When John Bichelmeyer passed away in 2004, his daughter Mary Lucas started writing down the lessons she had learned from her father. Originally intended as a way to share her father’s advice with family and friends, interest was so great that Lucas sought out a publisher. She took some time to tell us a little bit about her journey to “accidental author.”
Tell us a little about Lunchmeat & Life Lessons.
After my father passed away, I was afraid that all his wonderful bits of wisdom would be lost. I began to write a book about him as a gift for my family and myself. All my life, I listened to his stories and took them to heart. I thought that by writing them down and framing them within my own story of starting out in the staffing industry (or the “people business” as my dad referred to it), I could help inspire others.
Tell us about the man who inspired it.
My Dad . . . John Bichelmeyer was a man with an eighth-grade education who started his own business, Bichelmeyer Meat Company, in 1946, which became and still today is a highly successful meat company in Kansas City, a city known throughout the world for the quality of its beef.
He was without question one of the most extraordinarily content people who ever lived and I can honestly say that it was a rare occasion if he wasn’t at his best.
I believe that the fact that he died a wealthy and successful man was a by-product of how he viewed the world and how he dealt with the people he encountered on a daily basis, how he developed relationships, and how he managed the problems that people presented to him throughout his life.
It may seem funny to some that I viewed him as my go-to coach for my professional career when he prospered in a career that you might not immediately align with a corporate role like mine … the meat business, but the wisdom he shared with me and the life lessons I gained from watching him in action had such a profound impact on me that I decided to document them in my book.
In this book you mention that you are a B.D. Tell us a little about what that means.
Although I am proud of my bachelor’s degree and will forever be loyal to my Alma Mater, ultimately, nothing can compare to the letters of distinction my father bestowed upon me: my “B.D.” degree, which stands for “Butcher’s Daughter.”
I earned my B.D. by spending hours seated across the butcher-block table in my mother’s kitchen—my classroom—listening to my father’s lessons about how to deal with life’s beginnings and endings and all the ups and downs in between. All were lessons I could apply to my own life, wisdom that helped me to be a successful executive as well as a more loving and committed wife and mother.
I credit my B.D. degree as the number one reason I have flourished in the staffing industry and continue to thrive in an industry where many people grow tired of “people.” I made it by keeping myself motivated and, in turn, motivating others.
After reading this, it is very evident that you have an incredibly supportive and tight-knit family. How do you juggle writing, speaking, coaching and family time?
Not very well, smile. I constantly struggle to make time for the things that I enjoy and that are important to me and to be honest there are a lot of things that fall through the cracks. That said, there isn’t anything more important to me than family and when they need me I make time for them and I know they will do the same for me. The support and love of my family and network of very close friends is what inspires me and makes me happy.
Out of all of your father’s wisdom, what’s your favorite piece of advice and why?
“Remember to pour the comeback sauce on everyone you meet.” If a customer came into his butcher shop and asked for a pound of lunchmeat, he might give them a few extra slices, smile and tell them he gave them a little bit extra to make sure they felt special. When it came to pleasing people, he would say, “Always ask yourself if you think that they left happy, if you made a connection.”
Has there been any advice that your father has given that has taken on new meaning since you began sharing his wisdom?
Actually, the “comeback sauce” story has taken on a life of its own. Many employers have found that concept to be helpful in teaching their employers the true meaning of customer service. So much so that I now share the recipe for “comeback sauce” in all my speeches. It is one-part recognition, one-part connection and you add a dose of the unexpected.
Lunchmeat & Life Lessons
Tell us about the process of writing this book. How did it begin? How did you decide the layout of the book?
The original intent of my book was to provide me with an outlet for my grief after my father died and then ultimately to give it as a gift to my family on what would have been his 90th birthday. I had hoped that by sharing this very personal story that I would be able to keep his memory alive with the younger members of our family (especially my two sons Chase & Nick) who would never have the chance to know him the way I did.
The first “published” version (a hand copied spiral bound scrapbook of sorts) took on a life of its own and before I knew it we had so many requests for copies that I found myself talking with a publisher in New York City about how to turn it into a real live book and as a result I became an accidental author. My first order from the publishing house was for 1,000 copies and I worried that I would end up with 900 in my basement after I gave my family all that I promised them.
Little did I know then that over time my father’s wisdom would find its way into thousands of homes and hearts all across the globe.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of sharing Lunchmeat & Life Lessons with the world?
The fact that all these years after his passing my father’s wit and wisdom lives on. Today, Lunchmeat & Life Lessons is available everywhere, taught at colleges and universities around the country, quoted by visionary leaders of Fortune 500 companies, and even published overseas in a foreign language.
Dad’s wisdom not only made me a better person, it has now touched the hearts and minds of thousands worldwide. I now share him with countless others through my own career in the staffing industry, as a mother and wife, through charitable and philanthropic support, and as a public speaker for companies and organizations around the world.
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die” is the epitaph that my family chose for our father and he certainly is living on in ways our family could never have imagined had it not been for the book.
Have there been any challenges during your journey of writing Lunchmeat & Life Lessons and getting it out there?
Honestly the challenges I faced during this journey have all been a direct result of my not believing in myself. I am incredibly grateful for the encouragement and support of my husband, family and friends. Had it not been for their belief in me I never would have published the book or become a speaker.
Who are your favorite writers and motivational speakers?
I am a huge Stephen Covey fan and before his passing I never missed a chance to hear him speak if he was anywhere near me. His book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People had a profound impact on me early in my career and I revered the secrets Hyler Bracey reveals in his book, Managing from the Heart. In fact, over the years Hyler has become a friend and acted as a coach and advisor when I decided to publish Lunchmeat & Life Lessons.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished reading The Nightingale, a novel by Kristin Hannah, and I loved every minute of it. I did not want it to end. Next on my list . . . Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders, a book by Joel Manby.
What do you think your dad would say about this book and the effect it’s had on people?
I know exactly what he would say… he would say “I’m so proud of you, just as I am all my children.”
I am 1 of 10 children, and although my father and mother had a way of making each one of us feel special by recognizing our individual needs and talents they also never let us forget that we were part of something greater than ourselves . . . the Bichelmeyer family.
Never once did I ever hear “I am so proud of you.” It was always followed by … “just as I am all my children.”