The Family Business

I grew up in a commercial printing company family in Louisville, Kentucky. My great uncle, Ronald Reed, who was like a grandfather to me, was one of the Sons in a printing company called V.G. Reed & Sons. My father, Don Dennison, who I respect highly, owned Network Printing, a commercial printing company that focused on high quality, full-color print collateral like brochures and annual reports, among other things.

I started working at Network Printing while in high school along with my brother, Bryan. I remember long summers spent working at our family business, usually in the bindery, putting booklets on the saddle-stitcher and then loading them into boxes. Sometimes I spent hours walking in circles around a table, collating print material to go into binders. Often it was packing boxes, organizing inventory, and mopping the floors. Not glamorous at all. The hours were long, not exciting, and sometimes even depressing. 

Fear of Disappointing Others

College was at Samford University in Birmingham, AL, and I loved every minute. I majored in businesses mainly because of my family background in business. However, I had no intention of going back to our printing company after college. I was ready to spread my wings and try something new. I envisioned something a little more compelling, like pharmaceutical sales or a management role in an inspiring company. I was young, and anything seemed more exciting than the family printing company.

Nonetheless, graduation rolled around, and despite my efforts to find a job elsewhere, an enticing offer sat on the table from my dad. I couldn’t say no partly because I didn’t want to disappoint my family. Shortly after, I found myself heading back home to work at the family business.  

Getting Thrown Into the Fire

Back at home in the family business, I was quickly thrown into the fire. I had my hands in all aspects of the business, including rebranding, hiring, firing, management meetings, print sales, and somehow still cleaning. I’m a firm believer in the notion that everything you do says something about you. So, if the bathrooms weren’t at a respectable level, I would clean them. If customers were coming for a press check, I’d make sure the lobby was dusted with a beautiful bouquet of flowers to greet them in the entryway. I wanted to learn how to run the press, so I would spend time with the pressman working a Heidelberg press. I wanted to know the business well, and I wanted it to function with excellence.

“Everything you do says something about you.” – Joel Wayne, Lead Pastor, Chapel Pointe 

Bryan, my brother, focused on accounting, but I was marketing our business and essentially helping other companies market theirs through various print deliverables. I started selling printing in cities all over the eastern United States, from the Christian music group, Mercy Me, in Nashville to BlackRock global investment corporation in New York City. I would manage press checks with graphic designers and clients. For nearly ten years, I managed clients’ printing needs.

Poster for U.S. Women’s Softball Olympic Gold Medal Winners, 2000 (Client: Fearless Designs/Hillerich & Bradsby “Louisville Slugger”)

When a new pastor position opened for my husband, Joel, we moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, just outside New York City. This was perfect since my largest client moved to Greenwich, too. But, travel got old, and we were on baby number four, so I took a break from client management. It was during this time that my dad came to a crossroads. My brother and I had the option to continue in the business or pass on the opportunity. 

Regret

Presented with the option to help move the business forward, I actually passed on the opportunity. I was focused on the short-term, I lacked patience, it seemed too hard to navigate the dynamics of a family business, and I was afraid to fail. So, I gave up the opportunity. However, years later, I continued to deal with regret.

Regret is missed opportunity.

Maybe you’re living in regret wishing you had taken a left turn in life when you took a right turn instead. Perhaps you wish you had accepted that job instead of turned it down or turned it down instead of accepting it. Maybe you wish you had sold the business instead of keeping it or kept the company instead of selling it. Doubts creep in, making us feel like we should have stuck with it, like we should have stayed the course. There are numerous ways we live burdened with regret.

3 Lessons Learned

I can’t help but look back and wish I had accepted that opportunity to continue the family printing business. But, I can see how the missed opportunity was used for good. Here are three lessons I learned to balance regret with gratitude.

  • Keep an attitude of gratitude, recognizing your blessings in all things. Even if things aren’t exactly how you mapped them out to be, God can redeem anyone from anything at any time and use all things for good. Missed opportunities can still move us to where we want to be. God can use what we think are missed opportunities to guide us toward a better plan than we even imagined (Jeremiah 29:11).

God can redeem anyone from anything at any time. – Joel Wayne

  • Be grateful for your experiences. Look for ways for your disappointments to be turned into opportunities. That means keeping your head up and looking forward, not behind you at your past. Pay attention to lessons learned and how you have been sharpened along the way to prepare for new opportunities.
  • Be grateful for those who support and come alongside you no matter the highs and lows. Who you listen to matters. Be careful how much attention you give to negative voices in your life. I know that I let other peoples’ opinions hold me back. Sometimes I’m too concerned about what others might think if I fail. It’s a big lesson to learn: you do you as long as it is done with kindness and integrity. Your biggest regret will be letting the opinions of others keep you from doing what you know you’re supposed to do.

Push Forward

Regret is heavy, especially when we dwell in it. It holds us back and limits us from seeing new opportunities ahead of us. Be grateful for all your experiences. Past experiences can always be opportunities for future endeavors. As a result of my past experience, I’m able to serve my clients in greater detail, knowing questions to ask and opportunities to explore. God can use things that we regret to guide us to His better plan. Look for the good in missed opportunities and focus on the lessons learned. Use gratitude to push forward and embrace incredible new opportunities that lie ahead. 

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