Before I get started, I have to come clean. Anybody that is reading the title of this article and expecting something that sounds like it came out of the Harvard Business Review or the Wall Street Journal is going to be very disappointed. I went to Texas Tech, not Harvard or Yale. But what I lack in high-powered, fancy advice, I make up for in experience. I’ve spent 50 years in this ‘bidness’ and I’ve found the five things that I think anybody in our industry needs to do to be successful. I’ve worked in the welding industry since I was 16, and these are things I learned first-hand from others in our industry or picked up along the way. I’m so grateful for the friendships I’ve formed and for all the people who have taken the time to help me and mentor me. If you don’t get anything else from this article, I hope your one takeaway is this: Begin to find and build those relationships today. They will be life-lasting and you will learn so much from your fellow industry colleagues.
1. Show Up with a Good Attitude.
I honestly believe that about 85% of being successful is showing up for work every day. And the reason I added “with a good attitude” is because one thing I have noticed over the last 50 years is that the most successful people that I have known have a great attitude. There was a wonderful motivational speaker whose name was Zig Ziglar, who I had the opportunity to hear on several occasions. One of the things that he said that has stuck with me all my life, and I so believe it to be true is, “It’s your attitude, not your aptitude, that will determine your altitude.” I believe that with all my heart. Give me someone with a great attitude, and I’ll take them over somebody who is smart as a whip but has a terrible attitude every day of the week and twice on Sunday. We are so fortunate, in our industry through our associate members, that we can send our folks to schools and teach them everything there is to know about the technical aspects of this business. But there are few places that we can send somebody in order to get a better attitude. So, showing up with a good attitude is a real strong base for being successful.
2. Learn, Learn, Learn.
Set a goal to learn one new thing every day. It does not have to be technical in nature. It can be anything. Learn something new about one of your customers. As I said in a previous article, learn their date of hire and their birthday. Make a note and call them and tell them how much you appreciate them. Learn something about the industry. Some history of the industry. Make your golf swing better. It doesn’t make any difference what you learn, but learn something new every day. That puts your mind in a learning mode. You will get to the point where the first thing you do in the morning is say, “What am I going to learn today?” And when you put your head on your pillow at night, you can reflect on what you did learn that day. Once you get in the habit of doing that, you’ll find it’s very easy to learn something new every day.
3. Be Positive in All Your Actions.
Be positive, regardless of what is happening around you. This is different than having a positive attitude. An attitude is a sense of mind. Being positive has to do with your actions. Believe me, there are a lot of unhappy people in this world. If you’re like I was, and you’re involved in a closely held corporation or a family business, this is extremely important for you to learn as quickly as possible. Most of you, like me, started in the welding supply business at a young age. I promise you, the things that you do when you’re 16 are going to be remembered when you’re 26, 36 and 46. We’re fortunate in this industry to not have too much turnover and people will remember the things that you did. That is a tremendous amount of pressure on a young person today, but it’s true. The things that you do today will be remembered when you’re the boss. It’s extremely important to be positive in all the things that you do. This is doubly true in today’s social media environment. You set the tone for others by how you react to different situations. You’re going to be the boss someday. What kind of boss do you choose to be?
4. Do the Right Thing and Treat People Right.
This sounds so simple. Don’t just treat your management team right. Treat everybody right. The people in the plant, the drivers and yes, even the accountants! One of my more famous Squibbisms is “Always say ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ or ‘me’.” It just sounds so much better. Image you’re in a customer meeting with one of your salespeople. If you say something like, “I’ll take care of this. Kirsten works for me and I’ll make sure she gets it done.” Now, put yourself in her shoes. How do you think that made her feel? Doesn’t it sound so much better, not to mention inclusive, to say, “We’ll get this done!”
Another part of treating people right is to find them doing something good and then telling them about it. I was at a Waffle House a few years ago with a couple of other GAWDA Past Presidents, Chip Valentine and Dave Mahoney. Our waitress’s name was Helen. When we sat down, I asked her how her day was going, and she seemed surprised. After all, she’s supposed to be the one who says that. And as we were speaking, I noticed that right above her name tag, she had three waffles with a diamond in each of them. I asked her what those meant, and she told me that she was celebrating her 15th year with the company and Waffle House had given her those waffles to celebrate her anniversary. Well if you know me, you know that I went nuts. “Helen, that is great! Congratulations, I’m so proud of you. That kind of tenure just doesn’t happen often these days. Waffle House is so lucky to have you.” And I got up and got everybody’s attention in the Waffle House and I said, “Hey everybody, Helen is celebrating 15 years today. Can we give her a round of applause?”
As we were about to leave, Helen stopped me with tears in her eyes and said, “Thank you so much for doing what you did. That meant the world to me.” How long did it take me to do that? How do you think Helen felt after we left? Do you think she felt pretty good about herself? Do you think she felt like it was good to be an employee of Waffle House? Take the time, find somebody who is doing something right and tell them about it.
5. Have Fun at What You Do.
Life is too short to be miserable. The minute you get unhappy at what you do, quit. Do yourself a favor, your family a favor and the company a favor and walk out the door. I’ve had the opportunity to make presentations to companies all over the country and this is where the boss gets really really nervous. And they will come up to me after the meeting and say, “Did you really just tell my people to quit?” And I’ll say, “No, I didn’t tell your people to quit. I told those people who are unhappy to quit. And I promise you, if they quit, you’ll have a whole lot better company and the attitude and everything around your business will be better.”
I have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams in this thing we call the welding and industrial gas business. I love this industry and the people in it. I think back on all the people who helped me along the way. I really hope that you’re reading this article has helped you. In a very small way, this is my way of saying thank you to those people, most of whom are dead now, who took the time to mentor this 16-year-old kid 52 years ago. I wish you all the best of everything. Until next time, peace and joy.