In the mid-to-late 1990’s and early 2000’s, Crystal D was always on the brink of extinction. We were in the infancy stage in the life of a business, and we were just making it.
I remember feeling the heavy weight of responsibility for everything. I did it all – I filled the Coke machine, I prepped glass for production, I etched, I packed, I paid the bills, and I answered the phone. Of course, I had people in those positions, but in the beginning, I often found myself diving into areas that needed a “boost” in order to keep the production process moving ahead. My fingers literally touched every single part of the business. Every. Single. Day.
The integral dynamic of those days sounded like an orchestra playing a symphony, and I was the conductor. My arms flailing in every direction as I helped create beautiful music.
The responsibility of running and operating Crystal D was crushing at times in the beginning. I remember waking up at 2 a.m. with details on my mind – big stuff and small. It was an intense time, but I loved it. I loved knowing about every nook and cranny in our building. Loved learning new computer systems. I loved the feeling of our first catalog printed and in my hands. Loved handing out my business card and meeting our customers.
I loved it when someone would say “I have no idea about your company!” so that I could go on and on telling them about what we did. I especially loved our product – the shine of glimmering glass and crystal in a black gift box. I loved the feeling of going home at night with literally not one extra ounce of energy left in my body. This was hard labor for sure, but a labor of love.
In the mid-2000’s, Crystal D entered the recognition award niche that we are still part of today. Our product offering had grown from just glassware to crystal awards. I worked tirelessly on new product design as I set my mind on becoming the industry leader in crystal recognition awards. My staff had tripled, and I expected that I’d need to add another 15 spots to keep up with demand. Determined and sure-footed, I moved our organization ahead to the next step.
I started each day with that same excited anticipation that I had in the very early days. Only the feelings of doubt had been squelched by a growing confidence in myself, the industry, our product niche, and the bright future I could envision. I wanted the business to grow more and wanted to add more people to the Crystal D team. I wanted to produce more awards. My commitment doubled, even tripled, as I promised myself and my employees the future at Crystal D was brighter than the sun. I wanted more.
Thank goodness I was smart enough to realize that I needed, and wanted, help in designing this very bright future. So I hired a guy who promised he could help me with vision, direction, and strategy. I call him Smartie-Pants. He started off by asking me a question, “Chuck, why are you in business? Why does Crystal D exist?”
“To make money,” I’d reply as I thought, “doesn’t everyone already know this?”
“Ok. Yes.” he’d say. “Making money is a measure of business – it shows you that you exist and it is a way to gauge how well you are doing. But why does Crystal D exist?”
I was silent with no answer. I had never thought that my business had existed for any reason other than to make money.
What was this guy talking about? I had either just hired a lunatic or a genius.
Clearly, I had no idea what his angle was all about. So I decided to shut up and learn. I decided to give Smartie-Pants a chance. He handed me a copy of a book called Good to Great by Jim Collins. I took it home and read about half of it in one weekend.
I gave him a call the next week and said, “I think I get it. Business is not about just making money. But I don’t know exactly what Crystal D exists to do, other than to make money.”
I could hear Smartie-Pants smile as he replied, “Good. Now we can get started.”
That was it. The beginning of the beginning for Crystal D. From that point forward, our company began to write Our Story.