Amy Rees Anderson: Learn to trust people with firsthand experience

By Amy Rees Anderson

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Feb. 11 2013 10:45 a.m. MST

The Wovel taught the author that it is important to trust people who have more experience than you do.

Amy Rees Anderson

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Just over five years ago, my husband and I were married. At the time, I had been a divorced, single mother of two for many years with a daughter who was 11 and a son who was 14. We were married on New Year’s Eve, so winter weather was in full force here in Utah, with plenty of snow coming down. During my years as a single mom I had fabulous neighbors who were always willing to shovel my driveway whenever there was snowfall, so I had never had to deal with shoveling any snow myself. It can be said that I was completely and totally inexperienced in the art of shoveling snow.

A few weeks after our honeymoon we experienced a huge snowstorm. My husband came into our living room and said, “Babe, we need a snow shovel.” I responded, “Why don’t we just order a snow blower?” (After all, each of our neighbors seemed to use those, so why wouldn’t we?) He explained that a shovel would be better than a blower because we would be able to teach our 14-year-old son the value of hard work and manual labor. He then left the house to run some errands.

Being the independent and highly capable entrepreneur that I was — or at least that I considered myself to be — I decided to take it upon myself to find and purchase the most advanced snow shovel on the market. I did what any good entrepreneur does and Googled “most advanced snow shovel.” I was thrilled when my search results came back with a snow shovel that was recommended by Bob Villa himself! Now, I knew that name because I had been an avid fan of Tim Allen’s television series Home Improvement and I remembered that during their “Tool Time” spots they often sang high praises of Bob Villa as the tool expert. I also found that this particular shovel had been named “Invention of the Year” by Time magazine! Even more importantly, it was being touted as the world’s safest shovel, and what mother wouldn’t want her son to use the world’s safest shovel to shovel her walks? It was clear to me that this shovel must be fantastic!

I wasn’t deterred at the price tag of several hundred dollars because I had never purchased a snow shovel before, so I had nothing else to compare it to. I even paid overnight shipping charges that were almost as hefty as the price of the shovel itself because the weight of the box was well over 30 pounds. After all, we needed it quickly to handle the snow that was accumulating outside.

Thrilled with my purchase, I waited anxiously for my husband and son to return home so I could share the good news with them. When they arrived home I ran to exclaim the news of this amazing purchase I had just made for them. “Why would you order a shovel online?” he asked. “We can just pick one up down the street from the local hardware store.” He was clearly bewildered. This was no ordinary snow shovel, I explained. This was “The Wovel” and it was the best snow shovel on the market! Bob Villa himself endorsed it and Time magazine picked it as the “Invention of the Year.” What could be better than that? I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t excited. When I explained that the shovel even came with its own instructional DVD on how to use it, my husband stopped the conversation and proclaimed, “Cancel the order.” I couldn’t cancel it as I had paid extra to overnight it and it was already on its way. I was surprised by his response because I thought I was doing something wonderful and he was putting it down without even seeing this amazing shovel. Given that we were just newlyweds and he didn’t want to hurt his wife’s feelings, he agreed to wait until it arrived and try it at least one time. Then if he didn’t like it, we would send it back. That was our compromise, but deep down I was certain that victory would be mine once he experienced how incredible my purchase was.

The next day the box arrived, and when he saw that the shovel entailed a massive bicycle wheel with handlebars, he immediately refused to keep our agreement and insisted we box it back up without even assembling it. I reminded him that he promised to try it at least once. After making several comments under his breath about how no self-respecting man would be caught dead using this, he proceeded to put it together. He then insisted that he was going to wait for the sun to go down that night before trying it out, so there would be no chance of any neighbors seeing him. As he continued to grumble, my son stood in the background laughing uncontrollably at this point, thinking to himself, “Did you really not understand that my mom is an entrepreneur and when you tell her there is a problem to solve, she will immediately begin to solve it?”

Long story short, he and the Wovel only made it through a single line of snow down the driveway before a car came down the road and my husband literally ran into the garage with it to avoid being seen. He then disassembled it, but my son refused to let him send it back as he now saw it as a family heirloom that should forever hang in our garage to remind us of this marvelous experience. My husband then drove to the local hardware store and bought two snow shovels for $10 each, so that he and my son could shovel the driveway.

The moral of the story is this — my husband grew up on a dairy farm in Idaho and he has worked in all types of weather with all types of equipment. One could even label him an expert of sorts with plenty of experience in this area. I, on the other hand, have never shoveled snow in my life and am in no way an expert on the matter. The lesson I took away from this experience was that we need to learn to trust the people with the experience. Seek advice from those who have been there and done it firsthand. Because no amount of research or studies or endorsements can ever hold up to someone who has actually been there and done it for themselves.

All that said, I still stand by the fact that if my husband had taken the time to watch that instructional DVD that came with the product, then I am certain he would have LOVED IT! And I still think it is a brilliant invention!

Amy Rees Anderson is the Founder and Managing Partner of REES Capital, a Mentoring and Angel Investing Firm. Contact her at amy@reescapital.com or follow her daily blog at www.amyreesanderson.com/blog

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