Volume 34: Driving a Turn-Around

RoyThroughout this series of articles, we’ve focused on a leadman that has stayed a leadman for 20 years in order to be able to focus on his family. Finally, I want to talk about a different kind of career path that I encounter from time to time.

I have a friend in the industry that I’ve known for many years and speak to almost weekly. This friend called me a few weeks ago and told me that he was changing companies and moving across the country to a plant that is (almost literally) on fire.

I’ll be honest with you; I was a little surprised when he told me this. I always am. See, my friend is a turnaround specialist, and it is in these messy, unproductive plants that he excels. More importantly, though, it is putting his mark and fixing these dumpster-fire plants that makes him feel fulfilled.

When his current company transferred him to the facility he’s at right now, he called me and told me there were more issues than he could list in a day’s worth of talking. (And believe me, he likes to talk.) It was a plant that his employer had purchased a while before and had not been able to bring up to their expectations. So they sent him.

There were illegal activities being run out of the shipping department. The offices were an organizational nightmare. Their down time was through the roof, and their waste was equally unconscionable. On top of all that, the plant just looked like garbage. Forklifts ran all day with no one sitting in them, housekeeping wasn’t even an afterthought, and walking through the plant you saw more guys standing around than working.

About 18 months later, that plant is back on the right track now and is productive again. The shipping department has been cleaned out. The organizational systems in the office make sense again. Their downtime is finally down to a reasonable level and their waste is under control. The plant looks like a corrugated box plant again. Guys hustle and are working hard, and most of the housekeeping mess is taken care of. The plant is the definition of turned-around.

But I’ll tell you, he hasn’t made any friends in the process. Hell, his ex-wife can tell you that.

When my friend latches on to a problem, he can’t do anything else until it’s solved. He’s a dog with an old shoe. And when there’s not enough of that shoe to chew anymore because he’s taken care of everything, he compulsively has to move on to the next one.

This is obviously a pretty stern contrast from the last person we talked about a few weeks ago. Our twenty-year leadman could not be more different than my friend.

One has chosen to stay perfectly still in his career and geography, in order to give his children a stable, emotionally-supported life. The other has chosen not to have kids and has destroyed his marriage because of his attention on turn-arounds and his inability to sit still once the turnaround is done.

That’s not to say that everyone that focuses on turn-arounds is this extreme, there are plenty of guys like this that manage to isolate that part of themselves to their work and can maintain perfectly fine personal relationships and lives. But this friend of mine does paint a different career path than that of the leadman we’ve discussed for the past several articles.

And that’s the point. Every path is different. My friend has chosen a path that allows him fulfillment in the form of leaving his mark on plants and people around the country for turn arounds. Our leadman is fulfilled through his children and family. Next edition’s person is fulfilled through the climbing of the corporate ladder and gaining more money and prestige.

It takes all kinds.

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