America’s best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments are yet to be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead. – Ronald Reagan
I had a trip out to Orange County, California this week to attend some meetings at the headquarters for one of the divisions of my company. I have made the trip many times before; I think this is probably trip number 12 or 13. On most of my trips, the routine is drive from airport to office, office to hotel, hotel to office, office to hotel, office to airport; never spending much time exploring the area and usually eating at some generic restaurant within a mile or two of the office or hotel. You know – the typical boring business trip.
However this trip was a little different. I have a niece in her freshman year at Pepperdine University. So being the nice cool uncle that I am, I had told her that whenever I made it out to SoCal for work, I would drive up to Malibu and take her out to dinner. Staying true to my word, I made plans to make the hour plus drive from the OC, across LA and up the PCH to Malibu so we could spend some time together.
As luck would have it, my meetings finished early that day and I had about 3 extra hours on my hands. I started to think of what I could do with that time and while I could have easily spent it getting work done, I had an itch to go experience the area. So I started looking at Google maps to see where I could go that would put me in the general direction of Malibu and let me experience something unique to California. It not take me long to spot it – Simi Valley. It was only about 25 miles away from Malibu AND home to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
Since Reagan is in my opinion an “American hero”; the choice to head to Simi Valley was a no-brainer. I was actually disappointed in myself that in all the times I had been to SoCal, I had never thought to make the drive. As a made my way along “The 5” towards LA I found the 80’s station on satellite radio and starting thinking back to my life in the 80s – fitting since I was going to see the details of the person who in my mind defined the decade.
The drive is about 60-70 miles, so it gave me ample time to reflect back to that time period. I was a teenager for much of Reagan’s two terms in office and as a dorky finance minded kid, I became fascinated in my later teen years with supply-side economics or Reaganomics as some called it. Voodoo Economics as the elder George Bush called it. My love for Reagan was fueled by my older brother. In the mid-80s he was fresh out of college, the owner of a small air conditioning service company, and a die-hard disciple of Reagan. He constantly filled my find with the concept of Reaganomics and the need for the US to have a strong military. I quickly became a believer and still am one today.
The drive also got me thinking about my introduction to the world of business. Since I was certain at the age of 15 that I wanted to become an accountant (funny how that changed once I became one many years later) my brother let me do some bookkeeping for his company. I was in charge of creating invoices, doing some basic job cost reporting, managing cash receipts and maintaining the Accounts Receivable ledger – a clear violation of the concepts of segregation of duties, but hey I was family. This was in the time before PCs were widely used, so I learned to do accounting under my brother’s guidance on green column ledger paper. I am actually glad that was the case, because having to actually write out entries hammered home the basic concepts of accounting. That made my first two or three college accounting classes a breeze and instilled a real sense of understanding financial reporting from an early age. I doubt had there been accounting software back then I would be able to say that now.
As I thought back to those times, I also realized that I learned a valuable lesson from my brother twenty-five years ago. I learned that you have to understand the details of a business in order to be successful in managing it or even supporting it. Since I was doing billing and job costing, I had to understand the air conditioning business. So instead of spending my entire time sitting behind a desk, he also had me go on service calls with the techs and go out to work on installation projects. While I never became an expert on A/C systems, I did learn the basics of repairs and installations which made doing billings much easier. Funny how years later, I preach to my IT teams that they need to understand our business in order to support it and more importantly improve it. I am amazed that I learned that lesson as a teenager, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.
It was nice to reflect back on those times and my beginnings in the world of business. Just the drive to Simi Valley was good for me as it gave me a chance to reflect back on that period of my life.
I eventually made it to Simi Valley, and the Reagan Library did not disappoint. The setting is stunning. My late father-in-law referred to the hills west of Austin as “God’s Country.” Well, I have to say that the hills of Simi Valley were just as beautiful. In fact it was a moving experience for me. I will admit that I even teared-up a time or two. Seeing and listening to the words of Reagan really hit home. I only wish that my brother had made the trip with me, it would have been more special to go through the Library with the one who “converted” me years ago. Hopefully he will make the visit himself the next time he heads out to Malibu to visit his daughter.
I also eventually made it to Malibu and had a wonderful dinner with my niece. It was great seeing her and getting to spend a little time on the campus of Pepperdine University. The campus setting is amazing, as is she.
So let me close with thanking my big brother for the introduction to Reagan and the many business lessons I learned from him at an early age; and also thanking Ronald Wilson Reagan for making our country and our world a better place. We could use “The Great Communicator” about now.
Once you begin a great movement, there’s no telling where it will end. We meant to change a nation, and instead we changed the world. – Ronald Reagan, January 11, 1989