Chapter 1 of Employ Yourself Now Enjoy Yourself Now

Chapter 1   –  Ballroom Dance Studio

Dad died before I was 16 (he was 45). I graduated high school at age 17. My mother, a very aware woman, heard of a new psychological test for determining the direction a person should take in planning their future course in life. The year: 1947.  I was enrolled in the test. The result was that I didn’t seem to have the innate ability to do much more than be an accountant or bookkeeper. I had wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. Although the test results were disappointing, I erased the thought of being an aeronautical engineer and opened my mind to whatever came next.

In looking back, it is obvious the psychologists didn’t know what they were doing. The purpose was realistic, but they had a long way to go before they would become effective. I eventually  accomplished many more successes than they ever thought possible for me to do.

Don’t let others misdirect you or tell you that you cannot do this or that. Pay attention to your passion. Follow your passion, or consider filling a need that isn’t being provided by others. An example is Bill Lear of Lear Jet Corporation. He only went as far as the eighth grade, yet during his lifetime he filed over 150 patents.

 

College was still undecided. I got a job as a secretary (shorthand and typing) in a two man sales office for one year after graduating high school. During that time Mom bought me 55 hours of dance lessons at a Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Cleveland, Ohio. Her lady friend said I would have more fun in college. Her friend was right.

 

It is now Fall of my 18th year and I start college in a southern town of Oxford, Ohio (Miami University). I attended my first ballroom dance about 2 months after school started. I was surprised that I was the only freshman male who knew how to dance – and properly lead a partner. Women  noticed this immediately and would line up five to nine deep in order to dance with me. That was a confidence building experience I’ll never forget. And it continues to occur where ever I go dancing.

 

After my first college year, I asked Mom for more dance lessons. She was willing and supportive.  The next 140 hours from the Fred Astaire Studio in Cleveland  started the summer between my first and second year at Miami University. A special price was arranged for that 140 hour package and would be refunded pro rata if I didn’t advance to their and our satisfaction. I completed the course that summer with praise from my teachers.

 

Now I knew all the basic and intermediate dance steps in both American and Latin dances. This qualified me to get a part time teaching job at the Fred Astaire dance studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. This helped with some college costs, and allowed me to have a car on campus (a rare approval). Coincidentally, I learned how to promote and operate a dance studio. I also obtained copies of all lesson plans and pricing plans. Now I could budget costs, and project income and expense. Of course projections are guesses. But continue to review what you list first. Then review it again and again. Be conservative. You’ll be surprised how close you can get. See more about budgeting in Chapter 16.

 

My desire to participate found me joining the cross-country track team and playing tennis, earning a numeral sweater and a letter sweater. I joined the R.O.T.C. to assure that I would not be drafted before finishing school. In my second year of college, I joined the Freshman Manual committee as business manager of the “M-Book” and was business manager for the campus humor magazine “The Tomahawk”.

 

At the end of my second college year, I saw a need for and a public interest in a dance studio in my college town of Oxford, Ohio. I rented the second floor of a two story building in ‘uptown’ Oxford. There were 4 bowling lanes on the first floor. The second floor, at the top of the stairs, had a wall dividing the area – one-third in the front and two-thirds in the back. My interest was in the dusty, empty back two-thirds. The flooring was wood (ideal for dancing). To minimize costs, I strung steel wires from front to back and side to side and hung fabric (instead of building walls, to cut down on costs). This created four rooms. The fabric was on sale and very colorful (actually gray with gaudy bright colorful patterns) with the weight similar to furniture covering.  I now had an office, living quarters (with the mattress on the floor) and two dance studio rooms. I located a desk and several chairs at a garage sale, and painted the weight bearing walls.  The cost of living somewhere else in town was almost equal to the rent I paid for the dance studio space. This set up represented an almost zero overhead to start my business.

 

From the beginning, business was good. In fact, I had to stop advertising after two months. I did advertise in the local paper for part time female dance teachers who lived in town and who had taught at major dance studios earlier in their life. Luckily I found two. I was anticipating having to teach one or two women to teach at the studio. As a result, the studio could operate while I was attending classes.  I also added another teacher to teach tap, acrobatic and ballet to town folks children. This lady was my fraternity brother’s girl friend. They later married.

 

Business not only was good, but also profitable. Soon the first year of business passes (as well as my junior year) and I am now about two months from graduation. What do I do with the business?? — remain in Oxford and operate the dance studio – or sell the dance studio.  In the end,  neither choice was available.  WHY ?  The building burned down. Fortunately I was not in the building, but I was at the fraternity house. A fraternity brother came running in and said “your dance studio is on fire”. This was about the seventh time I was told this when the uptown volunteer fire siren blared. My response: Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before. “No, really” he said in a pleading manner. I immediately went uptown and this time the studio was really on fire. The fire was accidently caused by a kerosene delivery man from The Standard Oil Company of Ohio (SOHIO).  SOHIO settled for about $3,000 and I received about $1,000 from homeowners insurance. Sixty years later (2012), this $4,000 would exceed $60,000 due to inflation.

 

This business was a sole proprietorship (one owner). This is the easiest way to operate (even though all the decision making is on your shoulders). In Chapter 2, there are 3 partners and transparency and honest communication become sacred.

 

Critique

After graduation, I attended three job interviews (NCR, Kodak and Marathon Paper). They all offered me an accounting job. I said no thanks.  I wanted something more exciting like sales, and was turned down. (If only they could have experienced my success in Chapter 21.) I decided to go to law school because of my Business Law Professor. He made the practice of law sound  exciting. How fortunate to have had a teacher who made a class that dynamic.

 

“Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you

read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.”   Pete Seeger, musician.

 

On Learning:       The thing that’s important to know is that you never know. You’re always sort of feeling your way.   Diane Arbus,  photographer

 

See  R 1

2 comments

  1. June Gaare

    I love it. Well written – easy to read – interesting stories (even though I have heard them before) – and the emphasis is on educating yourself in whatever interests you, but also being able to make changes and adjust to situations when necessary.

    When I purchase this book, I would like the author to sign it for me.

  2. Thank you Jack for bringing me your book. Kodak probably would’ve been in business today if they hired you and adopted your principals. I found your book very difficult to put down because the stories in it are so juicy.

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