The Hot Dog Man, and the Recession

I have read this little story many times over the years. I found it at the Network for Growth the other day. It is an especially poignant story considering the times we find ourselves in.

Once upon a time, there was a good man, who had worked hard all his life. He disliked his work. It was not rewarding. His boss was never happy. But he worked hard. Until, one day, this man decided he had had enough, and he quit.

He just walked out. He went home and told his wife. She cried.

How are we going to send our boy to college”, she asked? The man thought for a minute and then said, “I will think of something”. After a while, he decided to do something he has always wanted to do. He would sell hot dogs on the street corner from a little hot dog cart on wheels.

He took his savings and bought a hot dog cart. His friends were not too sure about this. But the hot dog man started selling hot dogs on the street corner, in his hometown. They were good hot dogs. Best quality. Not cheap, but he charged enough to pay for them. Things went pretty well right from the beginning

People liked his hot dogs. He always made sure to have plenty of fresh ketchup and mustard and onions. Every customer got a smile with their hot dog.

He did very well, and soon more people wanted his hot dogs. More than he could serve. So he bought another hot dog cart. His son pushed the new cart. He made good hot dogs too.

And every one of the Son's customers got a smile and a thank you to go with their hot dog. The hot dog man made sure to teach his son about this. The two did well, and saved the money they made, until it was time for the boy to go to college. There was enough money to send him to school even if the hot dog man paid another young man to push the second cart.

“Give them a smile with every hot dog,” he told his first employee. It worked fine.

This gave him an idea. He bought a third cart and hired a second employee.

Every year the city grew and every year he added a few more carts. The hot dog man’s company did very well. Buns and dogs were coming in bigger trucks these days. He was glad the son decided to study business in college. Their hot dog company was hiring more and more people and getting bigger and bigger. It would be great when the son returned home with all that college education to help him manage it.

The big day finally arrived. The son came home from college. Dad was excited. Mom too. There was a BIG Party. Everybody came.

Then it was time to get to work. But the son was not interested in working in the hot dog company. He wanted to do something more grand. The hot dog man was sad.

But then he asked, “Can you just look over our books and give me some advice?”

“Sure”, said the son, while looking at his watch.

“Things are going pretty good”, said the hot dog man. He got the books and paperwork out to proudly show the son what they had become while he was gone.

The son looked things over and thought for a minute. Then he said, “Gee, Dad, you have an awful lot of hot dog carts. And Expenses.”

Then he asked, “Don’t you know a Recession is coming?”. The hot dog man did not know what a Recession was, so he asked.

The son explained what he had learned in college about Recessions. The hot dog man shook his head in amazement.

He thought things were OK, but his son was just out of college. The hot dog man had worked a lot of hours to pay for that college education. He thought surely the college people knew more about business than he did, so he listened.

The son said, maybe you should mothball a few carts this season…

So that is what the hot dog man did. After a month or so, sales were down.

The son and the hot dog man looked things over again. The son said they should cut advertising expenses a little.

The hot dog man was sure the son must know about these things, So that is what they did. Sure enough, sales went down.

A few months later the books were worse. The Son said profits were being squeezed by the Recession. He said they should buy a cheaper hot dog. Save a little money. So they did. Sure enough, Sales went down.

After a while the son looked again at the books. Again. He said, “Gee Dad, you’re not making much money. Maybe you should cut payroll a little. So they laid off a few employees. The ones who stayed on were not too sure what would happen next. They stopped giving a smile with every hot dog. And sales went down even more.

Things were gloomy until the hot dog man had a great idea. He called all his employees together. Even the ones that had been let go. He told them something like this. "Sometimes things are easy and sometimes things are hard. It's easy to lose your way when things are hard." He admitted that he had been scared by this recession.

Then he went on. "Things have been hard lately. BUT, we are going to go back to doing what worked before. We will buy a better hot dog. We will run a few ads. We will get all the carts out of storage. And everybody will have a job. I don't care what it costs." Only one thing", he added, "Ya gotta give every customer a smile with their hot dog". They promised they would. And so they did.

Sure enough... sales went up.

And they keep going up to this very day.

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The Hotdogman on TV

Here' the Hotdogman on Roadside Stories
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