Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thirteen Years, One Pack of Staples, A World of Change

I’ve gotten sentimental over some crazy things but never about staples.  I mean literally, staples.  You know, the little metal slivers that hold paper together.

So I must say, even though this blog post is about that very topic, keep in mind, I realize it’s not about the staples.  I’ve not taken that great leap into the deep end of my local big box office supply store.

That said, in the world of office supplies staples are perhaps the most ubiquitous of all.  I just recently bought a package of staples at a price of $2.99 at my local Office Depot and realized that this is the first pack of staples I bought since I started O’Brien Communications in April 2001.  I realized this because I’ve gone back into that seemingly bottomless box for staples many times over the years and wondered each time how long it would be before I would get to a second package.  Now, 13 years later here I am.  Happy anniversary!  Woo hoo!

Of all things.  Staples.

Over the years, I’ve been a big customer of stores that sell things to businesses.  I’ve bought computers, printers and scanners.   I lost count of such things as paper, paper clips, toner, pens, CDs, flash drives, hard-drives, note paper, note pads, and any number of things that enable an office to run.

I’m not sure what it says that I’ve noticed such a thing, or that I’ve only used one box of staples in 13 years.  The box is the “5,000 Count Standard” variation.  That means that over the past 13 years, I’ve used 5,000 staples.  On average that’s about 384 staples per year or 32 per month.  Of course, this doesn’t account for all the staples my work has consumed.  I’ve made more than a few trips to Kinko's and other quick printers. And clients have used more than a few thousand staples over the years, binding documents I created for them.

Normally, I wouldn’t give a thought to pitching an empty staple box into the trash.  So just as I was about to do so, I stopped for a moment and thought about all that has happened since I first opened that box.

When I started my business, I stocked my office supplies in a closet in our old house, the one where we started out and the place where we brought our kids home as newborns.   By the time I started the business, my sons were 12 and 9 respectively.  The office had been our family room up to that time, so the kids had to find somewhere else to play on rainy summer days while Dad worked to get the business started.  I used a fax machine with some regularity that first year, and the largest item on my desk was a huge tube computer monitor.  Soon enough, clients came in and the world moved on.  Here are some of the things of note as I worked through that box of staples.

That first day I probably made a call on my cell phone that was only for talking.

A few months later, two jets hit the World Trade Center, one hit the Pentagon, and one crashed in a field in Somerset, and nothing was ever the same after that.  My memories of that day are as clear as yesterday.

We found a new home a couple of months after that and moved to a place that offered the kids more room to grow, and my office was more of an office, my business was finding its footing.

I used those staples for projects that involved marketing, branding, litigation, bankruptcies, workforce communications, crisis communications, community relations, publicity, mergers and acquisitions.

I stapled hard copies of speeches, annual report drafts, video scripts, crisis plans and press releases for clients that ranged from glass and steel and national defense, to life sciences and energy and professional services firms.

Somewhere in the course of my use of that box of staples, someone figured out that under our feet lay a vast natural gas field that and named it  "Marcellus." 

I cracked open that box before Facebook, Twitter and social media emerged, and eventually used those staples to bind documents that explored the nature, the potential and the risks of social media.

That package of staples saw me through roughly eight years of producing football booster programs for my kids’ high school teams….and then five St. Patrick’s Day Parades.

I helped my parents get their affairs in order, binding documents together that I had hoped never to need. And then I did.  We were sad about that.

Some of those staples traveled along with college applications to schools throughout the Northeast only to help us narrow it all down to schools that were less than 45 minutes from home.  We were happy about that.

Businesses that spend too much time looking backward don’t last very long, so after 13 years I can say I haven’t looked back all that much.  It took an empty box of staples to force the issue, I suppose.

So here sits a full box of 5,000 staples in their clean white package.  I wonder what this box will bring.

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