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That Smells Like Money to Me

We’ve had two longtime friends pass recently, Carl Cousins, DVM and Clint Campbell.

“Doc” Cousins was the proprietor of Haverford Animal Hospital for many years. I knew him as a kind man and a capable Veterinarian. I did not realize that he was the first African American licensed to practice Veterinary medicine in Pennsylvania. He also owned a second practice in the Fairmount area of Philadelphia.

Doc Cousins sold his Haverford practice in 1994 to Reginald Royster. Dr. Royster said, “My family knew Dr. Cousins, so once I was able to drive, I came over to visit him, and he let me watch and observe. He helped direct my career.” How wonderful to inspire a young person!
I never thought about Veterinary Clinics as a businesses. I know that Doc Cousins and Doctor Royster worked long hours. Veterinarians require human relations skills for employees and clients. They need to market to new clients, maintain regulatory requirements, and oversee financial management. Doc Cousins made it look easy.

The second friend that we lost was Clint Campbell. Clint took over the operation of his families’ takeout restaurant- Spence’s in Ocean City, New Jersey in the 1970’s, which he then successfully ran for many years. He was a 4th generation Ocean City resident. Ocean City, New Jersey, as you may know is a vacation community with 11,000 year-round residents. The town swells to 125,000 in the summer. Clint told me that he remembered when Cowpens Island, part of the causeway into Ocean City, had cows penned in it. The only “dairy” today in Ocean City is the milk in the markets.

Nancy and I knew Clint since before we were married, now 41 years. We stayed over with Clint and family several times in their converted 1886 US Lifesaving Station on 4th street in Ocean City.

My parents used to patronize Spence’s. The format was simple; fresh shore food, to take away- there was no seating for dining- but seats for waiting. The menu was fried fish and mac and cheese, French fries, but also excellent broiled flounder. Vegetables tended to be simple, stewed tomatoes, cole slaw, and corn on the cob. Orders were boxed up, tied with string, and ready, much as Chinese take-out is today (Seems like this concept would still be viable).

No frozen fish for Clint- the fish came from the fleet in Cape May. We were in the restaurant business in Philadelphia at the time, and I would often go into the kitchen with him and talk shop. One time, he was elbow deep filleting 500 pounds of fish. I asked him if the smell bothered him. “That smells like money to me,” he said. He worked alongside his employees, and with the example he set, his employees were dedicated and loyal. The nature of shore businesses are that the proprietors have 4 months to be successful, and maybe some weekends after that, and then the season is over. It is a difficult business environment. Clint had the key, and when he made money, which he did, he bought Ocean City real estate with it.

Ocean City is a dry town; there are no bars or liquor stores. It is ironic, because at home, people have a ton of booze. Clint was a great father, businessman, and member of the community, but unfortunately, had an alcohol problem. After a serious auto accident, he seemed to get on the wagon, and remain there.

He retired, and sold the business. Within two years, the decades old business was out of business. I imagine the new owner didn’t lead by example, work long hours, or care about details, as Clint did.

Eventually, Clint and Karen Peluso Campbell, his wonderful wife of 23 years moved to Beaufort, South Carolina.
In a smart move, Clint eventually sold all of the Ocean City real estate. It is OK to be a landlord if you are around to watch your properties- as with other businesses, it only works if you are hands on. Clint then invested in tax-free bonds. This was at a time when interest rates were quite a bit higher than they are now. That allowed him to live well in a beautiful house overlooking the river.

A 2013 Wall Street Journal poll said that 56% of people thought they were capable of running their own business, but only 9% actually started their own business. I believe most people wouldn’t want to work the hours, or take worries home with them that are necessary to successfully own and run a business. I love a quote that I heard from Hobie Alter, surfing and sailing pioneer: “If it’s fun, it isn’t work; and if it’s not fun, it will never work.” If you think this way about your business or professional activity, you are the person to own your own business.

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