It was not long before I fell into a groove with my new position. I loved what I was doing and I was good at it as well. We owned the fuel in the ground as opposed to the more traditional business model where the fuel company associated with the station owns the fuel and pays the retailer a small percentage of each litre sold. The first year of operation I almost broke $100,000 in profit on the fuel alone. Who knew that there was big money to be made in petroleum.
In all of this, though, I was still making a pittance. It became clearer and clearer to me that I was simply chasing a rather large carrot and any hope of securing a salary top-up in the form of a bonus was very quickly eroding away. Yet that didn’t stop the owner from talking about increasing benefits for me, providing me with a company vehicle, and other perks. None of which ever materialized. For the first while I rationalized that it was because it was a new business that needed to get established and profit margins were tight, however it didn’t take long before I could no longer convince myself that this was true. After all, I was the one producing the monthly profit and loss statements for the owner.
During this time I had hired the cult leader’s wife’s twin brother to become my assistant. He had a colorful background and as a result of his past ‘work’ experiences he was a very persuasive ‘sales person’. Unusually, I got along relatively well with him, and considered him a valuable asset to help me with the retail sales aspect of this truck stop. At first I had him working in the C-store to help establish sales targets there and then I had him assist me in establishing the truck parts store. This is where he shined and parts were flying off of the shelf faster than we could stock them. One of my main suppliers of truck parts approached me because a regional sales position had just opened up. The position paid six figures a year but would require travel in the three most western provinces of Canada.
He offered me the job.
I was tempted but only for a moment for although the money was good, the travel was not and as my wife and I had learned over the last year it was better for us to be financially poor then relationally poor. Having me on the road for several weeks at a time would not pour into my family, no matter how much money I would be making. So, I turned it down but not before suggesting my assistant. He accepted the job and went on to become one of the top sales representatives for this international company, earning himself a prestigious diamond ring for achieving personal sales of more than a million dollars. He has retired now, having enjoyed the legal fruits of his efforts. He no longer has a need to have ‘safe houses’ around the world as he can travel with his own passport now.
The loss of him as my assistant meant that I had a key position to fill. The timing of filling this position also came at a time when the owner was talking to me about possibly leasing out the restaurant as it was not performing as well as he had wanted it to be. In this I saw an opportunity to achieve the last of my business dreams – that being to own a restaurant. However, to make this transition I needed to train my replacement and I needed to iron out a business arrangement with the owner. I began with promoting one of my employees in the C-store to become my assistant. This person had spent most of his working life as an employee of various gas stations and when he wasn’t pumping gas somewhere he was sitting in a restaurant drinking coffee.
In my focus to take over the restaurant these qualifications seemed reasonable enough for me.
I then spent my focus ironing out a lease arrangement with the owner. This involved some payment options, along with some development promises on his part. It also involved sales agreements in which the restaurant would provide some food for the C-store, along with the owner’s capital investment in redeveloping the fast food area into a Gelato creamery. In the meantime I worked with my wife to develop a business plan for the restaurant and secured the capital funds to make this a reality.
It was close to Christmas when all of the agreements in principle were ironed out. I was celebrating my second year of working for them – albeit a good portion of the first year was working for free I nonetheless counted it as work time completed. My wife and I had set up a business, secured our various licences and began the transition away from my general manager role and into our restaurant owner role. I spent the first month serving as a special consultant for the owner and my assistant now turned general manager. I was paid by the owner for services rendered. A good start to our new business arrangement.
Unfortunately, that would be the only part of the business arrangement that the owner would keep.