Veteran Utilizes Lessons Learned From the Marines to Be Successful Franchise Owner

Intelligent Office’s New Franchisee Plans on Using His Military Experience to Mentor Other Business Owners 

I came up in some of the roughest neighborhoods in 1970’s Detroit. The sad part is I did not know how bad things were because I had nothing to gauge them against. The surreal sitcom the “Brady Bunch” and the nostalgic “Happy Days” were, of course, on television. These shows were far from being realistic. My life, however, was as poverty-stricken as “Good Times” and as scary as “The Night Gallery.”  

The kids in my neighborhood were not encouraged to finish high school, much less go to college. I learned in later years there was a lot of unconscious (and maybe some conscious) bias going around. For example, many “guidance” counselors assumed the only way out for Black youth was making it in basketball, football, or as a musician. There was little, if any, encouragement to attend college and my family life was dysfunctional at best. Unfortunately, I stunk at team sports and was robbed of my clarinet on my way home from school. This is not a woe-is-me rendition of my life. It just sums up the way I had to come up with a plan for success early in life.

I realized I could only depend on one person to make my life fruitful…me.

I don’t like depending on people because people leave all the time. Because at the end of the day all you have is yourself and that has to be enough. – Anonymous

I also recognized what does not break you makes you stronger.

Be strong now because things will get better. It might be stormy now, but it can’t rain forever. – Anonymous

I wish I could say that as an 18-year-old kid I came up with some super, thought-provoking plan. I am sorry; that’s not the case. Plain and simple my plan for life was based on fulfilling Maslow’s hierarchy of needs [although I did not know this at the time].

Maslow theorized we are motivated by five categories of human needs and these dictate our individual behavior. Those needs are physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. I saw the billboards; I spoke to a recruiter; I realized the military had everything I needed on a physiological level: food, water, and a place to sleep. It could also address my safety needs:  security of body, employment, morality, and health. What I found, nevertheless, is the Marines provided so much more.

The military gave me a sense of belonging. “There are no white Marines and there are no black Marines; there are only green Marines,” shouted the drill instructor. These words still resonate close to forty years after my first day of boot camp. Remember the child that did not excel at (or even like) team sports. He was now part of a team that could mean life or death.  The biases of the world still existed; they had not disappeared. They were, nevertheless, rendered irrelevant with my new-found team. I learned that no matter our upbringing, our values, our personalities, and yes even our biases, there could still be unity and belonging.  Something I had not realized, much less found in the streets of Detroit.

The service gave me self-esteem. Going days with less than three hours of sleep; climbing Mount Smokey and a mountain named appropriately for its difficulty during a twenty mile hump with a full backpack; and driving into a deep pool in full gear were only a few of the physical tests which showed me I was capable of overcoming any obstacle. I learned to respect my abilities and to respect the abilities of others. I also learned to pull others along when necessary. Another self-esteem builder was in taking college courses while in the service. Not only could I hold down a full-time job but I could also achieve an A in courses like trigonometry, chemistry, and physics. I found with application and dedication there was nothing unachievable.  

And now I want to use these same skills as the new franchisee at the Intelligent Office Downtown Raleigh location. Beyond helping small business owners cut costs and focus on growing their businesses, I am looking forward to helping and mentoring them. I know I can make a positive difference in Raleigh using the self-esteem and sense of unity and belonging the Marines helped me realize. 

The Marines also gave me spontaneity and ingenuity. Today my friends refer to me as an onion: “As you pull back one layer, there is something more to Lamarr.” I am far from an adrenalin junkie, yet I will also try something new. I have run marathons, cycled hundreds of miles, climbed mountains, learned to ballroom dance, created works of art with glass, rehabbed the worst of houses, relocated for corporate jobs all over the United States, attended Harvard University, and purchased two franchises. If I thought about it, I spontaneously put the wheels in motion to make it happen. Such spontaneity came with the fearlessness developed in the Marines. The Service also teaches you to make something out of very little or nothing. Such ingenuity I have employed in finding and buying businesses. Like buying an ugly house in a great neighborhood, I look for high potential franchises with neglectful owner/operators.  

Lamarr Cook is a franchisee for the Raleigh Intelligent Office location. Intelligent Office is a business solutions brand with 57 locations across the U.S. and Canada and provides members virtual service, phone reception, customer service, dedicated offices and conference room rentals.

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