What did you see in 2009?

Delivering cookies back to the folks that made the flour

I’m guessing that practically everyone you meet on the street these days is likely to echo the same response when asked about business in 2009. It was tough for lots of folks. And unless you are living on Wall Street, where tax payer funded bonuses will hit eight figures this year, you might be feeling a bit somber about 2010. I believe there is a better way to look back at last year.

Anna’s Gourmet Goodies finished our year with a healthy December. We did not quite reach the level of exuberance we saw in 2008, but we managed to find plenty to be thankful for during the season.

We visited our families in Kentucky for the Thanksgiving holiday, already feeling tired from filling early orders, and with more on the books for December than we have ever had before. We shared a wonderful meal at Debbie’s parent’s home, with more brothers, sisters, cousins and their children than I can count these days. There was a solid showing from four generations, enough to give even the gloomy minded a reason to find hope for the future, even on a cold Ohio Valley day.

We also visited, and feasted again, with my family in Georgetown. Smaller in numbers, but no less interesting. The following day, I had the chance to take my Aunt Lois, now pushing on towards 90, to lunch with my daughter Anna and my niece (also Anna). We didn’t set any land speed records getting to and from The Cracker Barrel, but it was a wonderful afternoon spent with three generations of family. A simple time, but one I’ll always remember.

We returned home safely to NC, tired from the trip, but eager to get the orders lined up and ready for the holiday rush. We bake everything to order, so orchestrating production and shipping during this time is always a challenging puzzle. Anna’s Gourmet Goodies runs an efficient operation, with a very reliable group of suppliers to make sure everything arrives when it should and keep production running smoothly. We planned for almost everything, except our main computer system that refused to start the day we returned.

My early training as a Boy Scout and years as a computer consultant has served me well in the cookie business. Our backup system worked flawlessly and a new computer was less than 24 hours in arriving to the office. Restoring all the files and programs required a few days and late nights, but I simply refused to see anything but orders going out, just as our customers expected them.

It’s not easy being thankful when the electronic brain behind your business decides to stop functioning right at the most critical time, but I promise you that I said my ‘thanks’. I was determined to be grateful. Grateful that the crash came long before we put the final touches on all the orders and queued them up for baking, and long before the run of shipping labels was due to stream out of the printer.

We were fortunate to have an entire family, the Ponsolles, work with us again this year. More than simply employees that show up to finish a task, they’ve been helping us almost as long as we’ve been making cookies. They know our customers. They understand how meticulous we are about everything. We are incredibly grateful to work with such dedicated and nice people.

By the second week in December, I felt like I was living the movie ‘Groundhog Day’. Wake up. Bake cookies. Ship packages. Sleep for a couple of hours. Repeat.

As the last shipping days approached, we watched our once large stock of flour shrink rapidly. We were almost at the point of not having enough ingredients to fill the orders, when the phone rang. It was June from Lindley Mills. She asked if we needed any flour. “Why yes, as a matter of fact we do!”

She also asked if they could get an order of our cookies for all the employees that work there. It was their holiday celebration and they wanted everyone to taste a product that comes from the fruits of their labor. I’ve taken orders of our cookies to Lindley Mills before, but this order seemed felt extra special.

I love going to the mill to pick up our order. I suppose I could find a distributor that will deliver it for me and save the few hours it takes to ride out there, but it is more that simply an ingredient we buy. It’s a chance to take a ride out in the country. To see more cows and goats, than cars. To spend some quiet time. To talk with my daughter Anna. It is a chance to do business with a company that has been operating in the same location since 1755 (not a typo). And yes, Joe Lindley runs the place.

I don’t know all the secrets involved in operating a business that’s been around for 255 years, but I do know one thing – it is a company that I want to do business with. These are the types of people that I want to continue to associate with in 2010 and beyond. We get wonderful feedback from customers about our cookies, but this felt like one of the highest compliments we’ve ever received. I was humbled and grateful.

We shipped our last holiday order on Tuesday before Christmas, just as requested by the customer. I finished up with just enough time to take my place in line with the other husbands and dads, looking to find that special something that will help remind those closest to us that we are indeed grateful for all we have been given. I found everything I was looking for and was treated to some of the best customer service I’ve ever had.

I’ve never been great with New Year’s Resolutions, but I did spend time trying to get my mental and physical house in order before we kick off another calendar year. Included on my list are:

    To focus squarely on what I want to see for my family, my businesses and my friends in 2010.
    To, as Dr. Wayne Dyer says, ‘Sell my cleverness and purchase bewilderment’.
    To surround myself with people that are moving forward towards something more than simply making up for any lack of accumulation.
    To be in a state of ‘gratitude’ at all times.

If you’ve found your way to this site, my hope is that you have enjoyed the past few minutes and will leave with an idea or inspirational thought that might help you see 2009 from a different perspective and look for something better in 2010. And, if you are looking to surround yourself with people and companies that are moving forward in a positive manner, then I hope you’ll take a minute to visit AnnasGourmetGoodies.com. We make great cookies, to be certain, but we’re really in the business of making people happy. And that is a pretty good resolution no matter what business you might be in.