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.
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.