Succession Thoughts


Succession Thoughts

A fatal weakness in American businesses, the special machine tool industry in particular, has been to staff companies in a way that provides for the perpetuation of natural passion, an essential ingredient for success. Strategic recruiting, coupled with challenging, encouraging, mentoring, and providing specialized training and education is a logical approach to solving this problem. Observing, identifying, and finding the way to challenge and accelerate the competitors among them in a way that is fair to all is important.

Most of all, it must be made clear that there is a way to the top levels and that appropriate ownership (a stake), that can be defined in various ways, is possible. The opportunities must be as good as or better than what might be available to the young people in other places, both in terms of competitors as well as in other industries. Competition applies to all aspects of business, including acquiring, shaping, and holding valuable key people, which will determine success or failure of the enterprise.

That was a lesson not learned or accepted by some of the otherwise solid special machine tool companies and they are vanishing as a result. Great opportunities and perpetuation of an important manifestation of Yankee ingenuity are going with them.

Is it possible that in the two larger companies that remain in the American special machine tool industry and with the many small companies doing business on a different scale, that a resurgence of the industry is possible? Will they learn from industry “lessons learned?”

As long as there are products to be manufactured for consumers, the need for the special machine tool industry will exist. As long as passionate and fertile minds can be attracted and rewarded to apply accelerating and exciting technological advances from supporting industries, the American industry can be revived and flourish and can provide gratifying life’s work for all involved.



Recruiting

Wouldn’t it be valuable to know what a prospective employee is passionate about? Or if he or she has even discovered yet what may ignite that fire of passion, or if it can even happen at all? Is it possible to shape this person to be that inspired musician? Discovering passion for life’s work can awaken drive, intensity, and latent talent, can be more rewarding in ways than many can imagine and can provide an excellent livelihood at the same time.

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.” Benjamin Disraeli

In a recent consultation regarding cardiovascular heart valve reconstruction, the surgeon described the procedure to a prospective patient. He did it in a way that made it apparent that the surgeon was at the top of his game and the top of his profession. He is known, admired, and respected around the world for his achievements. Despite his lofty position, his manner demonstrated that he had the fire in him and that regardless of his past accomplishments, he will continue to do bigger and better things for his patients and his profession. In the process, he instilled confidence in the prospective patient. He obviously experiences all of the rewards of his chosen life’s work.

An aging naval fighter pilot was recently asked what will happen when his age and related health changes end his “Top Gun flying.” He replied, “This (his naval life’s work) is not a job or career, it’s a life.”

If you really pay attention, you can pick out the people with a passion for their life’s work wherever you may look. You may see it in a wait person at a major department store or at your local restaurant, the janitor in your building, in a skilled trades person, a musician, or surgeon. It’s fun to look for them. Most of them make it very obvious.

In a recent visit to a florist, two middle-aged employees finishing grave blankets and holiday floral arrangements confided in a customer that they loved this work that they had been doing all their working lives and hoped that they could continue as long as they were physically able.

They are rewarded by customer-expressed satisfaction and recognition, and are able to express themselves in their creations and otherwise find fulfillment of life’s work’s promises.

A visiting male nurse explained his route to his profession. He was formerly a fully licensed plumber/pipefitter and had advanced to a well- paying foreman status in a small town. A major power generation facility was under construction that promised long-term employment and attracted skilled workers from miles around. The project was unexpectedly canceled and most lost their jobs, including this man. He had a decision to make. He decided to go to nursing school. It took several years and much sacrifice, but he achieved his goal of becoming an RN. The labor market in his former occupation has since recovered, so now he could choose either occupation. The foreman’s position would approximately double his income, but his love for the nursing profession and the feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment in helping those in need made it an easy decision to stay in nursing. In observing him work, his passion for his work is obvious.

When interviewing prospective employees for any job or position, how is it determined that the individual is right for the job, for the company in the long term, and for the prospective employee him or herself?

When starting operations in the Midwestern U.S., Japanese auto companies interviewed hundreds of employees to select just a few. What were their criteria? They have been very successful and have not had significant labor problems and the American employees are not represented by organized labor, despite numerous aggressive organizing attempts.

Competition is now more global and more aggressive than ever. How do we select the right people for the future of any company to help make it a winning and prospering organization and to provide them with rewarding employment in that difficult, highly-competitive environment?

Let’s hire three people:

  • Entry level mechanical technical person

  • Sweeper

  • Software engineer

Characteristics to be evaluated:

  • Appearance

  • Demeanor

  • Training level

  • Experience level

  • Education level

  • Intelligence

  • Independent thinking capability

  • Resourcefulness - imagination

  • Passion - spirit

How should these characteristics be prioritized? Rearrange the list in order of importance as you may see it.

Would you believe that the reverse order for the characteristics is the right one for all three positions? It should have been stated that in this effort, we are hiring not just for the needs of today and tomorrow. We are providing for the development of future leaders and for building the powerhouse that we want for the future of the company.

It may seem that education is not valued as it should be. It certainly is valued and if characteristics such as passion are there, the chances are good that education is also. If not, education, general or specific, can easily be added while it may not be that easy for some of the other characteristics. However, there are numerous examples of highly educated people without the energy (spirit/passion) to use it effectively. There are also many examples of less educated people, in the beginning, gravitating to high levels of responsibility and fulfillment because energy and passion were present in their work.

There are examples of sweepers becoming top officers in special machine tool companies. Some of the most well-known founders and CEOs of giant modern high tech companies did not complete their college education. There are current examples of special machine tool executives completing their degree studies in their fifties and they are not alone. What was it that thrust these people forward in their apparently rewarding careers, if not education?

Education, training, experience, talent, and even intelligence are just tools that have little meaning without the human energy and the motivating force that will make things happen. They are our passion, imagination and the courage to exercise them.