I was lucky enough to grow up with several business mentors in the family. Many of us have learned certain skills from special mentors or bosses over the years and I happen to be related to mine.

My mom gave me hard work and passion, my dad taught me how to properly answer the phone and take detailed messages at a very early age before cell phones existed, and my grandfather taught me true customer service.

My grandfather displayed customer service in many ways, but mostly in the way he treated people. With kindless and respect. He was always friendly, made friends everywhere he went, and never, I mean NEVER said no to a kid selling candy bars or a 50/50 raffle at the local basketball game. He always displayed generosity to youth sports and 4-H programs. He would help fund a 4-H’ers feed bill until after fair and they could settle up. He kept meticulous records and could run that adding machine like a musical instrument.

Milliman’s Feed Service was run out of the back porch of the house I called home for many years. That old push button cash register, the chalkboard pricing sign that was updated with every price change, and the kitchen telephone with a 10 ft curly cord on it was all they needed to operate the business. There was a supplier-sponsored calendar hung near the phone and a pen or pencil attached to a string for jotting down a quick note.

That back door saw many faces over the last 50+ years that my grandfather ran his feed business. The semi would deliver chicken feed, lamb pellets, sweet feed, salt blocks, rabbit pellets, and just about any feed the local farmers and 4-Her’s needed. He would store his inventory in semi-trailers permanently parked on the farm complete with trusty homemade wooden loading docks off the back and the heaviest rolling doors I think were ever made. As a kid I remember trying to open those dang doors and was so excited when I got big enough to do it! I watched my uncle sling 1000’s of sacks over his shoulder and place in a customer’s vehicle.

Gramps didn’t do too much of the heavy lifting as his legs were crushed in an accident in the 60’s. He told me today that the doctors said he would be lucky to live to 65 after they put him back together. Well, today he celebrates his 80th birthday and is as grateful as anyone to still have another day. Here’s to the good Lord giving you another day!

Happy Birthday Gramps!

Cleon Milliman & Rebecca VanDenBerg