When Larry and I started Land Dimensions, we had two children under the ages of four and two. We had taken every cent we had and put it down on a new home the year before. So, there was no money in the bank, and with my encouragement, Larry quit his job so that we could own our own business. Side note: Sometimes when you “own” your own business – it owns you, you don’t own it.
We had no money to live on except a small sum of money Larry got from a profit sharing plan and the small life insurance policy that we cashed in. This is what we lived on until we got paid by the first couple of clients.
In 1979, the most technologically advanced business machine that we could afford was an IBM selectric typewriter. The cost of the typewriter was $600.00, which we did not have. The nice salesman made an arrangement with me to rent the typewriter for six months for $50.00 per month, but at the end of the six month period, I needed to come up with the remaining $300.00. Deal.
Because I was the only cheap labor Larry could find, he hired me for 0 dollars a week to do everything he couldn’t – i.e., take dictation and transcribe and type into letters and reports; do the billing, and maintain the accounts receivables and payables. (In order to maintain the books, I did do everything with a pencil and eraser. We didn’t have the money to buy me a calculator, so I exercised my brain by doing all of the math long hand.) I took on this responsibility in a nightshift position – between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and whatever time it took to get my work done – anywhere between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. I choose to take the nightshift, because I spent the dayshift working for the two and four year olds – at the same pay scale – $0.00.
That was a long time ago when we started the business in a different world that did not have the technology we have today. Over the years, we have sat together at the office and at our kitchen table working through projects, brainstorming on business development and thinking through the state of our business which provides the bread and butter.
I have been prompted to write this little musing because we were at the kitchen table again on Saturday for three hours working on a project. I was so struck by how business is transacted today, different than when we started. Land Dimensions, a land use planning and engineering consulting company, was contracted to do a planning study that needs to be finished soon. Larry and I spent the morning giving our input into the study that our Professional Planner, Persefoni*, has spent more than a year researching, documenting and writing. (*This was not an intentional alliteration.)
The typewriter that I worked at at the kitchen table, has been replaced by a laptop computer that connects me to the world through WiFi.
When we started the business, we had draftsmen working for us in the drafting room. That classification became obsolete when we started hiring women and called them draftspeople.
Our draftspeople sat at drafting tables and had a whole array of tools to work with to draft engineering designs. They worked together in the drafting room. Our draftspeople became CAD operators and now sit in cubes in front of computers. They are now all together in their own cubes that are now located in the production room.
Our secretaries became administrative assistants, I think, when we replaced their typewriters with computers. (We were a progressive company, so we skipped right over word processors).
Persefoni doesn’t sit in a cube anymore in the production room. (But, Persefoni did have the best real estate in the house. Her nice sized cube on the second floor overlooks the future of Glassboro’s downtown revitalization efforts.) Ahmad lives in her space now.
Persefoni went back to her roots and lives in Greece with her husband and their two beautiful daughters. (Another side note: Persefoni and Petros got married on the Greek Island of Chios, where her parents are from. We went to Chios for the wedding and it was nothing less than magical.
Persefoni can live in Greece and work for a South Jersey Planning and Engineering company. Larry and I can sit at our kitchen table reviewing the draft study that she e-mailed to us. Larry was on the phone with her at 6:30 this morning telling her about what I had sent to her yesterday. Whoops! No Larry – I’m working on it right now – tell Persefoni I will e-mail it to her in a few more minutes.
Today, July 30th is a special day. It is my oldest son’s birthday – the less than four year old I worked for way back when. Today he is 37 and a doctor. Wow! Happy Birthday Dr. Matthew. Now that Larry and I are a two iPad and two iPhone couple, we are so technologically advanced, we don’t Skype any longer, we do facetime to send Happy Birthday wishes.
In August Michael, the son that was not quite two that I worked for, will be 35. He is a paid fireman in the country’s most dangerous city – Camden – Wow! Thank you Michael for growing up and having your Mom never have to worry about you again!
And the one son that wasn’t thought of when we started the business, was 27 on July 1. Happy Belated Blog Post Birthday Christopher – Wow! I am the mother of a Preacher man.
July 30th is also Persefoni and Petros Anniversary. I remember because of the mother’s guilt I felt being in Greece for Matthew’s 30th birthday. Oh well –
Happy Anniversary Peter (I call him by his English name) and Persefoni. The time we spent in Greece for the wedding festivities will never be forgotton.
Theresa, A Mid 20th Century Girl Doing Business in a 21st Century World
P.S. Background information can be found at We Packed Our Bags and A Peacock and a Fish