Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Friendly Life

On my flight yesterday I read a short book (and a longer one but that review can come later). A Friendly Life if an autobiography of S. Presley Blake, the co-founder of Friendly Ice Cream.

I love success stories - especially ones that start from nothing. His start up reminds me of my first business start up (if you don't count the little ones like paper routes, selling cabbages, shoveling snow etc.). I started a painting business when I was 14 because I could not find a summer job that would take me on my terms. I wanted to go to camp for part of the summer and anyone hiring wanted someone for the whole summer.

That business grew over the years I did it. I hired my brothers and many of my classmates. I bought ladder, scaffolding etc. I negotiated paint discounts. I learned gorilla marketing. And I am sure the success I had at that gave me the confidence to start my technology distribution company as I was finishing my engineering degree.

Blake and his brother needed jobs and could not find one. They applied at the gas station etc. Imagine where he would be today had he been hired. The brothers would be open from 11 in the morning to 11 PM and then one of the brothers would stay to 5 in the morning to make ice cream for the next day. They were open 7 days per week.

There are good memories in the trials of startup regardless of the seeming hardship at the time.

In the end, they grew to 500 stores. He went public and then sold the Hersey. Hersey spun it off and the person who bought it went public again. Blake did not like the way it was run so at age 85 became a dissident shareholder, bought stock, sued the company etc. In the end it sold and was a happy ending.

In addition to the business story, it intersperses stories of his travel and the people he met.

I love that it is only 111 pages. I have become a bit twitterlike and prefer the short trend. Nothing riles me more than an author trying to say in 250 pages what can be said in 100 or in other cases what should be said in just an article.

Blake, at age 96 today, sounds like a great character.

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