Inspired by Dad

Over the past months, I have noticed that Grit, by Angela Duckworth, keeps showing up on everyone’s list of “what I’m reading now,” “must-reads,” or “most influential books”.  I finally cracked it open, only to discover I was reading about my own parents!  I cannot imagine two people with a better work-ethic or more in tune with their priorities.  Some kids are especially blessed with parents that model a purpose-driven life, and by God’s grace, my sister and I got to be in that group.  As Andra and I have recently taken a leap of faith to start this non-profit, I am reminded of my father’s leap of faith in his career, and I am ever thankful that he kept setting an example for me long after I was no longer a kid.  His story goes like this…

I started working as a 16-year old bag-boy, worked my way through college to become a mechanical engineer, and then worked in that field my whole career.  During my late forties, I got a chance to transition from working as the engineering manager for my petroleum pipeline equipment company to the role of business owner and president. To be honest, our company was not in the best of conditions at the time.  In fact, I secured another engineering position and was getting ready to transition out of the company when one of the owners asked me to stay and get our company turned around. To say the least, there was considerable financial risk and leadership responsibility involved with buying into and running a struggling company.  Providing for my family, including the college education of my two daughters had always been my top priority, but my daughters had completed college and were starting great families of their own, and my wife had a stable job. So, I took a chance. It was a big opportunity with many risks.”

This is where I get to stop the story to tell you a little more about my dad, which will help you understand just how much courage this decision took.  Besides being “gritty,” he is an all-star saver, advance planner, every-angle-gets-considered, no-corners-get-cut, safety-first, fan of stability.  Everything a little girl could want in a Daddy!  Back to his story…

“I knew I had the support of my co-owners at work and my wife’s support at home, so I made the decision to not only stay, but step-up—stepping out of my "comfort zone" to grow, not only in knowledge of business management but also in the confidence of my ability to do so. There were many hurdles to overcome.  First, the key employees had to be convinced to stay with our company to make it thrive, which happened through a lot of confidence building by me. Next, we had to hire qualified new people with good work ethic to get things growing. Then we had to address the lifeblood of all businesses—customers. We had to renew our existing customer relations, regain lost ground with other customers, as well as develop new ones. I knew this would only happen if we performed well and manufactured our products at the highest quality, on-time, and at a competitive price. As we earned that new reputation with our customers and began to grow, we could see the opportunity to build something incredible for our families and future. We moved our facilities to a new plant and filled it with work quickly.  We grew so quickly that we expanded three more times. We went from fifteen employees to over fifty in just a few years.  The sales and shipments came in at numbers that none of us had ever imagined before.  Building on our successes, we developed new products and new customer bases. It took plenty of hard work to make this happen, but in the end several long-time employees were able to retire from our company knowing they helped us grow in sales and reputation within our industry. We had provided good jobs for many families and created financial security for the owners’ families. After fourteen years of guiding our path, I retired and left a healthy company to the next leader.”

Knowing how important it was for my father to be an excellent provider for his own family, I am not at all shocked that the proudest accomplishments of his work includes helping his employees and co-owners provide for their families as well.  He took a calculated risk, a chance, with his own financial security and ended up creating it for himself and so many others. Here are his closing words of advice for me, but he won’t mind if I share them with you as well…

“It all started with that "chance" that I took along with others. If you get a chance, and you are willing to work hard, and take some calculated risks, it is very rewarding.  Sure, there is always something that can go wrong, and you will make some mistakes, but hard work and honesty will prevail every time. I continued to learn from all my great fellow employees, customers, and suppliers, but I never would have known the success we would be together if I hadn’t made that decision fourteen years earlier. When your chance comes along, believe in yourself, your faith, and your family--go for it!”

Aletha ScheckComment