Perspiration and inspiration


In July of 2004, when I was just 14 years old, my parents, my brother, and I were running a motel and a gas station in a small Texas town. The two were connected by a parking lot. My parents used all of their life savings and borrowed from everyone we knew – family, friends – to buy this property.

As a side note, one thing I’m grateful for in our culture is that we help those new to the industry. We give out zero-interest loans to family and friends and there are no legally binding documents. It’s all via handshake.

So, we didn’t have a single employee because we couldn’t afford it. We had so much debt that my family owed to everyone. As soon as my brother and I got home from school, we worked in the gas station and did our homework there, because my parents were at the motel cleaning rooms all day, every single day.

We struggled to make ends meet, and I hated it.

I would think to myself, “This is the American Dream? If this is the American Dream, I don’t want to be a part of it.” I missed my life back in India.

Naturally, I would always think about how I could make this situation better for my family. Instead of having one person working in the independent motel and one at the gas station, I created a sign, printed it, and taped it to the front door of the motel. It said, “If you need a room, go to the gas station next door to book one.”

Voila! Now, we only needed people at the gas station, not at the motel. That was my way of changing things. Really monumental stuff. All joking aside, it was a simple way to help our labor shortage.

One part of my job at the gas station was writing down how much I sold each day – things like groceries, alcohol, and gas. At the end of each month, my parents would add everything up by hand. It was extremely time-consuming. So, my next brilliant idea was to create an Excel spreadsheet for them to keep track of everything.

I thought I was the smartest person. Everyone in my family was talking about me. Oh, Neal did this and Neal did that.

I was able to help them calculate their expenses to their earnings in a very organized and streamlined way. I have to admit, it felt good to be part of something and save my parents time and money.

My point is, the pandemic has created its own labor shortage, and revenue is top of mind for all business owners. Now’s the time to get creative and be innovative thinkers.

What is your sign on the door? What is your Excel spreadsheet? What is your next big idea to solve an existing and nagging problem? It could be something simple, but that won’t stop those you help from bragging on you.


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