training center.  Impressive.  I had a chair at Starbucks named after me once, just not at Jim’s level yet.

But this article is not about Jim and Sandy, it is about the lessons we receive from those who have gone before us.  It is about his grandfather, Remer Fenton Dee.  Born in Dallas in 1900, lived to the age of 93.  Spent most of his life in Dallas, worked for Western Union for about 40 years.  Got promoted to the branch in St. Louis (I grew up there!), only stayed 2 months, told the folks at Western Union he needed to get back to Dallas.   Jim told the story of how he would go to Dallas to visit as a 12 year lad, in the heat of the summer, where he got to listen to his grandad talk about life.  He worked all through the depression, said he was glad to have a job, many did not.  He didn’t own a car at that time, rode the streetcar or bus to work each day.

In those days the fare was a penny each way.  On Friday he would not ride the public transportation after work, he saved that penny, walked the long miles home.  He passed a bakery on that walk, where they would sell day old bread for a (wait for it!) penny a loaf.  He told Jim, they may not have had much in the way of material possessions, but they had bread for meals the next week.  Remer passed away in 1993, Jim got a small inheritance from the estate, put that money into a CD, actually forgot all about it.

Fast forward to our meal.  The conversation got around to churches, Jim and Sandy are going to Summit Community Church in their community.  Jim is retired and now golfs for a living, so he told the pastor he would be glad to get involved in whatever was needed.  The pastor said he needed help with a capital fund raising program for a new campus building.  Jim agreed, they even had a Houston pastor who is an expert at these sorts of things come to town, had a meeting of the church body to discuss how to raise the money to build a new building.  The visiting pastor said that money comes from many different sources: savings, selling stocks or bonds, selling property, or inheritances!

Jim looked at Sandy and there was never a pause, he made a decision that moment to give the CD money to the church.  Told the pastor, he wanted to do that, except he made one small change in the amount of the donation.  He pulled out a penny from the proceeds.  Jim had found a 1900 Indian Head penny at a coin store, bought it, and when they lay the foundation that penny will be in that concrete.  Jim said, he could imagine that his grandpa may have actually touched that penny, it was from his time.  Jim has not shared this in a public forum, his pastor was amazed at how this all came to fruition.

May and I were blessed to hear the story of honoring a family member, one who had passed on some great life lessons.  I asked Jim if I could share the story in one of my monthly articles.  He asked me why, how does this tie into our industry?  So buckle up, here is the application.

What is your legacy?   What will you leave behind when you are done with this life?  Webster gives the definition of legacy as an inheritance, a heritage, or a gift.  What gift will you leave when you are done here?  And to whom?  What will you leave your family, how will they remember you?  How about the employees, what will come to mind when your name is mentioned?  And in our industry, what will the thoughts be when your name is mentioned to a customer.

I have been working with the Everrest Group for several years now, we had one of our associates pass away while on a trip to Houston.  When you mention Donnie Hamrick to any of our distributors or any of the dealers who worked with him, the response is always the same.  That guy knew his numbers and was willing to help you no matter if you were a three man shop or had 250 employees.  He could look at a financial statement and almost instantly know the solution he would suggest to improve profits.  His education was not “book learning”, he had lived it.  And would share it without hesitation.

It is not too late to work on your legacy, take time to engage someone starting out in our industry.  If you have experience, be a mentor to someone else who is still trying to see how the system works.  We need people at all levels who can and will share their knowledge, to show how something as small as a penny can have amazing long-term results.  Years later, the way we impart our lessons on business and life can affect change in ways we cannot imagine.  Be the change to those around you: family, employees and customers.

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