The Speech that Never Was

On Thursday, February 23, 2023 I had the honor of being named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Envision Greater Fond du Lac (Wisconsin). Envision is the Chamber of Commerce for the area that includes the small town of Waupun, WI. Our store is located in Waupun.

Let me set the record straight, I don’t see myself as an Entrepreneur. This is another topic for another day. From all accounts and all definitions of what an Entrepreneur is, I am one. So I guess I’ll just have to get use to this label. Like a lot of things, I’ll do it kicking and screaming. I’m assuming doing something you don’t want to do, but making a fuss about it, is another Entrepreneur trait. I started my “Entrepreneur” journey, for the sake of this award, in 2016.

Back to the award. I had the opportunity to give a speech to this audience of around 400 people. The crowd is an intimidating one. A crowd of politicians (not intimidating), many great local leaders (somewhat intimidating), business owners (intimidating), Entrepreneurs (very intimidating), and three of my children (very very intimidating). I’m sure there were some haters scattered in there too (not at all intimidating).

I’ve spoke in front of many different audiences. I’ve guest spoke to classes, taught college classes, spoke at a funeral, school board meetings, in front of Senate and Assembly committees at the Capital, etc etc. Most every time I’ve spoken in front of a crowd I prepared some notes and it was very easy for me to use my notes that I made to speak. In fact, most times I do it the day before and never change my speech from the time I thought of it. This speech had a much different approach.

My first idea for this speech would likely lead to a few people hating me, most people thinking I’m a jerk, but a few people (very few) thinking I was awesome.

I’ll try to break down the speech that never was.

  1. Thank my family, Envision. Congratulate others that received recognition that night. But most of all, thank the many businesses in the room. Simple and off to a great start. We’ll that is when it would take a turn.
  2. Explain why I wanted to thank the many businesses in the room. Go over the top about thanking the big business in the room. One’s that have been around a long time and have hundreds of employees. Maybe even call out a couple of them.
  3. I want to these businesses in the room for not believing in me many years ago. In the summer of 2012, our family was living in the Westside of Fond du Lac. I took a job in the Milwaukee area and hated it weeks into the job. It was an hour away, paid well, but just a miserable job. For the two years that followed taking that job, I applied for almost every job I could find in the Fond du Lac area, called companies about possible job openings, left messages for business HR departments and sent many letters.
  4. Sorry, your experiences don’t line up with what we are looking for. This sums up those two years of looking for jobs in the Fond du Lac area. Those two years confirmed to me that I’m not in the “boys club” and never wanted to be. I didn’t grow up in the area so I didn’t have childhood friends that could get me in the door, etc.
  5. If anyone in this room believed in me, I’d be stuck working for you and not be up here. Thank you from the bottom on my heart for not believing in me so I could provide so much more for my family that you ever would have.
  6. Then walk away. Say nothing else, let them google my business.

You get the idea. It would have been one of bitterness, regret and frankly pretty pathetic. A speech I would have loved to hear someone else give and feel the awkwardness. It wouldn’t have been something I would be proud of and definitely not a way I would want my kids to look at me.

It took about a week for me to loose the bitterness and toss the speech idea. I looked at the speech as an opportunity to tell our story, be a little funny, be a little inspiring and hopefully encourage others. Here’s the speech:

2 thoughts on “The Speech that Never Was

  1. That was a great speech, Tom! You forgot to mention why you had so many homes! Remember…..😄
    You and Michelle certainly deserved this award. I do remember every step of your awesome journey.


  2. That was a great speech, Tom. You forgot to mention why you had so many homes! I remember, though. 😄
    You and Michelle truly deserve this award! I remember every step of your awesome journey.


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