One of the many stories that will live on in Friedman family history is the famous “whipped cream incident.” About this time every summer, my memory brings it from the depths of my mind to the forefront.
The story begins at the Friedman house on Mt. Pleasant Street in Dubuque. The year was 1966, give or take a couple of years. That puts me at around 7 years old. Old enough to do some things on my own, but not quite old enough to master many of those things.
Our family was a big fan of dessert, and one of the favorite desserts to eat was strawberry shortcake. My mother was a great cook, but not much for baking. We used premade shortcakes, covered with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Part of the fun of the whipped cream was that the product we used came in a squirt can. The goal was to get as much whipped cream on the strawberry shortcake before you got yelled at to stop.
On the summer night that our story takes place, the family was sitting down at the table, having just finished a great meal. My dad was sitting in his usual spot at the head of the table and I was sitting on his right. I was the first person to get served that night, which meant I was also going to be the first to get that glorious topping. I pointed the nozzle at my dessert and pressed on the tip. Nothing happened.
The directions say to “shake well before using,” but I was too excited to worry about directions. When nothing happened I gave the can a quick couple of shakes with creamy anticipation. I inadvertently held the opening of the can directly at my father, with my finger still pressing on the tip. Whipped cream came shooting out of the can directly at my dad’s face.
He froze, I froze. I can still hear the rest of the family laughing and yelling at me to take my finger off of the can. But I couldn’t. For what seemed like an eternity, I was squirting my dad in the face with whipped cream.
The rest of the night was a blur to me. I can’t remember if my dad got mad, laughed or cried. As I write this, my stomach is still in a knot remembering his glasses all white and his face in shock.
As small business owners and managers, sometimes we make mistakes. We know they are mistakes the moment after we choose that path, but we freeze. Keeping our finger on the throttle hoping that a different outcome just might happen if we keep on going. We hear our employees, customers and mentors tell us to stop, but for some reason we can’t. Sometimes the results are relatively harmless, like whipped cream in the face. Other times it takes quite a bit to clean up the mess.
Today I challenge you to take a look around at some of the things you are doing. Are you hearing those voices of reason telling you to take a different direction? Do you know in the pit of your stomach that this might not be the right path? Try stopping that pattern or behavior and see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised.
I talk with my dad on a regular basis and recently asked him if he remembered the story. Of course he did, and I could see his smile right through the phone as we talked. He is certainly not ready to reenact the story, but now more than 50 years after the fact, he can certainly laugh about it.
Small Business Today is a bi-weekly feature written by Tom Friedman, market president of First National Bank, Ankeny.
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