The Lead Dog Story

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What if you woke up one morning and decided you wanted to do something you had never done before, in an area you had no expertise, with people you didn’t know and you wanted to spend your life savings? Usually you can count on your family and friends to talk you out of such nonsense.

The first thing I did was talk to my wife and ask her opinion. After all, I was going to put our future at risk. Surely she would talk me out of this momentary lapse of judgment. Unfortunately she responded that if that was what I wanted to do, she was all for it. Then she had the nerve to ask how she could help! Where was my logical spouse? Where was the person who I counted on to ensure I didn’t make foolhardy decisions? At this point I started to suspect that she was just trying to be supportive hoping that I would come to my senses.

My next step was to call my parents. Surely this conservative couple would bring some words of wisdom to the table and talk me out of risking my life savings on a mid-life change. After my father questioned what type of property I was going to buy and how I was going to operate the business, he said that it sounded like a great idea. My mother wanted to make sure I wouldn’t work too hard. Well, so much for the parents coming through with a reason not to do this project.

At this point I was getting in deeper. I needed someone to talk me out of this entrepreneurial venture. The next call was to my in-laws. These two highly educated people would certainly be able to show me how illogical this idea was. After about an hour explanation of what I wanted to do and how I planned to proceed, the two of them said to go for it. What type of help and support was this? How could they risk their daughter’s future? What were they thinking?

My brother-in-law in California was next. He would surely not allow me to make some terrible mistake. After all, he's older and supposedly wiser! I made it clear that I wanted his honest opinion (i.e. tell me not to do it). He explained that he had confidence in me and that he was there if I needed anything. At this point he even discussed some similar ventures on the west coast that were going on and felt it was a great idea.

I had only a few more places to go to for some much needed help. It was time to bring in the big guns. My brother was the next call. To give you an idea of his sense of humor, I had called earlier in the year to inform him that I had named him my backup on health issues in case of an emergency. He waited about a week and called me back to inform me he had been practicing for this important role. Totally confused, I asked what he had been doing to prepare. He informed me he had been sitting beside a table lamp and was practicing pulling the plug! Now this is the type of honesty I was looking for to back me away from the edge. After the same explanation, he informed me that he was in support of my idea.

Fearing a conspiracy in the family, and checking to make sure no one had upped my life insurance policy recently, I only had one idea left. Friends who I have known for a long time and who would have to put up with me if I screwed this up were called in. Each contact was met with the same unsatisfactory response. Comments such as "great idea," "how can I help," and "it will be great," dashed my final hope. I was in too deep. Everyone now knew of the idea and was supportive. I felt like a man being walked to the gallows.

The only hope was that I wouldn’t find a building. The next week a friend and I were out to lunch and drove by 525 King Street. "Right there," he said. "This is the project you're looking for. You have to buy this building." Just great, now what was I going to do? The only choice at this point was to take the plunge. Buy the building and see if I could make the ideas that I had been discussing with family and friends actually work.

As far as the company name goes ... when I first started out, I was working with an attorney to incorporate the business. They were ready to file the papers of incorporation for me, but the attorney called to say that the paperwork was done but I had failed to give him the name of the company. I looked around trying to quickly think of an appropriate name, and a gift from my mother-in-law caught my eye. It was a paperweight from Alaska, and on it was inscribed “If you are not the lead dog, the view never changes." At the same moment, my keeshond puppy Dr. Watson starting barking and running around as if he had something to say. From that day on, the company became known as Lead Dog, LLC.

Thanks to everyone for their help.

Alan St.Clair


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