Every year as I sit down to write this, I struggle to find a theme, this year it is easy. This year our little family ascribed to the philosophy of, “f*ck around and find out”. It was a whirlwind of a year, but 2023 will be the year that I will remember as the year a lot of people found out.
Before I break down that statement, I’d like to look at the numbers. On December 31st, 2022, Grant was struggling in Kindergarten, Caitlyn was working at Indiana Members Credit Union, DeLong Rigging Solutions had 1.5 full time employees and had an annual gross of about $300,000. On December 31st, 2023, Grant is in the first Grade and is killing it both behaviorally and academically. Caitlyn now works full-time for DRS. DRS now has 4 salaried employees, over 20 hourly employees, and a seven-figure annual gross. Just by the numbers, 2023 has gone very well.
Let’s start with Grant, this year started a bit rough in kindergarten. I hate being that parent who blames the teacher, but she had no tolerance for Grant and sent him to the office multiple times a week. We knew he was not a lost cause as she would have us believing, but we also knew she was not part of the solution. So, we spent the summer frustrating the crap out of Grant practicing his writing and helping him learn to deal with things not being perfect (like his handwriting). His babysitter (our next-door neighbor) is a godsend who worked with him as much if not more than we did and we are very thankful for Hope. At any rate, Grant is now in the first grade and has a teacher who is willing to accept that even with medication, he is high energy AND a good kid… There have only been 2 trips to the office I am aware of this year and Grant actually likes school now. We also put Grant into soccer at the Y and he loved it. Not sure he understood anything beyond kicking the ball, but by the end he didn’t cry when someone took the ball away from him, so I’m calling it a win.
Caitlyn started the year as the Teller Supervisor at her branch of the IMCU. I am not going to get too deep into it, but the “F*ck around and find out” theme holds true, and they made it very easy for her to come work for DeLong Rigging Solutions full time. She now runs all the office portions of DRS with all the grace and understanding of an Amazonian on the war path… Our paperwork and books are now spotless, and I am free to focus on projects.
DeLong Rigging Solutions gets its own paragraph. We have always ascribed to the F*ck around and find out philosophy, but this year we set in stone that once we take on a project, the result will be something that no one else can deliver. When the year started, we had 2 large projects scheduled for 2023, we were working out of a non-heated pole barn, and it was pretty common for me to not pay myself for a few weeks at a time. Well as the year progressed, we got steadily busier and busier and the networking I have been doing since forming DRS in 2020 started paying off. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I will tell you in 2023 we completed 104 projects in 4 states. The project I am most proud of was the IU Auditorium, we ripped out 48 line-sets and replaced them in 12 working days. Originally, we had scheduled to do 30 line-sets in 23 working days in July/August and then come back in December and do the other 18 in 11 days. Other vendors would plan for this project to take at least 45 working days, and we did it in 12. To say the crew killed it is an understatement. Our staff has delivered not just on this project, but on all our jobs this year and our reputation has grown. More than a few people thought we were just F*cking around, but they found out! We no longer are working out of an unheated pole barn, our full-time staff has continued to grow, and as of the writing of this paragraph we already have more jobs contracted than we can handle with current staffing levels. I think it is safe to say we have definitely found out what DRS is made of.
Not only have people found out what DRS can do, but I have had a few personal milestones this year as well. At USITT in March I presented a session on Rigging Standards for the Everyday User to a standing room only audience. In June I was invited to teach at the International Thespians Festival. I was also published in Protocol Magazine with my article Stop Making Excuses in July of this year. In August Tracey Nunnally and I taught the Arena Rigging curriculum for the Midwest Rigging Intensive (MRI). I was recognized (along with the other trainers at MRI) by ESTA with the Frank Stewart Volunteer of the Year Award for both 2022 and 2023. We received this because we all created the MRI from scratch and 2022 was its inaugural year, MRI is our baby and we sold it out both years. In September I was featured on a business podcast called Mind Yo Business AND I was published again. This time in Theatre Design and Technology with my peer reviewed article, Everyday Safety for Everyday Users. In October I was surprised to find myself on the cover of the fall issue of Protocol Magazine. I, along with the other MRI Trainers, were featured in an article discussing and promoting the Midwest Rigging Intensive. I also was quoted in another article congratulating all the recipients of the Volunteer of the Year Award. In November I worked in 3 different states, but mostly tried to catch my breath. I was invited to teach at the Michigan Thespians Festival in December. My course for the students was standing room only, my course for the teachers, well the 8 of us had a good time and everyone learned something new. For those of you counting at home, that is 1 rigging intensive, 3 academic conferences, 2 published articles, 1 business podcast, and 1 volunteer of the year award. Guess we found out what I’m made of this year.
In addition to all these accomplishments, Caitlyn and I made it to several concerts this year. We saw Luke Combs, Smashing Pumpkins, Pink, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. We would have seen Pearl Jam, but they “postponed”. Concerts have become our go-to decompression. We already have tickets to see Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blink 182, and Pink in 2024.
As a family we did have a few adventures as well. Most notably a trip to Chicago for Grants fall break. This was a bit of F*ck around and find out trip… We got rained out for the Lincoln Park Zoo, but we hit up the Childrens museum at Navy Peir instead. We went to the museum of Science and Industry (we were the third in line to get let in and had to be herded out at the end of the day). Grant and Caitlyn got their aquarium fix in one day, but the highlight of the trip was date night. Grant got to terrorize his Aunt Ana (whom we found out is still intimidated by children) for an evening and Caitlyn and I went to see Hamilton. Randomly discovered while we were at the show that I knew someone on the crew, so of course we ended up going out for drinks afterwards.
Overall, I’d say 2023 was a year where we most certainly found out a few things, and no one can claim we didn’t prove that we are more than willing to take some giant leaps and find out what’s on the other side. So, when contemplating a big move in the coming year, consider this Mark Twain quote, “Twenty Years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
So, from our family to yours, go F*ck around and find out.