What I’ve Learned from My Employers
It’s official. It’s June. Looking back, business should have tapered off in May. Instead, orders were steady throughout the month, and we’re grateful as we gradually wind down into the normal summer doldrums. We’ll enjoy it for a few days (or maybe even a week) but then we’ll be antsy for the insanity to return.
Earlier this week, Mel and I had a meaningful conversation about both life and business. We talked about the influences in our lives and the wisdom we’ve received over the years from colleagues, customers, and bosses. I’ve had the pleasure of working in the tradeshow industry for almost 25 years. It has been very good to me. One of the main reasons has been the quality of the people I have worked for.
I started with Ron Armstrong at Armstrong Displays just a couple of years out of college. He is younger than me, and literally, the only paying job he has ever had has been in this industry. He started sweeping floors for his mom and step-dad when he was 12 and bought the company from them when he was 19. The road was rocky for a few years, but I have to give Ron all the credit in the world. He knew it was going to get better. There is nothing a positive attitude and some hard work can’t fix. I was there for 13 years, and there was never a cross word. It was a pleasure.
In 2000, Jim Hoffmann offered me a job traveling for Optima Graphics. I enjoyed what I did for Armstrong Displays, but I LOVED what I did for Optima. Over the years, Jim became like a father to me, and we had a lot of great times. Jim is probably the most beloved guy in our industry. If you work for Jim, he’s going to tell you to “Always remember that THEY are the customer.” Yes, there are times when that can be painful, but you talk about it and get through it. My own dad had the same philosophy. He’d say, “Always and I mean ALWAYS take the high road.” Any of you who know Jim know that is the only way he does business.
In 2008, I went to work for Classic Exhibits. I had been friends with Kevin Carty for several years before working with/for him and had known Mel White as a very bright marketing guy. They continue to impress me with their solid business minds and just being fine, rock-solid people. I am NOT bucking for a raise or anything. This is just what they do:
- Align themselves with great partners
- Give Classic employees responsibility and independence
- Help customers become more successful
- Take calculated risks with innovative products
- Communicate and market / Communicate and market / Repeat . . .
- Always look to improve
- Respect Classic and ClassicMODUL distributors
All in all, this life has been very good to me. Thanks to ALL of you who have helped make it better.
Talk to you next week . . .