Made in America.
The American Dream
The American Dream
My early years in North Carolina were during the last two pivotal decades of the 20th century. When I moved to the Charlotte area, I was struck by the number of empty factories – large brick buildings of by-gone days. Seems every town I traveled through had these abandoned and desolate factories. Like dinosaur bones, these facades were mere remnants of the previous post-WWII industries that were the backbones of small towns. In North Carolina, the majority of these were former textile mills. The textile industry held a fundamental role in the state’s economy, providing thousands of jobs and revenue for local economies.
Feeling this to be quite the bizarre phenomenon, I asked local folks how this happened. Why did these large factories close their doors? What happened to the people who worked there? The resounding answer was that companies faced stiff price competition from overseas producers*. They had to move their operations to other countries where labor was cheaper. And the responses I got to the displacement of American workers were met with flippant, yet ambivalent answers like, “They’ll just find other jobs.”
*According to ncglobaleconomy reports, there have been several causes for the decline in North Carolina’s textile and apparel employment spanning six decades. In the 1950s, the introduction of new machinery and technology (industry) decreased the labor intensity of production. Starting in the 1990s, the growth of foreign products (competition) accelerated due to changes in institutions.
These included NAFTA in 1994, the beginning of the ATC quota phase-out in 1995, and currency devaluation and fluctuations in Mexico (1994), and the Asian currency crisis (1997). More recently the list includes China and Vietnam’s entries into the World Trade Organization (2001; 2007), the end of quotas and safeguards (2005; 2007), and the global financial crisis (2008-2010). However, employment declines have not been unique to North Carolina; employment has been decreasing in the United States as a whole, as well as other countries, such as those in Western Europe.
Remember the song, “Where have all the flowers gone?” One line says, “They've gone to graveyards every one.” We could replace flowers with factories. The pandemic has been a startling reminder of the risks associated with massive offshoring and outsourcing.
This curious and sad history continues to give me pause. I look at it through the lens of the American Dream. The American Dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society in which upward mobility is possible for everyone. It allows each of us to shine. I believe people are inherently most happy when they are making, building, creating, growing, developing, producing, constructing – in short, when they are churning out good work. When we feel our contributions are worthwhile, we take pride in that. We’re vital and effective.
Lately, I think society is forgetting this national ethos. The joy of creating has been replaced with the preoccupation of the acquisition of consumer goods. We know that purchases can’t buy sustainable happiness. After the new smell dissipates or the novelty wears off, we need yet another shopping fix.
Couple this with the fact that social media tends to push people into silos, and you have a recipe for extreme consumerism – the resulting pressure for those goods to shape our identity. On the contrary, work satisfies our primal need to make things and is an antidote for our cultural malaise. The fact that we buy almost all of what we need rather than having to make it has deprived us of processes that provide joy and meaning.
In business, the mantra of late is to create an ‘authentic story’ for your brand and to build your ‘tribe’. Some advertising consultants instruct companies to tell a story that has the ‘right’ features that will elicit the ‘right’ feelings. We have intentionally created an enterprise steeped in service first. Instead of trying to ‘build a story’, those of us who have helped establish bodyhelix have sought to be genuine – genuine in what we do and how we do it.
Our mission is to provide the best products for injury support and prevention. Instead of building ‘our tribe’, we like to think we are nurturing a culture within bodyhelix. We are neural cultivating.
The members of team bodyhelix have varied religious and political beliefs. We come from diverse backgrounds. We each have our personal opinions and perspectives. Yet we have a commonality of spirit. We genuinely enjoy working together to fulfill our mission of serving our customers. And we hold that united goal near and dear to our hearts.
Instead of living in a silo or operating in a bubble, our team constantly searches and explores outside our culture. Instead of immersing ourselves in the statically familiar, we reach farther. We make mistakes from which we learn. We willingly show our vulnerabilities to promote growth and hone our tenacity to improve. Insular silos are isolated, disconnected, and incomplete. At bodyhelix, we deliberately work to eliminate the silo mentality. More about our journey later…
Some of the largest companies that originated in the US have spent billions of dollars building their brands and crafting their authentic stories. Apple, Microsoft, Nike, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and AT&T to name a few, heavily influence our lives. Most of us have purchased products from these companies. I have been an avid Apple and Nike customer for years. There’s nothing wrong with promoting a company; however, I do have a problem with the way some companies construct authenticity and fabricate their brand story.
In my opinion (and let’s face it, that is what a blog is – an opinion), these titans have been pushing their products to Americans all while primarily manufacturing on foreign soil. I get the “global economy” concept – to a point. However, I believe in the concept of American companies for Americans and by Americans.
Allow me to put a finer point on this topic with two examples.
Customer service isn’t what it used to be. I and several million others continue to be frustrated by companies whose customer service departments are outsourced to countries whose primary language is not English. We’ve all been there. We’re on hold for what seems like hours with our communications company. (“Communications” – really?) We get bounced around and finally “Robert” answers – and we know Robert is not his given name. Robert tries, but his heavy accent hinders his ability to understand my issue. These calls normally don’t end well, and my issue is rarely solved. Poor Robert is trying to do a good job, but he is not able to assist his company’s customers.
Where is the Consumer Protection Agency when you need them?I’ve beaten the drum about big sugar-water companies before. You know the brands – hiding behind the sports drink labels. Are these branding tactics considered authentic stories? Billions of dollars are spent convincing us of their false assertions, veiled ingredients, and healthy declarations. Unfortunately, it’s working. Our national healthcare costs dwarf the billions in advertising spent by these companies.
These titan companies, tightly intertwined in our way of life, are not what I consider to be fully American-vested companies. Alas, it’s become the accepted norm.
As I was pondering the inauthenticity of advertising today, I remembered a word I learned in a recent conversation with a friend. Now, I know I’m not a lateral thinker, and I don’t know the boundaries of being an analogical thinker. I guess I’m saying I think in weird ways. After thinking about my research into this word, I’ve concluded the definition needs some rework.
scha·den·freu·de Schadenfreude is a compound of the German nouns Schaden (meaning damage or harm) and Freude (meaning joy), which suggests that schadenfreude is having joy because of the harm or misfortune suffered by another. What? This must be the ultimate oxymoron. A person cannot feel true joy through another's suffering. But it does make me wonder how this word may apply to a big sugar water company.
Despite the manipulative mega-companies and their influence on our culture, there are new creative companies on the rise. As Americans, we must celebrate these new businesses. Small businesses are the realization of the American Dream. It’s still alive and well – even in the midst of all our recent challenges.
From its inception, Bodyhelix was invented because of a lack of high-quality compression gear for athletes. Until a few years ago, injured athletes were relegated to treatments using antiquated wraps or cheaply made gear. (Think outsourcing and low costs materials.) Bodyhelix was a big idea – delusions of grandeur. We set out to make the best quality sports compression in the world using cutting-edge fabric science – and do it in America!
We had to get this right. We did. Our compression products are assembled exclusively in the USA. We take this seriously. Our plant is located in Greensboro, North Carolina. We offer a broad line of medical-grade compression sleeves using the most advanced fabric technology with customer service second to none.
Bodyhelix’s founders, Dr. Tom Parker and yours truly, both consider ourselves caregivers. We possess the desire to serve. Dr. Parker, a retired physician, spent his life providing medical care to countless patients. I spent a great deal of my life as a coach, bringing healthy sports lifestyles to families. Now we bring high-quality compression products for those who need injury support – athletes and non-athletes alike.
Our journey is as varied as the folks who have helped us along the way. Our early partners, Bill and Steve, played key roles in helping us get established. Without Katherine, we would never have gotten off the ground. A skilled seamstress, she patiently worked out countless patterns, templates, and prototypes.
I lost count of the number of times her sewing machine malfunctioned due to the stresses we put on it. Our company has been fortunate to have had many people and their talents supporting our efforts.
We take pride in what we do. Our entire team sincerely cares about our customers. After all, you are why we are here. Team bodyhelix is your athletic “pit crew” just like in NASCAR. We get you back in the race as quickly as possible. To an observer, a pit crew may look like a furious flurry of activity. Each person on your bodyhelix crew has a specific role that must be performed with perfect timing.
Let’s take a behind-the-scenes tour.
When you order our compression products, you can be assured your purchase is carefully and promptly processed. Our team in Greensboro is conscientious and attentive. Sharon leads our order fulfillment and product assembly operation. Her teammates work in tandem to ensure inventory is available, orders are processed, raw materials are inventoried, and products are shipped. She ensures the workspace is clean and organized. Sharon’s expertise in equipment maintenance enables a safe and efficient environment.
If something does go awry with an order or the product is not just right, team bodyhelix owns up to it and makes it right. Our customer service specialist is Sara. (Yes, Sara is her given name and English is her primary language.) Sara listens attentively to each customer’s needs and works toward a solution.
In addition to Sara, Joann hosts our customer service chat line. Her product knowledge is extensive and will answer questions thoroughly. Both of them have a great sense of humor and can connect easily with just about anyone.
Sharon, Sara and Joann are conscientious and meticulous. Bodyhelix is fortunate to have these inspiring women in key roles of our operation. They take ownership of their functions. If you ever have an issue with any of our products (rare occurrence), these ladies will jump into action and fix whatever went wrong. Another ‘gone-by-wayside’ lexicon that is front and center at bodyhelix, is the sincere apology that will accompany any misstep. We take care of our customers and get them back in the game!
We completely rebuilt our entire website recently. Did it go off without a hitch? (Does any technology?) Of course not. Even Apple has to make tweaks after a new launch. There were a few backend technical details that weren’t quite right – actually more than a few. We found most of those ourselves, but customers were kind enough to bring others to our attention.
Josh immediately jolted into action. Somehow, he always finds a way to solve whatever we throw at him. Josh is still perfecting the site. The new website he built and designed in conjunction with Andrew has a sleek new look and provides a more enjoyable customer experience.
You might remember seeing a photo in a previous blog of the guy jumping with the medicine ball and lifting the weights in the gym. That’s Andrew, our marketing genius. Along with the rest of our team, Andrew continually looks for ways that our products can help more people. He helps us get the word out across many channels.
Coach’s sidebar: Bodyhelix faces two challenges when it comes to marketing: First, we do not have a titan’s billion-dollar advertising budget. (Bodyhelix does have a billion-dollar heart, and I think that’s more important.) Secondly, our rules of engagement in the mainstream marketing/advertising world put us at a disadvantage. You see, we are compelled to tell the truth. No fabricated stories. No false assertions. We base our narratives on science and real-world experience.
The Bodyhelix family includes many others. We have gracious advisors and eager product testers who volunteer their time and talents to further our cause. My hitting partners – you know who you are – give of their time on the court to help put our products through grueling tests. Greg and Zach, two gifted tennis players, are business advisors whose counsel is invaluable.
There are many more who have voluntarily given testimonials, offered guidance, modeled for photoshoots, provided blog content, and many other acts of kindness that have propelled us forward. Their encouragement and support galvanize our team to be even better.
I want you to know who we are and why we do this. Bodyhelix will grow with your support. As you use our products, keep in touch with us and help us spread the word. You are the essential part of our culture. You are our authentic story. Let’s live the American Dream together!
To Neural-Cultivate is to Learn, Share, Inspire. When we learn genuine information that improves our lifestyle, it's our responsibility to share it and inspire others to help them improve their lives as well.
Move Through It!