Embarking on a personal journey in life is a formidable task, one that I intimately understand due to the trials I faced. Motivated by the desire to secure a brighter future for my family, I braved the challenges with unwavering determination. Witnessing the fruits of relentless effort and sacrifices gradually transform into a remarkable success is the most profound reward one can experience. Even more heartwarming is the realisation that your children are not only capable of continuing and elevating the legacy you initiated as a parent, but they excel in doing so. With humility in my heart, I offer these words as a tribute to the tireless efforts and successes of my sons.
The inception of this remarkable journey traces back to September 1st, 1990, when I made the daunting decision to depart from my secure position as a Linotype operator at the Down Recorder. Venturing into self-employment was far from easy, yet a deep conviction resided within me, assuring that it was the only path to provide my family with a secure and promising future. Inevitably, doubts loomed on the horizon, clouding my mind as I grappled with the choice of pursuing this dream or seeking an alternative route. However, a slender thread of hope, gently reassuring me that everything would eventually align, led me to establish Plus2Print, a printing business in Downpatrick.
As previously mentioned, venturing into the realm of self-employment, irrespective of the chosen domain, is a formidable undertaking. No amount of preparation can fully equip you for the unforeseen challenges that lie ahead. The inexperience that tugs at your confidence can make some hurdles seem insurmountable. Yet, I harbored an unshakable belief that persistence on my chosen path would eventually yield success and secure the radiant future I envisioned for my family. It is often misconceived that self-employment grants abundant free time, leisurely holidays, and a flexible schedule. The reality, however, starkly contrasts these notions. There is scant free time and few tranquil holidays when your days and nights are devoted to nurturing and sustaining your business, as was the case for me. I toiled tirelessly from dawn to dusk, often forsaking weekends, fearful that relinquishing control for even a day might imperil the fruits of my labour.
Moreover, operating a printing business presented its own set of challenges. Significant financial investments were required to procure the necessary machinery for large-scale printing and timely order fulfillment. Additionally, the rapid evolution of technology rendered recently acquired equipment obsolete, necessitating constant reinvestment in this sector. Although my sons were relatively young at the time, they lent their unwavering support and assistance to the business. Alan, one of my sons, emerged as a dependable assistant, tirelessly aiding me after school hours. Upon completing his education, he chose not to seek alternative employment but, instead, committed himself to the family business, as he had always done.
In 2003, I underwent a triple heart bypass, signifying my retirement. Alan, now experienced and capable, assumed the mantle of running the business without me. Although it was reassuring to know he had his brother Gavin by his side, who had forsaken his career as a teacher to become the company's graphic designer, I could not have foreseen the extraordinary strides my two sons would take. Initially, my aspiration was modest – to see the business sustain itself, providing my sons with a better start in life than I had. However, Alan and Gavin refused to settle for mediocrity. Through considerable investment in new premises, more advanced equipment, and substantial changes, they elevated Plus2Print to unprecedented heights. Their unwavering determination bore fruit, necessitating the employment of four additional staff members to meet the burgeoning demand. Their future gleamed brightly after such an investment, with even grander plans for further business expansion and development.
As for me, I continue to contribute as much as I can to the business, assisting with various tasks. I oversee deliveries and ensure that orders reach customers punctually. Additionally, I procure all the materials required for ongoing projects. My initial objective was to provide my family with a secure foundation in life. In my mind, Plus2Print was meant to be a small family enterprise, a communal hub open to all. Morning tea would often extend into lunch, a humble start to what would eventually flourish beyond my expectations. My primary goal was to offer them a respectable place of employment while instilling values centered on hard work and dedication for achieving excellence. Astonishingly, my sons absorbed these lessons even more deeply than I had hoped. I am immeasurably proud of their accomplishments and the values they embody. This pride extends to all my sons, for while Alan and Gavin are the most actively involved, my other two sons also make valuable contributions to the success of our family enterprise. John, deeply immersed in the design field, channels his talents and skills to serve the company. Stephen, despite the demands of his job as a postman, consistently offers his helping hand whenever possible. My grandson Oisin observes daily the dedication and long hours invested by his father.
To my four sons and grandchildren, I want to convey my immense pride in what you have achieved. Your accomplishments have far exceeded my wildest dreams. You are not merely exceptional for the strides you've made in our family business, but for upholding the moral values I endeavored to impart and becoming respected, dependable members of our community. You stand as a shining example of what diligence, sacrifice, dedication, and a commitment to making things work can accomplish. I am confident that your journey will inspire countless others who aspire to create a brighter future for their families.
Excerpt From "Into The Fire" By Tony Oakes MBE circa 2013