April '22

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IN THE TRENCHES R I C K W I L L I A M S 1 0 G R A P H I C S P R O A P R I L 2 0 2 2 G R A PH I C S - PR O.C O M I n his gru voice, our beloved Coach Clay bellowed, "Boys, they say foot- ball is a contact sport, but that's wrong. Dancin' is a contact sport. Football is a col- lision sport. If you're going to play on this team, you'd better get out there and hit somebody!" You had to toughen up to play for Coach Clay. But when you played tough, did your assignment, and really hit someone, his armation of a job well done was im- mediate and enthusiastic. On occasion, he might get right up close, grab your face mask, and yank it a bit, look you straight in the eye and say, "Son, excuses are a dime a dozen. Results are six points apiece! I'm not lookin' for no danged excuses. I want some points on that board!" I wasn't one of his star players. At that point in my life, I was a bit of a runt and was just one of his two backup quarter- backs who seldom got to play as the rst- string quarterback was really good, really tough, and seldom left the eld. But I liked Coach Clay, and he must have liked me. I say that because he went out of his way to play me enough to earn that coveted letter jacket at the end of the season. To get that, you had to play about half the quarters of every game, which was very unlikely for a backup quarterback. "Rick," he said, "you've got good hands and I need someone with good hands to be place holder for extra points and eld goals. If you practice, I bet you can do us a great job." He didn't have to tell me twice. My backyard neighbor, Suzy, who was also in our ninth-grade class, was soon drafted to help me after regular practice and before dark. She would center the football to me over and over, and though at rst, she was crummy at it, that just made me work harder to grab it from any angle, drop it to the ground quickly and set it exactly how the kicker would need it to be. Suzy was a lot of help, and within a week or two we were a machine, and my ball handling became fast and automatic. During that football season, our quar- terback and kicker never missed an extra point or eld goal, and one particularly tough game down in Center, Texas, we won by just one point, one extra point to be exact. at season, I got my letter jacket just like Coach Clay intended. I learned several lessons from Coach Clay that season, but the main one was that you don't have to be the most valuable player to be a success, you just need to be good at something. I think the same is true in life and in business, especially here in the U.S., because a free and multi-faceted economy like we have, needs a lot of some things and a little bit of everything. And all that's required to be a success, to live the American dream, is to do whatever it takes to become good at something, something people will pay you money for. Many years ago, while I was fumbling around just to pay my way through col- lege, I discovered people would pay me to hand letter signs, windows, and trucks. ey would also pay me to make signs, in- stall signs, design logos, and produce them and install them. When hand lettering be- came computer plotted lettering, we bought software, plotters, and other equipment and learned how to do more work, become more ecient, even more protable. Later we spun o other ventures, but all connect- ed or supported by a small commercial sign shop here in northeast Texas. ose busi- nesses do other things that people will pay money for, and we have employees whose skills make them valuable even if they know how to do only one thing and do it well. at's how the system works. My people are not pro football stars, rock stars, or rocket scientists. ey simply know how to do things people will pay money for, and we have invested in the know-how, equip- ment, and real estate to provide our clients with those services. Our advertising budget wouldn't feed a large dog, but our customers nd us and when they see the quality work we do, they keep coming back. So, over time, a backup quarterback, who was not big enough or good enough to do more than one thing well, but who knows how to work extremely hard and keep trying, can nd a way to succeed in sports, and in the economy of this great country. I'll bet you have a similar story. Now, let's tell our stories and inspire to- day's young entrepreneurs with the abso- lute reality that the American dream won't reach up and bite them on the rear end, but if they put their rear ends in gear, they will attain their own version of it. And for some, that will be just the starting point. Have a great month. RICK WILLIAMS owns Rick's Sign Company, a commercial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and has been a contributing editor to Sign Business and Sign & Digital Graphics since 1986. Contact Rick via email at IN THE GAME

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