We may not want to admit it, but we in the business community of Los Angeles carry a heavy burden. We wonder how we are going to overcome our problems as we fight to survive to fight another day. We read about our city’s economic problems, we look at our company’s financial statements as capital shrinks and we see all the “For Lease” signs as we drive around our magnificent city.

At times it seems overwhelming. But I want to tell you about one man who is the kind of person who overcame obstacles and who helped make Los Angeles a great city. It can again be a great city if we learn from him.

His name is Stan Dashew and he lived by the motto, “You can do it!”

Many years ago, Dashew managed the Addressograph territory in western Michigan. (Some of you may be too young to remember Addressograph-Multigraph Corp., but it made popular business machines.) Dashew did not want to end up as a company man at the headquarters in Cleveland when he got his next promotion. Instead, with his you-can-do-it attitude, he, his wife, a newborn and their 7-year-old son headed off in his sailboat, Constellation. (It’s an appropriate name for a man who reaches for the stars.) He and his family sailed from Grand Rapids, Mich., to Los Angeles in 15 months. An amazing adventure by an amazing man!

After he arrived in Los Angeles in 1950, he founded a series of businesses, some successful and some not so. At every obstacle, he applied the magic words “You can do it!” One day, Bank of America called and told him about an idea for a new product, but the bank didn’t know how to facilitate the data.

Credit card industry

So Dashew invented an automated embossing machine and other business machines that led to the creation of BankAmericard, and the plastic credit card industry was born. Soon Dashew Business Machines, or DBM, was conducting business with American Express, Diners Club, Carte Blanche, and Unicard – which eventually became Visa.

Another breakthrough came when DBM was contacted by the military and Dashew developed an alphanumeric procedure whereby they could automate IBM punch-card data with a new high-speed embossing machine that produced metal ID plates and, later, plastic credit cards. All these companies were based in Los Angeles.

I can’t begin to tell his story in full; he is in the editing stage of a book to tell that story (it is to be named “You Can Do It!”). But I can provide a bit about this man’s fortitude with a recent experience.

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