Tomorrow is the end of an era for me. It will be my last day working for Grabber Inc. I will be moving over to Poler and have actually been working there as pretty much full time employee for the last year and half. Now it will be official. I feel a little bittersweet at the change for a lot of reasons. Mostly I am happy because I love working with the gang at Poler including my Dad (I worked with him at Grabber and he’s my greatest cheerleader).
I guess it just feels a little sad because I’ve spent my entire adult life, aside from my mission, working for Grabber in some form or another.
Let me tell you a little bit about the journey of Grabber and my own path within the company
My Grandfather founded Grabber Construction in 1967. It all began with an invention of a new kind of drywall screw that ‘grabbed’ on to commercial steel studs, creating a stronger building. (Don’t ask me too many questions because I really don’t understand the difference!).
My Grandpa and I have never been super close but I have to say basically everything good that has happened to me in my life can in some way be traced back to him. I owe him a debt of gratitude I sometimes forget. First of all, he opened the doors to the missionaries. It was close to the same time as the invention of the screw and for whatever reason he was open to their message. I don’t think my Grandma would have done it without his approval and involvement and I am beyond words grateful for that.
He also has continuously challenged his own creativity and is fearless in meeting new people. Starting with just him, my Grandma and 2 other employees (I believe) bagging up screws and making cold calls to construction sites all around California, my Grandpa eventually built Grabber to a successful international brand with branches all around the US including Hawaii. You can see the company today at http://www.grabberman.com/
While he was in Japan sourcing the screws my Grandfather met Dai Hiorota who ran a postcard/novelty company and the two immediately became fast friends. They started both a personal and business relationship that still remains. Eventually Impact Photographics was created, which is still operated out of El Dorado Hills California and is the leading supplier of photographic memorabilia to the national parks and other attractions.
With a photography company in tow my Grandfather became an avid landscape photographer, particularly loving to shoot panoramics of Hawaii and San Francisco. My father and brother are also all excellent photographers with professional experience.
While he was in Japan he became familiar with a product called a handwarmer. These nifty devices were invented during the Korean war to help soldiers stay warm. They have always been more popular in Japan than here but sensing a good idea my Grandpa became a distributor and the company still thrives today. Go to www.warmers.com to see more
My Grandfather of course has gotten older and with that the company needed to change and adapt. In 2009 Grabber Construction was sold to the ESOP. Then in 2011 Grabber Handwarmers was sold to Heatmax (makers of Hothands). In April 2012 Impact Photographics was sold to the ESOP and then finally in Dec 2012 Heatmax announced the closing of the major accounting offices for the Handwarmer business and the full administrative merger of the 2 companies (although both products at least for now will be sold).
So now the Wagner family is no longer officially an owner in any of my Grandpa’s enterprises. (He is still alive and pushing forward. Don’t want this to sound too much like a eulogy!). My father still works for Grabber and my uncle Jeff is still president of Impact so there is still the family influence but it isn’t as much as it used to be. That’s why it’s a little bittersweet. My Grandpa’s legacy, the thing that gave us so much good and helped our family become what it is, has served its course and is moving on to new owners, new situations.
Since 2002 I have ridden this roller coaster along with Grabber. I started out fresh out of college working as a web designer for a little company my Dad founded called Linguatronics. My work is long gone but you can still see the company at www.linguatronics.com.
Then I went on a mission for my church to Indiana came back swearing I wouldn’t work for the family company, but I looked around and despite having a college degree no job offers came up in California. So, I was forced to turn to the only place available to me, the corporate office at JWA (the old parent company for all the businesses) in Alpine, Utah.
I worked at the office for 3 years and its no secret that I struggled with personal anxieties during that time period but that was mostly due to my own issues not the office environment. Everyone I worked with there, with one notable exception, was fabulous and basically taught me how to work in accounting from ground zero (and I mean zero!). Probably my favorite part of my job back then was getting to know all the managers for all 3 companies. Plus, it was a wonderful experience to work with my Dad, Grandfather, and uncles (my uncle Tom worked in the office with me and he is a character). I had a great boss in Roland and the best coworker a girl could ask for in Sandy.
However, it reached a time for me to move on and challenge myself more, so in Dec, 2007 I quit and dived again into the job pool with similarly fruitless results. After 6 months I said forget it and moved on to start my own business. Originally I thought I would do events and catering but it didn’t work out, so I ran my fathers rentals for about 18 months full-time and then was offered a part-time job for the handwarmer division, Grabber Inc.
I first started in the marketing department setting up booths at festivals and areas around the west. This was very satisfying and I enjoyed it a lot.
When the company split in 2009 from Grabber Construction there became a need for more accounting help (with the loss of the corporate office it was perfect timing for me). Slowly I was offered more work in accounting and less in marketing until the whole division was basically dissolved leaving me with only accounting.
This proved to be fine because I kept getting more work until Feb 2010 when I was added to Grabber Inc full-time. It really has been my dream job. Yes, it is boring, but I get to work from home and that makes all the difference. I can have music on, take a break if I need to, talk to someone on speaker phone without bothering people, and most of all I don’t have a boss breathing over my shoulder. To me, it is the ultimate American Dream. Freedom mixed with hard work! I LOVE WORKING FROM HOME!
The downside of working from home is you are kind of constantly working but to me it is worth the sacrifice. You get to have freedom and it has allowed me to train for swims, see doctors when I had poor health, and just be myself. I don’t know how I’m ever going to go back to corporate America if I ever have to. It gives me the chills and makes me feel nauseated just to think about it. I hope I never have to return to cubicle life again! Working for home isn’t for everyone but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
In 2011 my brother Ben and his friend Kharma started a new brand of apparel and camping goods for the urban camper called Poler and I began working with them as well as the other 2 companies and running my Dad’s rentals. It was crazy but somehow I got it all done. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience working with the accounting team at Poler so far and was thrilled when they offered me a job as Grabber closed down. I have basically already been doing that job since February as my Grabber responsibilities have gotten smaller each day.
I just want to say thank you to everyone at Grabber Construction, Impact Photographics, Grabber Inc and Poler for helping make my worklife a good experience. I’ve learned a ton about myself and gotten to work with some outstanding individuals. With each separation I’ve missed working with people who have left with the company such Sandy, Roland, and Kevin but they took the time to teach, praise and critique me and for that I am so grateful.
I am also grateful to my father for always having my back. When I was in college I idolized my professor, Dr Holland, because he believed in me and gave me a shot as a teaching assistant (I still idolize him). The more I think about it my Dad has done the same thing time again but without the benefit of my fawning praise. He gave me a job when I needed one after quitting (what some might have seen as a dumb move he never criticized me for it). He gave me opportunities at Grabber, pushed for my hire at Poler and has always stood beside me. I hope I have repaid him for all he has done for me. My Dad has made it possible for me to live the life I love. Can you ask more of a parent?
I also want to say thank you to my Grandfather. He can be gruff around the edges but when the tough decisions come he has made a lot of good ones. Thanks Grandpa!
So onto Poler and a great career as the unlikely accountant (that would be a good title for a book The Unlikely Accountant by Rachel Wagner…)
6 thoughts on “Grabber”
Congratulations on the move Rachel. Not every family has the remarkable entrepreneurial legacy that yours does. That’s really impressive. Also, a big thumbs up for working from home. Aside from my lectures in college classrooms, I’ve been doing most of my work out of the house for about a year and a half, and I love it, too.
Thanks Forest. I am so blessed to have my family and its entrepreneurial spirit. When I was a little girl I used to look at the family business as this big annoying thing that took my father away each day, and was sure I would never want to work for them. However, as a adult I love the company and have been proud to work for it. Mostly because the people are outstanding whether it was Grabber Construction, Impact or Grabber handwarmers. All such great people.
That said, it is a little sad that Wagner will no longer be synonymous with Grabber, but I guess nothing is as sure in this life as change. 🙂
The working from home thing is funny because I’m basically doing the same thing as I was doing in what I call ‘cubicle hell’ when I was so unhappy. The freedom makes all the difference. Its funny because I’m a very social creature but love working alone, from home. Go figure!
On to the next adventure!
I know what you mean. Working as a freelance journalist isn’t all that different from working directly for a newspaper chain, which I did for years. But I think getting outside of the corporate environment is really freeing. Oddly enough, I think it also leads to improved creativity and better overall work… at least for writers.
I agree. My writing has improved a ton since days in the corporate grind. It’s just not human to sit all day staring at a screen. Sometimes I wonder if it hurts me socially (certainly limits my dating pool/networking) but I don’t care. It isn’t worth it for purely social reasons and that can be a social quagmire anyway.
I realized a while ago that having my dream lifestyle was much more important than having my dream job. Grateful to Grabber and Poler for giving me that chance!
Sounds like you have a great setup. I don’t have to worry about the dating scene since I’ve been married for more than 15 years. But I don’t get lonely socially. I find that you can augment what you might have at work with get togethers with friends and family, social clubs, etc., etc. In a way, that might be even better because you don’t have to worry about putting on a “professional” face when talking to people like you have to in a corporate environment.