Volume 115: 25 Lessons from 25 Years, Part Three

Today, I am excited to conclude my three-part series talking about the Top 25 Lessons I’ve Learned in 25 Years of owning my own company.

It has certainly been a ride. Hopefully, my experience can prove valuable to someone else.

#10: Documentation Stinks, but Is Necessary to Long-Term Success

After doing this as long as I have, one of the areas I still need constant reminders on is documentation. On my desk, things happen very quickly, and it can be hard to keep up with calls coming in from candidates, clients, vendors, my kids, and whoever else.

Being organized and documenting things as they happen, is what I have found as the only way to be successful, and to set the rest of my team up for success. If something happens in the industry, with a search we’re working on, or with a candidate, we’re working with, my team typically needs to know this so they can adjust their actions accordingly. This only happens through documentation.

And it’s not that different in your facility. If a supervisor is having a problem with an employee or a machine, and he doesn’t document the matter, the supervisor on the next shift might not realize that the machine issue is a recurring thing that needs to be dealt with or that the employee has already been warned multiple times about something. They will not know when it’s time to escalate the matter.
Documentation is key.

#9: Employees Are Not All the Same

When you’re trying to lead and motivate a team, it can be easy to get in a groove of one way of doing things. But not every motivation technique is going to work for each team member. Some need a firm voice and a (metaphorical) kick in the pants, some need a softer touch.

Employees are people, and the one-size-fits-all approach is going to get you necessarily get you mixed results. Get to know your team and figure out what motivates each person.

This does require you to burn more calories, but those calories ultimately are well spent.

#8: What’s Important to Me, Might Not Be What’s Important to You

Like the previous lesson, this one touches on the fact that we all have different drivers. In addition, we all have full dance cards, seemingly all the time, these days. As such, the project/topic that is the highest priority for you, might not be the highest priority for a client or member of a different department.

It is important to recognize this lesson because it can avoid a lot of unnecessary conflicts. The other department isn’t doing or not doing something, to tick you off or inconvenience you. They’re doing it because their priorities are different. Like with most things, communication is key and can help you figure out where everyone is coming from and how you can come to a solution that works for everyone.

#7: Progress on Your Goals Starts with Telling the Truth 

Very simple, if you have a goal, the first step to getting to that goal is, to be honest with yourself about what challenges you face. If you’re trying to lose weight, but drink 12 sodas every day and constantly eat at fast-food restaurants, you can’t blame the gym being too inconveniently located for your struggles. You must look at the real causes of the problem and be honest.

It’s the same with any work problem. Because of pride, shame, or just not wanting to lose face in front of the team, people often don’t take responsibility for the mistakes made or the struggles to perform, and the result is that the team stays in the same place.

Be honest, acknowledge the source of the challenge, and open yourself up to make all the progress you want.

True ownership of your behavior is a wonderful thing.

#6: Days with Dogs/Pets in the Office are Good Days

I don’t think this lesson requires further explanation.

#5: Take A Break

We all get wrapped up in a project or task, but there are legitimate reasons that breaks are mandated in just about every work environment. When you’re exhausted or have been staring at a problem for too long, you don’t work as well as you could.

So, take a break and recharge for a few minutes, and come back to the problem or task with fresh eyes.

#4: Always Be Open to New Ideas

You don’t know everything. None of us do. Even if you’ve been in the industry since the first corrugated box was made in the 1800s, you need to keep an open mind. Others around you will have different professional experiences than you, and different personal experiences than you, and that will provide you with a different perspective.

Often, another perspective looking at a challenge can be the difference between solving it and not, so always be open to listening, getting feedback, and learning new ideas.

#3: Technology is Not the Enemy

Anyone that knows me will tell you that I am not strong with technology. I can use my iPhone, and the most basic programs on my computer, but if something goes wrong, I’m calling one of my teammates for help.

I’m not necessarily interested in learning about every new thing that comes out. That said, technology, like most things we use, can be a great tool to help each of us do our jobs, and live our lives better. Just like the people before, we hesitated, but slowly put down the hammer and chisel for the quill, the pencil, and eventually, for the ballpoint, we must adapt and embrace technology that can make things better.

#2: Relationships Are Better Than Transactions

For 25 years as the leader at Oberg and Associates, LLC, along with an additional 10 years with others, I’ve been relatively successful recruiting for the corrugated industry. The reason for this is pretty simple: while transactions keep the lights on for a few days, they have never been the primary focus of my company.

My primary focus has always been the people in the industry, and the relationships I could build. I would gladly give up a single transaction today if doing so opened up a new relationship, with unlimited possibilities in the future.

#1: Good Companies are Made of Good, Empowered People

I could not have made it to 25 years in business without the many recruiters, office managers, researchers, assistants, and other people that have worked with me over that span. All O&A team members (past and present) have impacted how I viewed different aspects of my company and helped me get better.
And the same is undoubtedly true for you. The best corrugators and flexos in the world still need strong men and women to manage and run them, to work with customers, and to iron out the details.

So, show your appreciation for your team early and often. You can’t be successful without them.

Stay Strong!

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