Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Why.  That's a pretty good question.  I guess because I like to write.  I once had a magazine column of my own in a trade magazine.  A new magazine had started up and I approached them about writing a column, about anything I damn well pleased!  I submitted a few samples and they bit.  It is amazing though, at what a good editor can do for your writing!  This is kind of like working without a net.

I take my inspiration from my career, owning, starting, and working for small companies, mostly in manufacturing.  It hasn't made me rich, or famous, but I've learned a lot.  I even recognize why I haven't been a huge success.  You'd think that would enable me to fix it.  So far, all it has done is to allow me to recognize it, when I do it again!  I do believe though that you can learn from others mistakes, so I hope to help others by showing them how to avoid the mistakes I've made.

So let me tell you one of my success stories.  About 15 years ago I was setting up a new manufacturing department in a larger company to build a product I had invented.  Management asked other departments to recommend employees who might be a good fit for this new department.  What a great way to get rid of your slackers, don't fire em, pass them off to an unsuspecting new manager!  I had to fire three out of four.   However one employee, a shift foreman from the injection mold department volunteered for a job.  He told me his job skills basicly consisted of pushing a broom while watching others work, and he wanted to actually learn a real skill.

I went to human resources and got over 100 applications from people that had applied for jobs.  Fifteen minutes later I asked them to bring in four people for interviews.  They asked me how I could possibly select those four so quickly.  I told them it was simple.  Toss out the sloppy ones, that's hard behavior to change.  Toss out the incomplete ones, they don't really want the job.  Look for excellent handwriting, and complete sentences, and you are left with just four!  I believe in hiring for attitude, skills are easy.  Of the three I hired, two stayed several years, one is still there today.

I started teaching everyone how to build the product by building our manufacturing space, racks, fixtures, welding jigs etc.  The young volunteer guy got the task of building a welding jig.  After a couple of hours he came to me and said he had made a serious mistake, and wanted to know what to do.  I told him to toss it and start over.  Same thing happened again after a couple of more hours, and again I told him to toss it and start over.   When it happened for the third time he said in frustration "Isn't this costing us a fortune tossing them all out?"  I agreed that it was in fact costing us a lot, and I asked him what we could do differently.  He responded "It'd be a LOT cheaper if I did it right the first time!"  I said he was right, that he should focus on that and nothing else, and speed would come with experience.  A few weeks later we hired another guy.  I overheard the volunteer guy telling the new guy "You might as well do it right the first time, he'll just make you do it over and over until you do!". Never had any problem with his work!

A year and a half later I was leaving to go home for good.  The volunteer guy asked to speak to me privately.  He asked me if I had heard the story about his brothers.  I had heard rumors, but told him no.  He said "My older brother commited suicide a few years ago.  My younger brother comitted suicide a year later.  They both gave up because they couldn't see any reason to go on, they both had dead end jobs.  Since I've been working here with you I've learned that it doesn't matter at all if anyone notices or cares whether you do a good job.  What matters is that you know that you've done the best job you can, and that is the only reward you need." (Damn still brings tears to my eyes)

Eight years later I was passing through and visited that plant again.  The volunteer guy was no longer working in that department.  He was just finishing a five year apprenticeship as a tool and die maker.

As my grandson likes to say, The End!