Archive for the ‘Philosophy of Work’ Category

Finding Good Part-Time Help

April 7, 2011 Leave a comment

How to find good workersAs a company that has varying staffing needs, we find it necessary to rely on a lot of part-time workers. HIS Installation, like many service industry companies, takes on different type and size projects. Sometimes we need large crews, other times we need only one or two “good” workers.

So, how do we find good part-time help?

First off, it isn’t easy. Sometimes we flat-out get lucky…of course we like to think that the Man Upstairs is looking out for us.

Here is what 30 years of experience in the material handling industry has taught us:

  1. Sometimes the best help is home-grown – There are five of us sons, all of whom, at one point or another, worked for HIS Installation. To this day, and this isn’t bragging, we have been the most reliable, hardest-working employees. Part of this is we had a strong motivator, i.e. our Dad; however we also wanted the family business to succeed. As one of our non-family member workers once told me, when we were discussing the difference between good help and not-so-good help, “Joe, it has everything to do with how you were raised.” I think there is a lot of truth there.
  2. Just because someone is a good friend doesn’t mean they will be a good worker – This can be tricky, having unrealistic expectations for friends can do more harm than good. When we’ve allowed friends to work for us and then things not worked out, feelings always got hurt and the relationship inevitably was affected.
  3. You have to be able to size people up – This may sound old-fashion, but I’m a firm believer in watching and listening to people, in other words, sizing people up. I normally have a pretty good idea what kind of worker a person will be by the quickness in their step, the firmness of their handshake, the tone of their voice, and their physical shape. I know that may sound biased, but if the shoe fits…it fits. A worker knows a worker.
  4. It’s okay to give people a chance – Some of our best workers have been guys who have been down on their luck. They tend to have something to prove. They’ve been beaten down bad enough that they want  a new start. I’ve always appreciated these type of individuals.
  5. Be quick to make changes – If it’s not working out, it’s not working out. I generally give a person two, maybe three, days to show me they can do the job. I don’t wait much longer than that. It makes the whole process easier – less resentment, less hurt feelings, less impact on the project. It also keeps the morale of the team stronger. If everyone has the understanding that if you aren’t measuring up you’re gone, they tend to put forward their best effort.

Following these steps we’ve generally been able to build good project teams. While the work is hard, we normally have a good time doing what we do. To this day, many of our best guys have gone on to better and brighter careers, but they all are appreciative for the experience and values they received while working for HIS Installation.


BOOK REVIEW: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

January 25, 2011 1 comment

Seth Godin’s New York Times Bestseller, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? is more of a reflection on who we are and what we do with that than simply a business book.

Seth uses words like art and gift to define what a linchpin does.

The ultimate gift you can give, the one that will repay you today and tomorrow and heal our world, is that gift. The gift of connection, of art, of love – of dignity. (pg. 208)

Throughout Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Seth encourages us to become the artists we already are by explaining what he believes art is, what is preventing us from giving our art (resistance=lizard brain), what things the linchpin must be aware of (no maps, choice, connection, etc), abilities of the linchpin, and the risk of failure or, better yet rejection.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? has such an important message. In a culture…no, in a world that is rapidly changing we need to understand that each and every one of us has something to give, each of us has value simply in being who we were made to be.

Each of us is an artist and a work of art at the same time.

The linchpin understands the challenge:

The challenge, then is to be the generous artist, but do it knowing that it just might not work. And that’s okay (pg. 224).

Seth goes on to explain that this cannot discourage us and that there is only one right choice really – make more art, give more gifts.

Trying and failing is better than merely failing, because trying makes you an artist and gives you the right to try again (pg. 225).

…when others fail to be remarkable or make a difference or share their art or have an impact, they will give up. But you won’t, you’ll persist, pushing through the dip. Which means that few people will walk in the door with your background, experience, or persistence (pg. 208)

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? isn’t just full of amazing, to-the-point reflections like these, Seth helps us to understand what will attempt to stand in our way – the resistance=lizard brain. Seth explains:

Once you’ve given a name to the resistance and you know what its voice sounds like, it’s a lot easier to embrace the fact that you actually are a genius. The part of you that wants to deny this is the resistance. The rest of you understands that you’re as capable as the next guy of an insight, invention, or connection that makes a difference (pg. 118).

THE RESISTANCE (an awesome chapter) goes into great detail about what that voice sounds like and what we can do to overcome it. I’m not going to simply give you a summary because the gift you could give yourself would be reading Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Seth has opened, for me, a place in my mind, in my heart, in my soul that I have always been aware of…in fact he’s not the first to tell me this. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? simply resurrected that sense of loyalty to my mission and generosity to my work (cf. 209) that I had been seeking. I highly recommend this book.

Thank you, Seth. Your gift is accepted, embraced, and given. Keep being the artist you were created to be.

The Immense Value Of Ideas

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Ideas matter. Ideas have immense value.

Think about it….all creativity, all innovation stems from an idea. Thought precedes action.

We must make time for ideas. We must strive to capture our ideas…good and bad.

Seth Godin, in his insightful book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? states:

When someone says to me, “I don’t have any good ideas…I’m just not good at that,” I ask them, “Do you have any bad ideas?”

Nine times out of ten, the answer is no. Finding good ideas is surprisingly easy once you deal with the problem of finding bad ideas. All the creativity books in the world aren’t going to help you if you’re unwilling to have lousy, lame, and even dangerously bad ideas.

The resistance abhors bad ideas. It would rather have you freeze up and invent nothing than take a risk and have some portion of your output be laughable. Every creative person I know generates a slew of laughable ideas for every good one. Some people (like me) need to create two slews for every good one.

One way to become creative is to discipline yourself to generate bad ideas. The worse the better. Do it a lot and magically you’ll discover that some good ones slip through.

Read the book to better understand what Seth means by “the resistance” however you get the point. If we are unwilling to risk being laughed at for our crazy or, worse still, bad ideas we will stifle the flow of creative thought.

An a popular acronym for FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. For me, I know that I have often suppressed or ignored ideas because I feared. Feared that others would laugh or ridicule the idea, feared that anyone I talked to about the idea would steal it, feared that I would fail or that others would fail me, feared, feared, feared….and so I didn’t do.


Do I follow through on every idea? No, but I list it in what I like to call my “Idea Toolbox” and talk to others about those ideas. I even, at times, work out what the idea would look like, who would be involved, what would give it legs, etc.

There are no “stupid” ideas…bad ideas sure. Still the process, the emphasis on the immense value of ideas is vital. Our world is in a state of constant change.

Ideas will shape your future.

Robert Kennedy once said, “Some men look at things the way they are and ask why? I dream of things that are not and ask why not?”

Our ideas, while often laughable, are just that….our ideas. Why not act on them? Why not try? We already know what happens if we don’t.

As the old saying goes….If nothing changes, nothing changes. Dare to change. Dare to have ideas.

Ethics In Business: Right Is Right

January 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Right is right. Do it right the first time.

When did doing work right the first time become relative? Our company, HIS Installation, Inc., is, at times, called in to determine whether or not a particular rack system, conveyor, mezzanine, or other material handling system was installed correctly. It always disappoints me to see how some companies attempt to “cut corners” or “rig things” to finish the job. When problems arise with the storage system the answer to the customer’s questions goes something like this – It’s the manufacturer’s fault. or That’s just the way these things work.

HONESTY MATTERS. Sometimes the manufacturer is partly or entirely to blame, but in the material handling industry, as in most service-based industries, the company responsible for the installation has to make sure that (1) the material they have received to be installed is correct and (2) that they, as the installer, install it right the first time. If the material received isn’t correct, it is far better to point this out immediately before the project is completed. Being honest is so important because your word has to mean something or you won’t be in business for long. Equally significant is the reality that being honest falls directly in line with the Golden Ruletreating others the way we would want them to treat us.

The driving force behind unethical behavior in business is one of two things (in many cases both things – fear and greed. Those companies and/or individuals who act unethically fear the consequences – “Will I be blamed?” “Will I lose money?” “Will my reputation be ruined?” and so forth. Fear disconnects us from reality. You will be blamed if someone else discovers that you tried to cover something up. You will lose money and your reputation will be damaged if you are dishonest, if not on a particular project certainly over time. Our actions always catch up with our reputation. If our actions are bad, our reputation will inevitably be bad. If our actions are good and honest, our reputation will be one of good work and honesty.

We always win by doing good work and being honest – the first time and every time.

BOOK REVIEW: The Art of Non-Conformity

December 30, 2010 2 comments

“What do you really want to get out of life?” and “What can you offer the world that no one else can?” Whatever your answers to those questions are, you can likely find the beginnings of your quest to live a full life and make the world a better place for others. The Art of Non-Conformity, pg 207

The Art of Non-Conformity

It’s amazing how a book can tell you what you’ve always known, but in such a way that it demands a change. While I can’t say that I agree with everything Chris Guillebeau writes about , I will say that The Art of Non-Conformity is one of the best books I read this year.

Chris breaks The Art of Non-Conformity into three parts: I. The Remarkable Life, II. Reclaiming Work, and III. The Power of Convergence.

Part I: The Remarkable Life covers the whole idea of this being my life and therefore I should be able to set the rules…as long as those rules involve doing good things for myself and helping others. I completely agree with that notion. True freedom is one’s ability to choose the good. There is direct correlation between my good and the good of my neighbor. Chris probes what a life like that might look like, sharing his experiences and those of others. There are some really great stories and great principles here. In the second chapter, Setting the Terms of Your Unconventional Life, Chris writes:

When faced with a choice between abundance and scarcity, choose abundance. Scarcity is the default mode of operation for most of us. It’s a hard habit to break, but almost always worth it. Scarcity involves hoarding, and abundance involves sharing.

He expands on that in chapter 9, Radical Exclusion and the Quest for Abundance.

Part II: Reclaiming Work focuses on competence, educational options, followers (small army), and, my favorite, The Personal Financial Journey. Don’t be fooled, The Personal Financial Journey IS NOT just about money, rather Chris really does an outstanding job of looking at the relationship between money, life planning, and happiness. I’ve been a long time fan of Dave Ramsey and his philosophy of debt-free living, but Chris puts a completely new spin on it. While completely committed to the idea of living debt-free, he has several interesting ideas like the following:

Deferred gratification can be a form of life avoidance. Deferred gratification, the principle of sacrificing something now in hopes of enjoying it in the future, has both pros and cons. I’m writing this book a year in advance of publication, giving up other income and devoting a lot of time in hopes that you’ll eventually read it, all because I believe in the project. I also deposited $300 in my long-term savings account this month, another sacrifice I was happy to make.

At the same time, the practice of deferred gratification can also serve to help people avoid making a lot of decisions about how they actually live now. This is one aspect of my financial life where I definitely want balance – I don’t mind saving for the future, but not at the expense of enjoying life today.

Part III: The Power of Convergence brings it all together. Chapter 9 Radical Exclusion and the Quest for Abundance is exceptional. Chris covers such topics as eliminating the unnecessary, stop-doing lists, living with less, and enriching our lives through abundance and much more. Chapter 11 Your Legacy Starts Now brings us right back into those two questions I quoted at the beginning of this review – “What do you really want to get out of life?” and “What can you offer the world that no one else can?”

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Chris Guillebeau also has a rockin’ website – The Art of Non-Conformity – where he has a lot of useful tools for achieving a much more meaningful and practical life.

Whether you want to travel the world like Chris or just get a fresh look at your life The Art of Non-Conformity is a valuable tool for doing just that.

Small Business and A Balanced Life

December 21, 2010 1 comment

Being a small business family has its fair share of challenges. A big one for us is balance. How do I accomplish all I need to do for the family business and still have time for all the other important areas of my life?

For me, goals are key. I sit down at the end of each year (usually between November and December) and lay out my goals for the coming year. Here’s my disclaimer – I can only share my experience, I can’t promise it will work for you. However, if you haven’t tried goal setting, I would encourage you to give it a shot.

For me, if I plan for the following year I inevitably manage my time better. I have benchmarks in the classical “7 areas” that allow me to keep balance at the forefront. Now I don’t do it perfect, but I look at those areas on a weekly basis to see if I’m being honest with myself.

Those 7 areas are: Financial, Physical, Personal Development, Family, Spiritual, Social, and Career. I also make sure that I am meeting the 5 points of good goals. That means that they are specific, measurable, “my” goals, time limited, and in writing. Following this method has made all the difference in my life and helps me keep my priorities in order.

Dan Miller has a “free” downloadable worksheet – The Power of Goals. I highly recommend this tool. Dan does a great job explaining the process of goal setting.

Good luck with your goals! May the coming year be one of business success and life balance for you and your family.

Work: Drudgery or Fulfillment?

November 16, 2010 Leave a comment

So far I’ve written more on the nuts and bolts of running a service business. Today, however, I’m going to take a philosophical approach. I want to talk about work ethic.

I recently read a chapter from The Way To Happiness, by Fulton Sheen, entitled “Work.” He opens the chapter with the following:

Very few people in this age do the kind of work they like to do. Instead of choosing their jobs from choice, they are forced by economic necessity to work at tasks which fail to satisfy them. Many of them say, “I ought to be doing something bigger,” or “This job of mine is only important because I get paid.” Such an attitude lies at the bottom of much unfinished and badly-executed work. The man who chooses his work because it fulfills a purpose he approves is the only one who grows in stature by working. He alone can properly say, at the end of it, “It is finished!”

My mind immediately began to ask the question – Does my work fulfill a purpose I approve?

Sometimes my work is very ordinary and menial. I struggle with the thought of “Am I using my time wisely?” or “Could I be doing something more meaningful?” Sheen goes on:

This sense of vocation is sadly lacking nowadays. The blame should not be placed on the complexity of our economic system, but on a collapse of our spiritual values. Any work, viewed in its proper perspective, can be used to ennoble us; but a necessary prelude to seeing this is to understand the philosophy of labor.

Every task we undertake has two aspects-our purpose, which makes us thinks it worth doing, and the work itself, regarded apart from its end-purpose…a man working in an automobile factory may have, as his primary purpose, the earning of wages; but the purpose of the work itself is the excellent completion of the task. A workman should be aware of the second purpose at all times-as the artist is aware of the aim of beauty in his painting…Today the first aspect of working has become paramount, and we tend to ignore the second…so that many workmen lead half-lives in their laboring hours.

…The legitimate pride in doing work well relieves it of much of its drudgery. Some people, who have held to the craftsman’s standard, get a thrill from any job they do. They know the satisfaction of “a job well done” whether they are engaged in canning a chair or cleaning a horse’s stall or carving a statue for a Cathedral. Their honor and their self-respect are heightened by the discipline of careful work. They have retained the old attitude of the middle ages, when work was a sacred event, a ceremony, a source of spiritual merit. Labor was not then undertaken merely for the sake of economic gain, but was chosen through an inner compulsion, through a desire to project the creative power of God through our own human effort.

How true these statements are! I was discussing this with one of our lead guys just the other day. I remember asking him, “Where are the workers?” He said pointedly to me, “Joe, it has everything to do with how you were raised.” In other words, the philosophy of labor you were taught and practiced governs your attitude toward work. If your belief system toward work is one of getting by, entitlement, and the old saying of “hardly working verses working hard,” then your work ethic probably stinks. One thing we make clear to our guys is that workers will get to work, time takers will be shown the door.

I find great satisfaction in a job well done. I tell our guys all the time, “The worker is worth his wage…and then some.” It is extremely important to understand the subject of that sentence: the worker. True fulfillment comes from a proper understanding of the two aspects of work described by Fulton Sheen. Yes, I desire to earn a living doing meaningful work, however that desire must also be accompanied by a striving to do the job well. In my own experience, this understanding of work has made all the difference. Remember, your work ethic matters.