The End of an Era

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You know that scene in You’ve got Mail when she closed her store and danced with the ghosts of years of dedication…For many people with a family business, the business is actually part of the family. When it’s time to let go, after one generation or, like ours –  four, it’s harder than it looks. There are ghosts walking the shop floor, you can only hope you are following their wisdom, making the right decisions.   marcus at work

I hesitate to write this perspective because many people, about 130 at last count, will be heavily affected by the sale of the family business which is being announced as I post this. Fear for what it will mean to their lives will rush through many people I care about for several days, maybe longer. Each of these people’s situations all ball together into a complex mix of anxiety, challenges, and even hope. No, really. There are some people who will find better and greater opportunities from this change. I’m sure of it.

But it’s out of my control. Two years ago I walked away and, I’ve had no say in this chapter, nor should I, but I still feel…

Sitting with my dad last night, we didn’t celebrate. We didn’t pop any champagne to toast to the sale. No, we did what Wrights have done for four generations, we talked of what’s next. We looked at the day and wondered why this or that went this or that way. When my brother arrived, we talked about problems at the other plant and what needs to be done, or learned, or more often, figured out.

We are filled with an unexpected sadness. Yet again, not without hope.  The company is sold to another that has the capacity, the drive and certainly the experience to make keep this plant going and growing. I see great potential in this acquisition and I can only assume they do as well. “Folder Express will continue to operate at its current location in Omaha, Nebraska,” stated publicly to the press just this am show the acquiring company intends, at this time, to allow this plant to continue doing its thing, as is their general mode of operations we’ve witnessed in other companies purchased by them before.  That’s good.

I didn’t cry once when I left the shop a few years ago. I got rid of or left almost everything of my history there. This is different. I’m having a very hard time articulating why.

My dad has an appointment this morning to give plasma. The American Red Cross lady told him (maybe she tells everybody this, we suspect) that there is a little girl having surgery today that his bloods is a perfect match to, and well, he needs to be at the appointment. Today he changes lives.

He planned to get up at 5:00 am to do this so that he can continue with the barrage of attorneys and company others at 10:00 then go to tell the employees at noon. Tell them that as of the end of this week, they are no longer employed by Wright Printing. The company has been sold. The new company is here. Wants to talk to each of you. Will keep a substantial amount of the employees.

I haven’t talked to him today. I type this now as he prepares to do something he hates – stand up in front of a crowd and speak.  He’ll be shaking so much he won’t be able to hold his notes. And it will be the last time he will do this for this group of employees.

Some of them will be angry. Some of them will be shocked or sad. I think everyone will brush with fear on some level. It’s unknown territory, going from “family” to “corporate.”

And Marcus *sigh* Marcus is very worried about everyone too.  Last night he heard me talking of this in hushed tones and yelled from his room, “Leave the people alone!”

Today I have to tell him that he will have to find another job. I don’t in any way look to speak lightly the burden of those, hopefully very few, who provide for their families that will also become unemployed. Marcus does not support a family.  He cannot support himself.

It will be quite difficult for him to find another job, particularly one he enjoys so much. He has always known that when you are a Wright you grow up to work at Wright Printing. There is no other way.

Today my father will try to explain to about 130 adults that there is no more Wright Printing and they are no longer in the family business. I don’t expect anyone to understand. It’s right and it’s time. It’s hard. It’s the end of an era.

 

20 Comments

  1. Andy September 25, 2013 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    Thank you Mardra.

    • Mardra September 25, 2013 at 6:07 pm - Reply

      The thanks go to you, Andy,
      and the wise words of Douglas Adams: “Don’t Panic.”

  2. Andy September 25, 2013 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    I always told Quinn you were an awesome leader. It is sad to see the company go, to change to something that is so vastly different from what we all know. I imagine it will always be Wright Printing to the majority of us.

  3. Kelly September 25, 2013 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    Losing a family farm, I understand your feelings of loss.
    Working in a company that itself is changing, I understand a bit of the fear your employees will be feeling.
    Knowing how much Marcus loves his job, I ache for him (and you).
    Knowing you, I understand it all.
    And admire you.
    For feeling. For admitting it. For writing about it.

  4. Kristi Lloyd September 25, 2013 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    I’m so sorry to hear that you needed to sell the family business. Even when we know that something might have to happen one day, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with when it happens. Does that make sense?

  5. Robyn R September 26, 2013 at 11:11 am - Reply

    I can’t fully understand the depth of your emotions. I’ve never had a family business…but at the same time, I think I understand some of your feelings. Because to me, Wright Printing was always an excellent stand-by for me. For me as a teenager needing a little extra money on the weekends stuffing envelopes. For me as a young adult, fresh out of college…I know I could get hired and do a great job at Wright if I couldn’t find other work. And as a stay-at-home-mom who has often contemplating working in the busy season to make a little “pin money” for herself.

    So I ache for all that is ending. And I’m trying to rejoice in the new beginnings. But–those who know me know that I really, truly, hate-abhor-detest change. Even if it’s better in the long run. I’m too caught up in the now. And I don’t like change.

    I am keeping you and your family (which includes the ‘family’ of employees that you have) in my prayers. And I’m aching for Marcus…he loves his job.

    Hugs and prayers! Robyn

    • Mardra September 26, 2013 at 12:26 pm - Reply

      Yes, this family business spread way beyond its walls.

  6. Aaron Brown September 26, 2013 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    I know you care a great deal about all the employees entering the transition, and I hope their futures (not to mention Marcus’s) all turn out better for the change.

    Meanwhile, I’m hoping this will be a determinedly good shift for you–freeing you up from obligation and letting you focus on your true passions with even more certainty and confidence that this is your path.

    • Mardra September 26, 2013 at 3:51 pm - Reply

      Thanks Aaron.
      I’m trying to read the signs, but they keep twirling in the wind!

  7. Jisun September 26, 2013 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    The end, but hopefully a beginning. You just don’t know the first chapter of that beginning yet. My parents had two family businesses and I think both ended with very similar feelings. Thinking about you and your family, all the best.

    • Mardra September 27, 2013 at 8:48 am - Reply

      Thank you Kim. Yes, it is definitely both.

  8. Jennifer Lovett Herbranson September 27, 2013 at 8:47 am - Reply

    Mardra, I’m so sorry to hear about your family business. I know it’s rough, change is tough and agonizing at times, but I see bright futures ahead for all of you. I’m sending positive vibes your way & a ton of bad jokes if you need to laugh!

    • Mardra September 27, 2013 at 8:49 am - Reply

      I laughed just reading that 🙂 Thank you.

  9. Cindy Anderson September 27, 2013 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    I don’t own a family business so I can only imagine the emotional roller coaster you’re on. I hope your dad is okay after that difficult speech and that the employees accepted this change better than you expected they would.

    • Mardra September 28, 2013 at 7:42 am - Reply

      It seems I’m not the only one who has been surprised by emotion, however, the buying company is doing a fine job of making the effort to speak to folks individually as much as possible. I think many folks see that although this course feels hard, it is the best decision for the future.

  10. Scott Apelgren September 27, 2013 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    Marda, A very tough decision I’m sure. Employees are are so much more than that…an extended family without question. Best of luck to you, Quinn, Marcus and the rest of the Wright Printing family. May our paths cross again!

    • Mardra September 28, 2013 at 7:42 am - Reply

      Oooooh – They better!

  11. Evan Jones October 3, 2013 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    Mardra and family, I love you all and am very hopeful to see you at some point. You are some of my favorite people. I wish you only the best.

    • Mardra October 3, 2013 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      Back Atcha Evan! With today’s technology we’re never far away. 🙂

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