It’s the mantra of a man who turned a greeting card shop with $12,000 in sales into an office supply business with $10 million a year in sales: If you want a chance to make your dream come true, you need desire, dedication and discipline.
Al Lunceford had his three D’s.
Lunceford, an African-American who entered adulthood working in an Ohio steel mill before the civil rights gains of the 1960s, is now 74. He says he’s able to do what he wants to do today — play up to 36 holes of golf a day and enjoy what Las Vegas has to offer with his wife — because he came to understand the power of the three D’s.
We first met at a fitness center. I started talking to him because his workout combined cardio, stretches and weight training that might leave many 40-year-olds in traction.
The more I talked with Lunceford — he moved to Sun City Summerlin five years ago — the more I wished Americans could be infused with his attitude: We, the people, not politicians or government, have the most to do with our success or failure.
“Many people don’t want to hear the truth,” he said.
He says too many people don’t want to make the sacrifices necessary for success. They want instant gratification, and when what they want doesn’t materialize, they essentially quit, settling for less. They don’t understand that in life you’ll often stumble and fall, but you have to get up to make dreams come true.
He grew up in a segregated Warren, Ohio, with his salesman dad heading the household. His loving parents believed that if you spared the rod, you spoiled the child.
They believed if he studied hard enough, he’d get good grades, so they made him study. Poor grades meant a spanking or not going outside for two months. Ditto for sloppy grammar and bad manners.
Today, Lunceford believes, as I do, the major reason public schools fail today is because of bad parenting. It’s almost impossible to undo the damage done by parents who allow children to do what they want to do.
“And without education today, most kids don’t have a chance,” said Lunceford, who doesn’t have children.
Lunceford, accomplished on the saxophone, did rebel. Instead of going to Youngstown State University on a music scholarship, as his parents wanted — his Uncle Jimmy Lunceford was a band leader — he went off to make money in a steel mill.
That got old quick. When he got the chance to work as a teller in a bank for half the money, he took it.
“I figured I could learn something about business there, ” he said
Thirteen years later — while a banker, he opened a shop selling greeting cards for his mother to manage — he became branch manager.
Then he left.
“People thought I was crazy,” he said. “But I wanted my own business. I figured, if could run a bank, why not an office supply store?”
When he outgrew the shop, only a rural bank gave the black man a loan to buy his own building for what he called Dana Business Products.
“I was angry several times at what happened to me because of race,” he said, “but if I’d blown up, I would have failed.”
Ohioans Dennis Lemon and Robert Davis remember Lunceford often worked 20-hour days.
“It was hard for a black man to make it in business then,” said Lemon, a former Lunceford employee. “But he ended up supplying Ohio State and other schools. He’d laugh and say people always needed rubber bands and paper clips.”
By age 65, when Lunceford retired, he had 32 employees.
“It’s all about desire, dedication and discipline,” Lunceford said.