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A Strong Foundation

In construction, it takes a strong foundation for a building to withstand the test of time. A foundation must be designed properly, installed under the right conditions and the various materials must be used in the proper proportions, sequence and size in order for it to remain strong.

No matter how well a building itself is constructed, if the foundation is flawed, the building will have problems, and those problems are typically far more costly to fix than building a proper foundation to begin with.

In life (and business), a strong foundation is also necessary to avoid costly problems. At PBI, our strong foundation was engineered by our mother, Anne Popowski. In the beginning, although there was no money, she was there working, answering the phones and keeping the books ... not to mention refereeing a bunch of headstrong brothers as only a headstrong mother can do.

Our mother was raised by parents who immigrated to America from Poland. Our grandparents were in search of a better life after World War I, and they were determined to build it here in America. They worked hard, saved and purchased a farm in Wisconsin where our mother was raised and her own foundations were taught and learned.

Mom was one of the Americans who fit the category of being in the “Greatest Generation.” She lived through the Great Depression and World War II, she was tough and she did the best she could with what little she had. Her husband (our father) passed away too early, leaving her with five children still in school, little money, no life insurance and no income to speak of.

After being dealt that unfortunate hand, our Mother ran a business out of the basement of our house cutting and styling hair. That business lasted for almost thirty years, and many of her customers stayed with her for that entire time. That small business put food on the table, paid the bills and allowed our mother to stay close and keep an eye on her boys, who liked to get into trouble.

Still, her strong foundations of faith in God, doing the best you can with what you have, working hard, doing a good job and standing your ground for what’s right pulled all of us through. Even her entrepreneurial spirit passed down to us, and it’s still in evidence today at PBI.

Our mother, who was nearing the age of 87, passed away last week. She left this world the way she wanted and on her own terms. She had nothing else to prove, no loose ends and she even preplanned her own funeral down to the smallest detail.

At her funeral services, I met numerous people who had only known our mom in the last six months of her life while she was in an assisted living facility. I was amazed how many came to say goodbye after knowing her for just a short while. They came to pay their respects and to let us know how much she touched their lives, even in just that brief time.

Curious, I asked them why they had come and the answer was the same. Anne took the time to get to know people and truly cared about others. She showed an interest in what they did, who they were and what they had to say. She would often express her gratitude to them for how well they cared for her.

Sadly, I rarely saw that side of my mother, even after all these years. I usually saw the tough lady who needed to be strong in order to put food on the table and clothes on our backs. Maybe it was just me and my eyes weren’t open? Still, she left this world teaching us the importance of treating others as you wish to be treated, and that may have been the most important part of the foundation she built for our lives and our business.

Idz’ z Bogiem (Go with God), Mom.

Mike