“You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, know when to run …”
Now, I have reached the point when I know it’s time for me to walk away.
In my last column, I discussed the disconnect we’ve all experienced as a result of technology. Technology use continues to grow exponentially, so we can’t expect to be more directly connected again anytime soon. However, the changes prompted by technology are but the tip of the iceberg. The mission-critical industry, as well as every other industrial segment, is also greatly affected by the economy coupled with the uncertainty of the current government administration.
As the torch passes from generation to generation, change is inevitable. But the past seemed more stable and offered more continuity. Today I believe we have truly reached a tipping point. The founders of this country built on simple beliefs, common sense tenets that we know are right. Our business founders have done the same, but both our country and our businesses have drifted incrementally away from the basic foundation on which they were built.
For example, what is your incentive to excel? In most large corporations, the business process has replaced customer service as the Holy Grail, credentials have replaced substance and experience in the leadership selection process, and mediocrity rules. While we can argue the causes of this decline over cocktails, the erosion of our principals and our government didn’t happen overnight. Decades of incremental change aimed at making us feel better, making it easier for Johnnie to play sports unencumbered by winning or losing, managing our businesses for the short term, and weighting our public education toward the bottom of the scale so that no child will feel bad about not making the grade have yielded a bumper crop of average performers who want to start their careers in the corner office.
Take the Occupy Wall Street gang. I have yet to hear one cogent thought from those interviewed. They all seem to feel they’ve been held down by the man but few can tell you exactly what their specific beef is let alone what could be logically and rationally done to solve it. Blame the bankers, the CEOs, the stockholders, the rich (yes I’m sure that will solve the problem). Of course they all agree that higher education should be free and their student loans should be forgiven. After all how could they have known they would have to pay them back when they signed on the dotted line?
In 2007, a good friend of mine, Brian Phelan, director of marketing at ASCO, suggested I write this column. Since then I’ve shared with you some of my thoughts, insights, and experience, I trust some of it has helped.
When I was in my early teens, I was a disc jockey at a local radio station (that’s when a disc jockey worked live on the air and was not simply someone who had purchased a sound system to play CDs at weddings). I had a mentor who told me that I had best keep my mouth shut as I had nothing to say, meaning I had no life experience. At this point I find it again best to be quiet as I’m no longer active in the mission-critical industry and therefore not current.
Sometimes I feel my career has been like my favorite scene from Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles. When the new sheriff (played by Cleavon Little) agrees to confront Mongo (Alex Karras), one of the townspeople screams the good news to the whole town, “The fool’s going to do it.” In the end, the sheriff did tame the ferocious Mongo and made a loyal friend doing so. That, in a nutshell, summarizes this fool’s career, and I learned a lot in the bargain.
The one person who deserves the greatest thanks is my wife, Jane, who was my rock and our family anchor as I traveled the country and the globe paying my dues and pursuing my career. I was also fortunate along the way to have some great mentors, opportunities, and experience at companies like KW Control Systems and ASCO, where I was fortunate to help build a world-class service organization.
For many years, I have also been fortunate to serve 7x24 Exchange International as company designate, charter president New York Metro Chapter, vendor representative to the national board of directors, and board member of the Empire State chapter. This organization gave me many opportunities to learn and to teach as well.
I also owe a debt of gratitude to so many others who have passed through my life and given me something along the way, I hope I have earned their trust and given something to others in return.
Well this may sound a bit like a eulogy but I can assure you I’m still very much alive. I have decided that the greatest service I can do at this point is to quit while I’m ahead and enjoy my retirement. I hope you will all have many blessings in your lives. Remember, too, when you get into a bind, to ask yourself WWDD (what would Doug do)? Then do the opposite.
So to all my readers, friends and others I bid you all a fond farewell. To quote Garrison Keillor, “be well, do good work, and stay in touch”.