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Divine intervention for business: just ask

23 July 2010 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

>See original story on SDNN

Monday, June 1, 2009

George Fish had been moaning for months about his warehouse. It was stuffed, disorganized and an eyesore.

Confiding in two of his business buddies, he said, “I need a divine intervention.”

“What would that look like?” they asked.

“Someone would come to my place and help me clean it out,” he said.

“You got it,” his buddies said. “We will be your divine intervention.”

We are his buddies; I and a well-known businesswoman, who wanted to be known in this story as “Lois.”

Neither Lois nor I know much about the organ business. But we are part of a business association that meets regularly to discuss issues. We have all benefited from each other’s help and wisdom in different ways, at different times.

This time, it was George’s turn.

Fish runs an organ repair business, based in La Mesa. He has a showroom and a warehouse, totaling about 1,500 square feet.

The place was so cluttered, he couldn’t find tools, job orders or complete his work. In recent months, business had a slowed, not due to recession, he said. “It has declined because of me.”

I had seen a “shopping intervention” TV show. One woman was about to buy a very expensive dress, when her girlfriends showed up and directed her to a less expensive store.

Another friend also told me about a family intervention on her son. The 16-year-old confessed to doing drugs, so his parents put him in a rehab program.

Now, I had the opportunity to do some good, too.

Lois had similar reasons for saying yes to George. “I have valued his help in the past for my business, so I wanted to give back,” she said.

George isn’t a drug addict. Or a shopaholic. But “I have compulsive collecting disorder,” he said. “Sometimes I get this thing in my head that I need one of every kind of something.”

But George had the humility to admit his weakness and ask for help.

What did he really want? “Divine peace,” he said. “I want to have peace and serenity knowing that I’m doing what I can in my businesses, so my surroundings are peaceful. Instead of being a place to escape from, it’ll be a joy to work in.”

Saturday, Lois and I showed up at George’s show room in La Mesa at 10:30am. We agreed to work until 12:30 p.m.

He showed us the show room, which was filled with stuff. Widgets were on top of papers, on top of organ parts, lodged in all angles. We could barely step through. No wonder he wasn’t having business come in.

The warehouse across the hall wasn’t any better. It was as if someone had died and put all their life’s belongings into that one space, which was the size of a garage.

We knew we didn’t have enough time to clear his warehouse, which had taken years to accumulate. But we figured it would be enough to get him started.

Since George regarded this as a “divine intervention,” we began with a short prayer. Even though the three of us follow different faiths, we agreed it was good to call upon a greater force. “It’s not divine without God,” George explained.

We also set a target. He wanted to clear one table top, to have just one space open everyday. We also decided to organize his showroom, so that his own organs were separate from his customers’. But we didn’t think we could get to his warehouse that day.

We started out with simple tasks. Put all the papers in one pile. Put all the manuals in one box. Pull all the customer’s organs outside to put back later. Cluster all of George’s organs together. Place all the amps in one section.

It was like an archaeological dig. We found two vacuum cleaners, a menu from George’s favorite restaurant (Aliberto’s), a phone, and a Glockenspiel (a xylophone made with metal bars, used for marching bands). “I repaired this one in my youth,” said George who is 55. “I’ve had it since I was 18.”

One thing about cleaning up other people’s stuff is that you don’t have an emotional attachment to it. As we re-organized George’s amps, Lois dubbed it the “Tower of Babel.”

George said he wanted to keep the amps because he had repaired them.

“When did you repair them?” asked Lois.

“In my youth,” said George.

“How many amps can you use at once?” Lois asked.

“Your logic is impeccable,” he replied.

Together, we figured out a way to arrange George’s shelves, so he could access things easily. We organized his organs, so that his were clustered together, and his customers’ were in one place for repair. And we got all the papers and miscellaneous things off the organ tops and into boxes.

Soon, it was 12:30 p.m. and our time was up. We didn’t manage to clear one table top, as George had wanted, but he said he would able to do that later in the afternoon.

More importantly, George felt that we had gotten the momentum going. “I can work more efficiently, get things done faster, and make more money. That’s business isn’t it?”

We ended the time with a simple prayer.

“I feel wonderful, like I’ve got a fresh start,” said George. “I’m exhausted, but energized.”

For others who want a divine intervention, how do they get it? “You gotta ask for one,” he said.

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

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