Jay Thiessens of B&J Machine Tool Co. was honoured in Washington, D.C., as one of the six national winners of the ‘1999 National Blue Chip Enterprise Initiative Award’. The Award recognises small business entrepreneurs who have triumphed over adversities. This is a strange story of a linguistically handicapped guy who could build a world of his own, literally from ground zero. Jay Thiessens graduated from School but guess his standard for he could not read. After graduation, Thiessens moved to Reno, where 10 years later he started a small machine shop with hardly $ 200 to invest. He slowly built his machine and tool company into a $5 million-a-year enterprise. Recently he is after a new 54,000 square-feet expansion.
For decades, he could successfully behave as if he is too busy to review any contract or go through the mails. Nobody knew that he doesn’t read even the headlines of a news paper. His wife, Bonnie, helped him to sort out the mails and do the paper works at late hours of the day. As the Company grew, Thiessens delegated correspondence tasks to his Managers at B&J Machine Tool Co, who never had any doubt on his reading skill. "I worked for him for seven years and I had no clue," said Jack Sala, once his Manager. "He would bring legal stuff to me and say, 'You're better at legal issues than me.' I never knew I was the only one reading them,” so said his General Manager.
Thiessens but couldn't hide this secret for long, mostly because of the tension within him. "It became too hard to continue to hide it," said Thiessens, who slowly learned to read at the age of 56. "Since I made the decision to let everybody know, it's a big relief." He said. In 1998, Thiessens confessed in the ‘Executive Committee’ of a local chapter of business champions that he could not read. "He was a little teary. His voice was shaking," recalled Doug Damon from the group. People, who automatically had assumed that he knew to read were surprised by Thiessens’ confession. He but was overwhelmed by support; that could change his attitude considerably. Thiessens found an hour a day, five days a week to learn reading. He now successfully reads everything. His wife says, "There is no shame in not knowing how to read. The shame is but not doing anything about it."
Almost all modern societies are more or less tuned to think that they have enough experts or knowledgeable people in it and label the illiterate or someway handicapped many as natural combinations of it. I have read that psychologists have categorised aptitudes into forty or more. I was surprised to read further about their finding that any human is invariably proficient in 6-8 of them and a ‘could be genius’ in one or two of them. The Thiessens case is different. He found out his aptitudes and developed it. The problem was that he was reluctant to transform himself to a more efficient tool; more or less like the woodcutter refusing to sharpen his axe. Thiessens but grew up to give us a good message to the present day blooming entrepreneurs – refuse to be content with what one has. His revised decision could fetch him the prestigious ‘National Blue Chip Award’. True, ‘there is no shame in not having all the aptitudes. The shame is but not doing anything about what we have’.