Lessons From My Grandfather

“Relationships are everything.” My grandfather has told me this thousands of times, ever since I first understood what it meant to be personable. When it comes to doing business, my grandfather has bestowed in me valuable lessons about how two people should conduct themselves and find success in what they are trying to achieve. Whether it is a formal meeting behind a desk, or a lunch meeting on a Friday, the way you present and handle yourself is everything. My grandfather, who is now in his 90’s spent his whole life since he was 16 doing business with others and building great relationships on top of it.

Being 22 & fresh out of college, there is nothing I appreciate more than wisdom from a man who has seen life from not only a different generation’s perspective, but also from a different world. He was born and raised in Vienna, Austria until he and his family immigrated the United States – but not before living through the Nazi invasion. While his family was not Jewish by religion, they were by blood, which prevented my grandfather from ever graduating from high school. Starting at age 15, he worked at a service station until one day the owner told him that he was taking a job elsewhere & gave my grandfather full responsibility for operating the station. Even at such a young age, my grandfather took over the service station, and managed it until he came over to the United States in 1939, when he began working at a lamp factory in Cleveland.

This was only the next opportunity for my grandfather, and while working at the factory in his new land, he began to learn English – and even found love. Only two weeks later, fate led him to my grandmother. A short time after that, he enlisted in the U.S. army and became a member of a mysterious, elite team that was so secretive in its mission, it was known only as PO Box 1142. My grandfather’s team was responsible for listening in on conversations of German Prisoners of War who were stationed there. No one else knew what PO Box 1142 did – it was all highly confidential because the work was very important to the war effort.

After leaving the army, my grandfather worked for the Motch & Merryweather Machinery Company and then left to join Pesco Products, a division of Borg Warner Corporation as a Senior Buyer. Ultimately, Picker X Ray asked him to provide non-magnetic stainless steel tools for the MRI. He and a German business acquaintance went into business together and became the sole importers of such products; 2 years later, his partner developed the only titanium tool line available, and they successfully sold that product for 15 years.

My grandfather’s valuable knowledge and wisdom that he shares with me to this day helps me strive for great relationships with everyone that I do business with now and in the future. I owe much of my personal and professional demeanor to my grandparents and one day I will be able to pass that along to my own children. I personally believe you cannot do good business without showing others your own commitment to and strong belief in what you are selling. Even today my grandfather takes me with him when he meets with different people, just to prove how right his statement is. Relationships in business may start with a simple handshake but end with a partnership for years to come.

ethan gpa

Me & my grandfather at my recent college graduation.

Contributed by Ethan Tanney. All photos are the author’s own & may not be reproduced without permission.


Listen Up! A Message from Your Body

I have an important statement to make: you need to listen to your body when it tries to tell you something. Got an ache? A pain? A wheeze? Listen. Because I didn’t & it knocked me flat on my back for over a week!

It started as an annoying cough a few Sundays ago, around the time we started making dinner. I didn’t think much of it; I’d recently switched allergy medications & figured my body was still adapting to Claritin after taking Zyrtec for so long. But then I started to feel stuffy as we loaded our dirty dishes into the dish washer. By bedtime that night, I was reaching for the NyQuil. The next day, my eyes were watery, my nose was runny, my ears ached & my voice was somewhere between James Earl Jones & Barry White – and I’m not even a guy!

But did I listen? Nope. I kept up my usual routine of working & running errands & tending to housework. Sure, I felt tired & clammy, but it would pass!

My co-workers were concerned. “Do you need to take the day & go to the doctor?” my supervisor kindly asked. “No, I think I should be OK. I’m taking cough syrup & drinking lots of water,” I said, sounding as optimistic as possible before turning away to reach for the Kleenex. “Hey, why is some guy answering Renee’s phone?” another coworker asked after dialing my line. “Haha. It’s me, Jeff,” I rumbled back in my newly-discovered basso profondo. And if being referred to as “Mr. Pugh” wasn’t annoying enough, I barely slept because I couldn’t stop coughing at night & my nose was so red from constant blowing that I was worried Santa was going to show up & offer me a gig guiding sleighs.


But then he saw my salary requirements & reconsidered.

And I still didn’t listen, even though my cough was getting worse, and the pain in my ears & sinuses was becoming impossible to ignore. It wasn’t until nearly 5 days later that I finally paid attention to what my body was trying to tell me. I was sitting at our breakfast table, feeling like a pack of angry bears mauled me in my sleep. “I feel pretty terrible,” I admitted to my boyfriend – who responded with honesty: “You look pretty terrible, too.” I called my doctor & set an appointment for the afternoon; I picked my z-pack up from the pharmacy that evening. I spent the entire weekend trying to listen to my body – which meant taking a nap when I felt tired, instead of ignoring the feeling & trying to muddle though it.

It was surprisingly difficult to do! We typically spend our weekends planning meals, making grocery lists & trips, and cleaning the house from top to bottom, so I felt guilty saddling my boyfriend with all the work while I shuffled around wearing PJs & drinking honey tea (I was also more than a little disappointed that I missed out on a Saturday trip to Costco. I am a devotee of the free samples – or as a friend calls them, “Costco Tapas”). Fortunately, feeling physically awful trumped my feelings of guilt, so I got the rest I needed. By Monday – over a week after first feeling sick – I was much better. Maybe not quite back to 100%, but at least up to about 80%. Truth be told, it took until the following weekend for me to feel well enough to tackle cleaning the house & running errands – which means I was out of commission for nearly 2 weeks over a stupid cold.

I am sure my recovery would have been much faster if I’d gone to the doctor earlier, or rested when I first felt ill. But, because I am the person I am, and the person I am is incredibly stubborn, I ended up feeling worse for longer than necessary, all because I refused to pay attention to my body’s distress signals. Learn from my mistakes! If you start to feel unwell, be sure to:

  • REST! Get a good night’s sleep, and if you start to feel tired during the day, take a break. You don’t even need to nap; just sit or lie down somewhere quiet & peaceful for 15 minutes.
  • drink lots of fluids – especially water. It helps flush the grossness out & keep you feeling hydrated.
  • go to the doctor when things get unmanageable – even if you’ve only been under the weather for a short while. If you feel awful to the point it’s impacting your ability to function, it’s better to go to the doctor to find out you have a cold, rather than wait for the cold to become something serious – like pneumonia!
  • and of course, pay attention to how you feel & what it means – don’t ignore what your body tells you!


Submitted by Renee Pugh






Santa picture source: http://img2-2.timeinc.net/people/i/2013/sandbox/news/131223/santa-letters/santa-clause-600×450.jpg

Teamwork Gets It Done!


When I started working at RSVP at 2012, we only offered one program – our Luxury Card Pack – and only mailed in 10 zones throughout Ohio & Kentucky. At that time, I was the only graphic designer and I easily kept myself organized with just pen and paper: writing out to-do lists, sketching ideas, and making notes for myself. In 2013, RSVP quickly started growing, adding several new programs to create an entire marketing suite, as well as acquiring 2 new zones in Indianapolis – bringing our total coverage to 12 zones in 3 states. Before I knew it, I was swamped! Two things immediately became clear:

  1. I realized that we needed to hire a second designer, not only to help manage the workload these exciting changes brought about, but also to enable RSVP to continue to grow.
  2. I also realized that my-pen-and-paper method of organization & project management wasn’t going to cut it any more!

In December 2014, we hired a 2nd graphic designer, and though the workload remained demanding & hectic, I knew we could manage it if we worked together & developed a coherent strategy.


So how do we do it?

  1. We set clear goals and tasks: Each of our programs has a set-in-stone deadline, so staying on task & on track is essential! We make this happen by using project management software to schedule and manage tasks. This helps us work as a team & take big projects in small chunks – it can be overwhelming to see something like 36 mailings due in a single month! But by breaking it down bit by bit. we find it’s much less stressful and daunting. We each excel at different aspects of design, too, so the software allows us to collaborate – and to come with the best solution for each client.Image3
  2. We expect the unexpected: It’s inevitable that something goes wrong – a computer crashes, or a client changes the artwork, or someone gets sick. No matter how much pre-planning we do, we know that something always comes up. The key is to stay calm & cope with whatever the situation may be.  We stay flexible by getting work done early & doing our best to anticipate possible speed bumps. Image4
  3. We measure our successes and celebrate our victories: When you manage a project for efficiency, accuracy, and speed, it’s not just about managing the details and flow of the project; it’s also about managing the details of the details. Every morning, we come with a clear plan of action, enumerating what needs to be done that day, how we’re going to get it done, and we make sure to check off each task along the way. At the end of the day, we evaluate what we have accomplished, and then plan accordingly for the next day. Image5

We know that RSVP’s success is our success & vice-versa, so we’re excited to continue growing & know that we will be able to manage our projects as long as we stay focused & committed to excellence. We won’t stop until we reach the top!Image6

Contributed by Caitlin Tuohy. All images are the author’s own & may not be republished without express written permission.