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Main Street News November 2012



Renewal season is upon us, so remember to renew your membership for 2013. You should have received an invoice in the mail earlier this month, and will receive an electronic invoice next week. If there are any discrepancies in your records, don’t hesitate to contact headquarters and let us correct it.

To renew your membership, you may visit IBBA website, mail in a check, or call (888) 686-4222. All checks should be mailed to: IBBA, 3525 Piedmont Rd NE, Building 5, Suite 300, Atlanta, GA 30305.

 


Pino Bacinello, CBI, M&AMI, CMEA, CSBA
Chairman of the Board and Chief Governance Officer, IBBA

Chairman’s Message

pino-bacinelloGreetings fellow members:

My last message was just after our Canadian Thanksgiving, and this one is on the heels of the US Thanksgiving. While in my message last month I talked about being “thankful” and “grateful” and the difference between the two, this month I want to add that if we have the ability to think about being thankful, we ought to be; and if we have the graciousness of being grateful, we ought to be thankful!

My Canadian and international friends hope all our US members had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

October and November were busy months for our Board and that of M&A Source.

Your Board of Directors met on November 6th in Las Vegas, the day prior to the start of the M&A Source conference. It was a 20th anniversary M&A Source celebration, our annual IBBA General Meeting, and the last official in-person meeting of the Board of Directors for fiscal year 2012.

We had a full and successful agenda:

  • A review of your board’s and committee’s work to date.
  • Review and approval of the 2013 budget.
  • Approval of some clarity language proposed by Joe Lindsey and his Credentialing Committee relating to the CBI designation.
  • Review and approval of our new official policy manual (The IBBA Accountable Governance Policy Manual) developed under the Carver Policy Governance model.
  • Discussed various bylaw amendments to consider going forward; not only to clean them up, but to also align them with the new governance model and newly adopted accountable policies and executive limitations.
  • Approved the Nomination Committee’s nomination of the 2013 Chair and Officers, and in accordance with our June commitment to reduce your Board by not replacing two directors whose terms expire at the end of the year.

Serving on a board on a volunteer basis takes much dedication and commitment. I cannot think of anyone who committed so much of himself as Jerry Cofield, together with his lovely wife Nancy. They have done so much for this association, especially as Vice Chair of Education. Jerry was responsible for creating and achieving much of what today we take for granted as part of our great education programs and courses. Please join me and this board, to express our sincere gratitude to them for all they have done and wish them the best of health as they transition into their retiring years. Thank you Jerry and Nancy!

Sincere gratitude also goes out to Ken Oppeltz for his dedication and service to this board over his term as Director. Ken brought a grounded logic and balanced view to this board that often times is much needed. Thank you so much Ken!

Please also join me in welcoming your 2013 Board. They are incredibly dedicated and committed to move your association forward on its current positive path and with the clear objective of providing indispensable value to our members at an affordable cost.

Your 2013 Board of Directors will be:

  • George Lanza, Chairman of the Board and Chief Governance Officer
  • Steve Wain, Incoming Chair 2014, 2013 Treasurer and Director
  • Gary Papay, Secretary and Director
  • Marcie Woolworth, Vice Chair of Membership and Director
  • Cress V. Diglio, Vice Chair of Education and Director
  • Pino Bacinello, Past Chair and Director
  • Ed Pendarvis, Director
  • Keith McLeod, Director
  • Monty Walker, Director
  • Scott Bushkie, Director
  • Kevin Dempsey, Voting Ex-Officio M&A Source Chair
  • Jim Afinowich, Non-Voting Ex-Officio, BIEF Chair
  • Jeff Jones, Non-Voting Ex-Officio, Association President’s Council Chair

Since the success of M&A Source is also the success of IBBA, I also ask that you join me in thanking and congratulating the Chair of M&A Source Chet Walden, the M&A Source Board, and Dora Lanza and her Conference Planning Committee for an outstanding and successful M&A Source conference and 20th Anniversary Celebration at the Bally Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas November 7th through the 9th.

It goes without saying that our thanks also go to our Executive Director Karl Kirsch, Director of Operations Lynne Weil, and Staff Members Darnette Holbert, Christine Hilgert, Maggie Nicholson and Simone Shahdadi for their performance, execution, and delivery. True to Karl’s promise and objective, they were easy to do business with!

The conference had great courses plus new ones, first rate learning workshops, an effective Middle Market Expo, and great networking events and speakers. The highlight moment of commemorating its 20th anniversary was recognizing its founder, Darryl Fouts, by the great words from Darrell’s wife Elizabeth (Liz) in the presence of their two daughters Dianne and Sandy.

It was a wonderful experience and so nice to see many of you in attendance.

Our 2013 plan of work and budget is also contemplating our returning to two conferences per year, (Spring and Fall) while also maintaining two Educational Summits (typically in April and September). This will give new and existing non-CBI members the ability to fast track their CBI course credit requirements.

Plans are under way also for our June 10th – 15th, 2013 Spring Conference in our 2013 Chairman’s backyard, Anaheim, California. We look forward to seeing many of you there and partipating.

With much gratitude to you all,

 


George Lanza, CBI, M&AMI, CSBA

Incoming Chairman’s Message

george-lanzaAs the incoming chairman of the IBBA I recently issued a letter sharing my thoughts on improving both the IBBA and M&A Source through branding and raising awareness for the CBI and M&AMI designations. To commence branding these certifications, we sought the most brilliant and ingenious people—our members—to provide their input and express how they value these credentials through a tagline contest.

We received over one hundred contest submissions! Thank you to each of you who assisted in narrowing down the list. We now have two of the best taglines, appropriate for the different areas of expertise, which can be utilized and identified with both the CBI and M&AMI designations. As you will see, these taglines represent the deep commitment and professionalism for the certifications that have been earned by our members.

Here are the winning taglines:

  1. Knowledge. Experience. Results.
  2. The Professional Standard in Mid-Market Transactions

We offer big congratulations to Mark Kulik and John Dini, respectively, for submitting these winning taglines. Mark and John will receive FREE registration to the IBBA 2013 Spring Conference!

Now that the taglines have been selected, we urge those who hold these designations to use it every chance they can, including in all of your marketing materials, thus branding the certifications to our clients and prospects. Michael Marks from Nation-List has agreed to incorporate into his marketing pieces that he does for many of our members. Through branding, the IBBA and M&A Source credentials will become synonymous with the idea of selling a business. Giving significance to our credentials which is expressed through these taglines—will, over time, change the landscape of our associations for the better.

Thank you to each of you for your continued dedication to these two organizations. I look forward to 2013 and the opportunity to continue with future improvements to bring awareness to these designations, and ultimately to the IBBA and M&A Source.

Sincerely,

 


Karl Kirsch, CAE
Executive Director

Executive Director’s Message

karl-kirschThe IBBA Board met in November just prior to the M&A Source Fall Conference. One of the big outcomes from the meeting was the approval of the 2013 annual budget. One of the big initiatives in the budget was approval to return IBBA to a two conference per year pattern.

While IBBA decided to forgo a fall conference in 2012, it has been clear from the feedback that members want more education opportunities. In fact, there was a good contingent of IBBA members at the M&A Source fall conference just three short weeks ago, but even they were looking for IBBA targeted education opportunities.

Based on this, we are confident that both IBBA conferences next year will be a great success. So, be sure to book the dates of the next IBBA conference on your calendar today: June 10-15 at the beautiful Anaheim Hilton.

Some other feedback we get from members is that in order to get the most out of your membership, you have to maintain your membership. Did you know the membership renewal period, which runs from November 1st through January 31st, had already begun? I encourage everyone to renew early and to check their records during the renewal process. If you see anything that does not match your records, please give us a call so that we can straighten it out before the transition to the new member database and website. The new website and database should be coming online before year end.

By renewing your membership on-time, you not only continue to have year round access to membership benefits, you are also supporting IBBA’s investment in the future:

  • IBBA is investing in conferences. We will return to the two conferences per year pattern, both again with M&A Source. To support the conference programming, new education courses qualified for certification renewal credits are being developed.
  • IBBA is investing in remote education. IBBA is planning on launching a new monthly webinar feature beginning in January of 2013.
  • IBBA is investing in new benefits, like the MarketPulse Survey. This quarterly survey tracks the status and changes in the main street and lower middle market business marketplace, and the results are beginning to be picked up by national business press, further reminding the business community that the broker community is out there to help.

So whether you were able to participate in the conferences, educational summits, surveys or webinars, be confident that your association is growing and investing in your future.

Best Regards,

 


Scott Bushkie, CBI, M&AMI
Marketing Committee Chair

Marketing Committee’s Update

bushkieThe third quarter survey is complete, and we are in process of analyzing the results. We should have the executive summary together shortly for distribution to the media. We have partnered with Pepperdine University to leverage their media contacts to continue to build the brand of IBBA and M&A Source. After Pepperdine does their national media release, we are going to put together a media kit for the participants who took the survey to send it to their local media for release. We hope this will continue to not only enhance the brand of the organization, but also strengthen your personal brand as there will be an opportunity for you to enter your name behind one of the quotes if you chose to demonstrate you are the industry expert in your geographic area. There will be no cost to you at this time; just that you took the 5 minutes to complete the survey is enough (which was approximately 160 members). We hope to have many more respondents in January trying to capture the 2012 year in review and look forward to 2013.

We feel that over time this will help build the brand of the organization but also the CBI and M&AMI. My personal goal is to help each of you get more high quality deals, help you differentiate yourself from your competition, and put more money in your pocket!!!

We will also be doing another survey (don’t worry you won’t have to fill this one out) that you can distribute to your past clients. We got the idea from member, Scott Axon, and we think it is a good one (we do listen to you). How great will it be to truly understand how your clients searched for you, who they asked advice from if anyone, what marketing is working and what is not, why did they ultimately chose you—in their eyes what set you apart, did they compare you to others, what did they like/dislike about the process and many other valuable insights from our past clients. We just need you to forward it to 3-5 past clients, and we will keep it short.

Some of the interesting results from the Q3 Survey are as follows:

  • Main Street brokers believe it is a buyer’s market, while Lower Middle Market advisors believe strongly it is a seller’s market.
  • The majority of buyers up to a value of $5M come from within 20 miles of the seller’s business. Only deals over $5M had the majority (88%) of buyers come from out of state. Less than 10% of any category came from outside the US. So, when marketing your client’s companies for sale, think of where the most likely buyer may be and focus your efforts there.
  • The biggest mistake sellers make to hurt their chances of selling? Unrealistic expectations (51%) and declining business sales (17%). These results show if you take the time to educate the seller on value expectations and can say “no” if they don’t agree with reality, you will be far ahead and more successful—I know easier said than done, but it is crucial to build a sustainable business in this industry.
  • All sectors (both Main Street and Lower Middle Market) believe they will gain more clients than they will lose in the next quarter. Scoring was 3.5-3.6 with 3.0 being neutral. This may be tied to the election and lack of clarity of the future. It may also be tied to the fact that many businesses had poor financial results in 2009, and that year will come off the 3 year historical record that buyers review when looking to buy a particular business. Not to mention the BabyBoomers are not getting any younger.

The above are just a few highlights from the survey. Thank you to all who did participate; you are helping to make a difference. As promised, the executive summary will be available to all members shortly, but only those who participated will see all the results and detail behind them to help them make better decisions in their practice.

Continued success and happy holidays! We all have a lot to be thankful for.

 


Steve Wain, CBI, M&AMI
IBBA Technology Committee Chair

Technology Committee’s Update

Q&A Corner – Answers to Your Practice Questions

wainAs requested, we are starting a periodic column to answer some of the questions we receive about best practices, technology, past experiences, etc. No question is off limits, but we will pick the best questions each month and offer insight into how you can become more successful in your practice. Answers provided here will, in the future, become part of our new website for later review.

Have a question? Feel free to submit it to sjwain@calderassociates.com or to admin@ibba.org. If you want to keep your name private, please let us know in your request.

Q: It costs me a lot to go to the IBBA conferences, are there other ways for me to get the education I need elsewhere?

A: The short answer is no. While there are different ways to obtain the education you want, keep in mind that the IBBA offers its market leading education as part of a total experience. The conferences not only provide a venue to attend the education, but also to be able to network, attend important workshops, and meet other industry people who could impact your day-to-day business.

As an example, in our IBBA Expo, a lot of the strategic suppliers to the industry are there to talk with you about how you can use their products and services to make your practice better and less costly. Remember, the IBBA’s goal is to make its members more productive, earn more income, and stand above the rest of the individuals who call themselves business brokers and really are not.

Attending a conference is an experience – not just a calendar event. Take advantage of what occurs there, meet people you will NEED to know, and over time you will see that the monies paid for attendance at the conferences will be far less than the benefits and income you accrue! I’ve been coming to IBBA conferences since 2005, and I haven’t missed one since. It’s always a great USE of my time.

Q: Is there anything I can do to protect myself when my seller fails to disclose something that destroys my ability to sell the company?

A: Sure, there are many ways. Most of the points below are part of a process and standard you adopt and follow religiously. Each business broker may follow a slightly different path, but inevitably, you must allow for protection to guard against lost time. Try these steps:

  • Determine the points where you believe you are potentially exposed to a significant loss of marketability.
  • Determine the arguments for and against (look at it from the seller’s perspective).
  • Of the points that hold merit, write down four to five cogent arguments in your favor. Try to view these as whether a seller can’t refute the logic of what you are saying, thereby forcing them to accept the consequences if they misstep. For example, in your question, if a seller fails to disclose a material issue before they sign a success fee/listing agreement, and the seller should have reasonably known that to exist, then you need to put in a clause to give you some compensation or solution for the lack of marketability.
  • Create a one page glossy that describes these situations in a positive way – not the penalty, just the issues that arise. Explain what you both have to guard against, as inhibitors to a successful transaction, and then give it your prospect during a pre-signing meeting.
  • Incorporate the penalty clause in your listing or success fee or listing agreement, and if you are uncertain of the specific language to use, ask your attorney for guidance.
  • Be prepared to defend your need for the clause with your prospective client and their attorney – they will fight it. Remind them of your discussions and the glossy you left them with.

You may not be able to get these points in your agreement, but it will help to clarify the need of your client to remain on course, disclose facts and pending issues, and most importantly, save you a lot of wasted time and effort!

Q: How can I make the data I collect more standard and use it in the documents I produce?

A: The first thing to remember is that any document you produce, no matter what it is for, should be destined to a library of documents that you can reuse. Beyond that, automation is the key to success.

Consider using a CRM system (see last month’s newsletter). A CRM system will give you a way to file and reuse all your documents, make them dynamic so they can be populated with data from any prospect you are dealing with, and give a chance to standardize the paper flow.

Also, consider making a library of spreadsheets that help you collect, analyze, and report on your clients’ and prospects’ financials. There are systems out in the market that you can pay a monthly fee that do much of the same work as well. You can choose what suits you best.

At the IBBA conference in Anaheim next June, we will be having a course on “Using Excel to Create Financial Spreadsheets required in Your Brokerage Practice.” It will cover how to automate the spreadsheets, how to make them powerful for analyzing data, and how to utilize the information to populate other documents, like your offering memorandums. Consider attending the conference and seeing how to energize your practice!

It was good to see a lot of friends in Las Vegas. I hope to see you all in Anaheim in June. Have a great month and hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!

 


Doug Robbins, FCBI, MCBC, M&AMI, CM&A, CSBA, CMEA
President and Founder of Robbinex Inc.
www.robbinex.com

Member Spotlight: Doug Robbins

doug-robbinsDoug Robbins joined A&W restaurants as their Franchise Manager for Ontario in 1971 (“right out of kindergarten for those who like to calculate age,” chuckles Doug) and was responsible for selling new franchises, building the restaurants, and reselling units when owners wanted to retire. After three years he decided to set up Robbinex and become a business broker.

The first years were quite challenging because no one knew what a business broker was or what he did. There were no guidelines, sample contracts, associations, education programs, fee guidelines or any resource a new person entering this field could learn. It all had to be created. Experience is a great teacher, and he tells us that he learned a lot from “Bootstrap University”. He first heard of IBBA in the late 80’s and joined in 1988. He was the 88th member and for many years, Doug was the only non American—the “I” in the IBBA.

He learned a great deal from other members and from the classes that were available at that time. He wrote and delivered a series of sales training workshops known as, “The Communications Series”: there were seven different workshops in the series and they appeared to be well received. Doug attended every conference since joining until about two years ago and presented a workshop at most of them.

As Robbinex grew, he found that specialization was critcal if he were to attain any real size. In 1994, Doug and his team at Robbinex developed the “Robbinex Three Phase Program™”, which positions the company into five distinct divisions: a sales marketing division responsible for finding and securing clients; a valuation and due diligence division; a research and marketing division (to find buyers); a negotiating division to sell the businesses; and an administration division to support the other divisions. According to Doug, “the client doesn’t really care about our sales division to find clients, nor do they care about the administration department, hence the three phases.”

One of Robbinex’s greatest accomplishments was attaining an ISO 9001 certification in 2001 from the International Standards Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. This certification is the complete documentation of Robbinex’ processes and took two and a half years to complete at cost of $250,000. To Doug’s knowledge, no other business broker or business intermediary has received that certification, which requires an annual audit from an outside audit firm to remain certified.

During the 90’s and early 2000’s, Robbinex enjoyed much success with a seminar program that brought clients to them. In fact, it worked so well that the fees from the gate not only covered the costs of the seminars and advertising for them but actually generated a small profit. Suddenly in the fall of 2004, the seminars stopped working, and try as they have, they have not enjoyed much success with seminars since. They have expanded their marketing and advertising programs to touch on virtually every form of advertising and marketing activity there is, including television, radio, newspaper articles & columns, magazine features (over 100 articles published over the past 7 years), telemarketing, direct mail, webinars, social media marketing, and public speaking. You name it, and Doug says they have probably tried it since 2004 with limited success. He even wrote a book, You Can Always Sell Your Business, including “100 tales from the trenches of a business intermediary” As everyone knows, the recession hasn’t helped much, to say the least. Robbinex found it necessary to downsize from twenty-two staff in their Hamilton office, to eight during 2009 & 2010, but they have rebounded back to fifteen as of this writing, and are looking to add a couple of new folks in 2013. The biggest challenge faced by Robbinex is finding new clients (small mid-market transaction- values in the $5 to $15M range) who want to sell their business. Robbinex is now beginning to experiment with a new hybrid marketing-seminar-speaking program at this time, to generate those new clients. It’s too soon to know if it will replace the successful seminar program of years past.

Reflecting on his membership in the IBBA, Doug says, “I have been a strong supporter in learning from others, and I believe that the very best way to get the kind of education needed to be successful as a business broker is from others doing what you are doing. I have learned a great deal from IBBA members over the past 24 years as a member and continue to learn from each conference I attend. I will always support members whenever I can, not only with workshops, but on a one on one basis if asked. The IBBA and its various affiliates throughout North America is a wonderful forum to achieve this objective of learning from others.”

 


Julie Johnson, CBI, M&AMI

Member Spotlight: Julie Johnson

julie-johnsonMy husband and I started our business, Venture Resource, in Louisville, Kentucky in 1980. In 2002, after completing nearly 900 transactions, we sold it to retire.

One of the major contributors to our success during our business years was our association with the IBBA. The industry was fairly new when we began and having the opportunity to learn from other business brokers was invaluable to us. The more active and involved with the association we became, the more we benefited.

In 1998, I was honored to serve as the Chairman of the organization and during that time the IBBA was going through a period of growth. The CBI certification and the education courses were expanding. The attendance at conferences grew far beyond our goals.

The people I served with, many of whom are still in the business, were the best business brokers in the country, and I value the opportunity to have worked with them. I would urge every business broker to become involved in the IBBA. When you associate with successful people, it rubs off!

In the early years of our business, bankers were not interested in making loans to small businesses. In order to sell a company, we became adept at “seller financing”. I suspect that trend is one that has found new popularity.

The industry allowed us to educate our three sons and fund our retirement. Additionally we were able to assist 900 buyers and sellers in realizing their dreams. What more could you ask of a career?

 


Clyth MacLeod, Lifetime CBI

The Remarkable Clyth MacLeod

Introduction by Keith McLeod

clyth-macleodThe tallest trees in the forest are the California Redwoods. The tallest tree in our industry is in New Zealand: Clyth MacLeod. He is a modest and principled leader, and I am proud to call him a friend. We share the same last name, although Clyth insists it should include an A. November 11, 2012 was Clyth’s 50th year anniversary in our industry. He has successfully completed a staggering 7,000 transactions (I doubt if I can even count that high)! This number is even more impressive when you remember that the total population of New Zealand is about the same as Phoenix, Arizona. Clyth has a passion for our industry. Several years ago I had the good wisdom to sit down with him for an hour, ask him some questions, and record his pearls of wisdom:

I’m a hard worker and I realized that if I worked for a salary there was a limit to your income. If you had your own business your income was unlimited and was a result of your own endeavors. There are no guarantees in life, so seize the day, enjoy the day, and live the day. There is no guarantee of a tomorrow. Success in life and business is to establish good relationships with people and to like people. I believe relationships underpin all success. I am fortunate to have a very good family and a very loving wife, Trish. I have tremendous relationships with a number of people I know in the industry. I enjoy life, and I enjoy good health. I would think that I have been very successful by my own definition. I don’t equate money with success. Success is having good friends, good relationships, leaving a legacy, and making a difference in people’s lives.

Integrity is non-negotiable. Your good name is paramount. I’m intolerant of negativity. I have lectured on professional practice management for IBBA. A leader sets the tone and the direction. The reason we are successful is we have more innovative marketing strategies and more networks than our competitors have. We believe we add more value to the transaction. I think the world is full of opportunity at the moment than in the past. There are changes in demographics and in the type of businesses. There are a lot more service businesses, and the Internet and the web are marketing opportunities. There will always be periods of down turn and periods of boom. The sun will shine again, and you have to do the basics persistently and consistently. It is an attitudinal thing. The market is the market. The only thing you can control is your attitude to the market. Stay positive, focus on the activities that bring results. Focus on your strengths. I’ve had a great satisfaction helping other people to improve. I read widely with the aim of improving the self and improving the business. As for the future, I will ease back from business brokering. I can because I hired Glorianne [Campbell], and I have total confidence in her. She shares my passion and my ethical attitude and I’m quite comfortable with that.

 


Keith McLeod, CBI
IBBA Newsletter Editor
keith@businesscentre.net

From the Editor’s Desk

keith-mcleodThanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is usually a gathering of family and relatives around turkey or ethnic foods – truly a festive time. During my junior or senior year in college, I took a business writing course. In one of my readings I was deeply moved by passages written by William L. Stidger, “Why Keep Your Heart in Cold Storage?” I kept it for years and when I ran banks in the U.P. of Michigan and Wisconsin it became my bank’s advertisement at Thanksgiving time. It is one of my personal treasures, which I share with you now:

The line between business appreciation and personal appreciation is often so thin that it cannot be discerned. You cannot tell where one leaves off and the other begins. This is as it should be. The businessman, the professional man, the public servant – all of us – owe an eternal debt to those whom have constructively shaped our lives. We should never forget our debt.

“We were a group of friends in the midst of an after-dinner conversation ten years ago,” writes the Reverend William L. Stidger of the staff of the Boston University School of Theology. “Because Thanksgiving was just around the corner and prosperity wasn’t, we were talking about what we have to be thankful for.”

That started us. One of us said: “Well I, for one am grateful to Mrs. Wendt, an old schoolteacher who 30 years ago went out of her way to introduce me to Tennyson.” She had, it appeared awakened his literary interests and developed his gifts for expression.

“Does this Mrs. Wendt know that she made such a contribution to your life?” someone asked.

“I’m afraid not. I’ve never taken the trouble to tell her.”

“Then why don’t you write her? It would certainly make her happy if she is alive, and it might make you happier too. Far too few of us have developed the habit of gratitude.”

All of this is very poignant to me, because Mrs. Wendt was my teacher, and I was the fellow who hadn’t written. My friend’s challenge made me see that I had accepted something precious and hadn’t bothered to say thanks.

That evening, on the chance that Mrs. Wendt might still be living, I wrote her what I called a Thanksgiving letter.

My letter was forwarded from town to town. Finally it reached her, and this is the note I received in return.

“I can’t tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my eighties, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely and like the last leaf of fall lingering behind. You will be interested to know that I taught school for fifty years and yours is the first note of appreciation I ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning, and it cheered me as nothing has in many years….”

My first Thanksgiving letter had proved so satisfying that I made a list of people who had contributed something deep and lasting to my life and planned to write at least one every day in November. I sent out fifty letters. All but two brought answers immediately. Those two were returned by relatives, saying the addressees were dead, and even those letters expressed thanks for the little bit of thoughtfulness.

Perhaps the most touching answer came from Bishop William F. McDowell, whose wife once cared for me with such motherly thoughtfulness that I never forgot it – but had never written her a letter of thanks. Now I remembered and knowing that she was gone, wrote my Thanksgiving letter to the Bishop, telling him my memory. I received this in response:

“Your letter was so beautiful, so real, that I sat reading it in my study tears fell from my eyes, tears of gratitude. Then, before I realized what I was doing, I rose from my chair, called her name, and started to show it to her – forgetting she was gone. You will never know how much your letter has warmed my spirit. I have been walking about in the glow of it all day long.”

For ten years I have continued to write my Thanksgiving month letters, and I now have more than 500 of the most beautiful answers anyone has ever received. A Thanksgiving letter isn’t much. Only a few lines are necessary. But the rewards are so great that eternity alone can estimate them. Thanks to the rebuke of a friend, I have learned a little about gratitude.