Yesterday, I did the unthinkable: namely, I took off midway through the workday.

SunAnt is now in its 10th year, with an anniversary coming this Summer. And, as with any business, SunAnt has been my daily thing. Along with Damon and Anthony, we have been cranking along, adding one Lego brick on top of the next and continuing to build on our previous achievements. Yes: business ownership can be satisfying. Yes: hard work and discipline are givens. Yes: building and running a business can be a true grind-it-out type of affair. There are no guarantees.  And there is a great deal of risk involved. Yet, it is quite something to be able to look back over a decade with astonishment… and a sense of pride and thankfulness. Pride for having endured. Pride for having ploughed through the tough times. Pride in our accomplishments and doing right by our Clients. Thankfulness for our good fortune, the blessings we have received, the guidance of close confidants. I hazard to speak here about “success” in business as it relates to SunAnt without immediately knocking on wood. Anyone in business knows full well that the future is not written in stone.

Why am I being so sappy today?

Well, as I mentioned, I took half a day yesterday. First I went with my eldest son up to Mequon (northeast of our offices here in Brookfield) to meet with my brother Tim. Tim and his wife Beth (or “Auntie Boo” as my kids call her) have been in the restaurant business for as long as I can recall (spanning some 30 years).

Tim started with a small retail seafood shop in Tallahassee. Then, he relocated to Milwaukee, opening a retail and wholesale seafood operation on the north side.  Then, he revamped his business model and opened a very successful Seafood Retail and Restaurant in Shorewood. After selling that business, he and I started a web-related business in 2000. When that business folded, Tim and Beth opened St. Paul Fish Company at the Milwaukee Market in Milwaukee’s historic Third Ward.

St. Paul Fish Company has achieved enormous success since its opening. It is really quite something to behold from my vantage point. As a brother, of course. But moreso as an entrepreneur. Tim and Beth’s business can be aptly-described as an “overnight success that only took 35 yrs”.

st paul fish co yelp

But the reason I took half a day was so I could visit the site of their second location which will be opening in Mequon in several Months. As of the writing of this post, the old “cannery building” is undergoing a serious renovation. Yesterday, when my son and I arrived to meet Tim, we donned our hard hats and bright neon vests and entered to the clamor of HVAC professionals hanging venting from the tall ceilings, carpenters framing out the restrooms, and plumbers running lines for the bar area. It was truly awesome to see.

I commented to my son, who is 17, that each of these professionals were highly-skilled tradesmen who make a decent living working hard every day doing stuff that may not be entirely glamorous but sure is necessary. Then I mentioned to Matt Jr. that between the two locations I would guess Tim and Beth would probably have 50 or so employees when all is said and done.

st paul fish

The new place will eventually look like this.

From there, we went with Tim to his “design/build” guy’s shop. There we saw a crew assembling hand-made table tops, finish coating them, screen printing on the table tops and assembling them. My son, who is a big fan of all things relating to wood-craft and a budding blacksmith, loved seeing the process and the skills employed in this small, completely out-of-the-way shop in Cedarburg. It was very cool.

From there, we went out to Jackson to visit Infinity EDM. Mind you, while Infinity EDM is a longstanding Client of ours, I wasn’t there on business. Nope. We were there to pick up a block of scrap steel for Junior to use as an anvil. That’s correct: an anvil. As I mentioned, Junior is serious about blacksmithing. Rich (the owner) and Wendy (his Right Hand) were kind enough to support his endeavor by offering up the steel block.

While we were there, Matt and I got the tour of their building. Along the way, Rich showed us all of their machines, walking one to the next. We learned about wire cutting and small hole drilling. We got to see the machines in action, with spools of wires cutting into massive blocks of metal in vats of water. Along the way, I told Matt that the first time I met with Rich, they were in a different, much smaller building. This new building was built some 4 years ago. Then, Rich got wide-eyed and said, “check this out”. We walked over to the last machine and peered into a new expansion. This new space (which looked to at least double the shop in size) was darn near complete. Once again, tradesmen were at work doing all manner of finish work.

On the ride home, Matt and I discussed what a cool small tour we had taken. Of course, as a dad, I couldn’t pass up the Golden Opportunity to reinforce the concepts of Discipline, Hard Work, Willingness to take Prudent Risks, Human Ingenuity, and that precious little on this Earth is free.

Boy, this is a lot more long-winded of a post than I intended. But I’ll finish off with this…

There is beauty in discipline and hard work and creativity of risk-taking entrepreneurs who have given it their all for decades with no guarantees.  It is inspirational to say the least to people like me. And if we are lucky, Junior and his generation will also think so.

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