This past Tuesday, I received word that Brian Parsons passed away.  I had known Brian all my life, as his parents and my grandparents were good friends and I grew up with Brian’s children, Jared and Sam.  Not only did I know Brian on a personal level, I worked for him during the summers in university at his business, Parsons Printing, which was started by Brian’s father, Lloyd.

Those three summers and the occasional Friday throughout the year which gave me gas money for my 1989 Tempo to get back to University, I learned some lessons that have helped mold me as an entrepreneur and a professional.

Parsons Printing provided products and services to the numerous small businesses, organizations and non profits of Charlotte County and beyond.  I was the summer student who knew nothing about the production and for that matter, not much experience working with imperial measurements (which is one skill I hold to this day, telling the difference between 1/8 and 1/16, trust me it mattered when finishing business cards).

I just didn’t learn how to produce the products that Parsons was known for, I learned some important business lessons that I believe are reasons how a small business can be successful.

A Fun Work Environment

I looked forward to going to work everyday at Parsons Printing.  While Brian expected everyone to pull their weight and meet the deadlines on the jobs, he made sure the work environment was one where you could have some fun. You always knew when it was time to put your head down and get the jobs done, however Brian would always be there to provide a laugh.  This coupled with a great co-workers that I still see on a regular basis, made the summers fly by.

Know Your Customer and Personal Service

I noticed this from the first day on the job, Brian and his staff, always took extreme pride in their work and it could be seen in the quality of their work and I can honestly say I never seen an upset customer.  Brian and the staff knew the customers and always ensured the products were of top quality.  Being in a small community, it may be a bit easier to know your customer and provide a personalized experience, however, I learned that taking the time to know your client and provide a personalized touch to customer service was extremely important.

Fostering a Culture to Let Your Employees Grow

I remember getting chucked into the deep end at Parsons Printing in my first week.  It was a fast paced, client deadline driven environment, which is exactly the same as the Professional Services provider we are at ANR.  Brian believed in “learn by doing” which was a bit scary for me because a wrong cut or fold would mean the job would have to go back to the press and mean more costs to the job.

I remember the day I was measuring up business cards for cutting, which I was always careful of, however when I placed them in the cutter and dropped the blade, I had cut the cards completely wrong, meaning they would have to be rerun on the press.  I went to Brian and told him the error and he asked me if I was planning on doing it again and I said no.  He said that I learned a lesson and to carry on.  I didn’t get pulled off the cutter, which I fully expected.

I learned at that moment that you cannot stop the occasional error and there is no reason to get upset.  You need to use a mistake or other event as a training tool to help your staff grow and learn.

The three lessons above, I apply everyday at ANR.  I thought that I was going to University for my Business degree and it would give me everything I needed but I soon learned that my summers at Parsons Printing was such a huge learning experience and it helped me with a degree in running a successful small business.

As I finish writing this, I feel for Brian’s family for their lost of a husband, father and grandfather, but when thinking of Brian, I can only smile.  He was a kind, funny person who loved his family.  Thank you Brian for being a part of my small business education.