I work for a great company. And the best part is that there’s a lot of ways that I can make the company even greater, which is my job, and which is to say I have a great job. I’m happy to be able to say that I have a great job at a great company, even if that company is actually 6+ companies and the industry is one I have no prior experience in. Fortunately, I learn fast, especially when I’m learning about something I’m interested in. The world my company operates in is one I’m interested in, and I think most men would be: industrial manufacturing. But it doesn’t end there by a long shot. Precision engineering is intimately involved and at an impressive scale.
There are so many positive aspects of where I work and what I do, it would fill a novel. But I’m going to try and break it all down and sort out the most relevant parts. And some of the info can’t be divulged due to competitive secrets and proprietary factors. I’m going to explain it as if I was talking to my daughter Cecelia because, in fact, a lot of the reason I bother writing stuff like this down is so she can read it one day and may it will help her understand what I do, where, and how I think.
The primary company I work for basically builds asphalt plants. I’ve already come to regard asphalt as black gold. Asphalt is good, cement is bad. It’s a private company that was started by a guy from Missouri around 4 decades ago, and he has managed to build a very impressive portfolio of companies and assemble a wonderful group of people. It’s a testament to the type of person he is, and the type of person that does well in the business world. He’s still the president, and my boss, and he’s forgotten more about asphalt than most people in the business know. Of course he’s smart and shrewd, but he’s also funny, humble and an all-around great guy. And politically, he and I see eye to eye as well, which is not only refreshing, but rare in Louisville, KY which is a dark shade of blue. His leadership style is awesome. He’s very open to trying new ideas and things, and up to date technologically, which is an impressive trait. He’s very concise. He’s on the ball.
When I was evaluating the company and trying to decide where I was going to work, something that struck me was the number of people that have been working there for a long time. The company has around 300 employees and collectively, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number years’ experience, all of them earned at our company, amounted to well over a thousand. 20, 25, 30, 35+ years there isn’t uncommon, believe it or not, but it’s VERY uncommon these days in business overall. Quite a few people there are easily retireable, but they keep on working because it’s such a great place to work. People don’t leave. As a result, there is a definite family feeling within the company. A lot of those people have spent more time at work with each other over the years than with their spouses. But of course, families are celebrated there, and there are all sorts of opportunities to interact in a non-work way, like the giant company picnic at Beckley Creek Park coming up or the birthday lunch bashes that are held each month for all the people that have a birthday that month. This past Wednesday was my birthday and it fell on the same day as the company party for me and about 5 others.
Something else that stood out to me when I was thinking about joining them is the way they interviewed and “recruited” me. I was lucky enough to have a few other companies interested in me simultaneously, and was able to compare experiences. The company I work for now contacted me via email after I missed their calls because my little daughter set up call forwarding somehow when she was playing with my phone. Thank God. However, I wanted to work for a company with people that are diligent enough to follow up via email if they can’t reach someone over the phone, so I could view it as a test instead. I interviewed with the owner, and the key employees among the companies who I’d be working with, and was even taken out to lunch before I ever even met an employee of another company that was interviewing me via a paid recruiter. They acted fast, and were personal, and direct, and decisive. It was clear who the winner was among the group of candidate companies. And after I was hired, the owner went out of his way to make me feel welcome, and he still does. That’s partly why he’s successful.
There are a lot of things I love about my job but I won’t list them out. Everyone has their preferences, so what I enjoy and find fulfilling is probably different than most. But it always comes back to the company. I’m given the latitude and freedom to make meaningful changes to the company, which is rewarding. What I do directly impacts the bottom line, so it’s a thrill to find ways I can increase revenue, and I’m identifying a lot of opportunities. I wish there were more hours in the day so I could implement the things I’m building and planning more quickly. But I know for a fact that what I’m doing and will be doing will have a dramatic effect on our revenue (and costs) which enriches all the people that work there. So I’m helping to make a lot of people’s lives better. That’s a nice thing to be able to say about your job. My job entails creativity as well as being able to use my MBA, which is perfect.
We have several manufacturing facilities around Louisville, and visiting them is always fun. One of the cool things I now get to do is see how our products are made. Our products are like gigantic Tonka toys. They’re huge. We also make industrial dryers and kilns for people all around the world, so the business isn’t limited to the world of asphalt at all. People use our dryers to help manufacture all sorts of things. Bourbon, food, chemicals, and on and on. And not only do we make the best in the business, we make a lot of innovative products no one else even has. We have engineers all over the place, and they design some clever heavy duty items for the industry. We have a lot of brains in our company, which is also appealing. Lots of thinkers. And builders. Which is part of what makes it such a great fit for me–I love building things and being around high-energy people who are achievers.
I get to learn all the time, too which is awesome. Obviously with no asphalt or engineering background, I’ve got a lot to learn right now. Drinking from a firehose, as they say. Which I’m doing but the owner is making sure I have all the tools I need and providing opportunities for me to get plant tours and taught from some of the most experienced people in the business. Formal learning as well; I’m getting my OSHA and MSHA certifications next week. And staying abreast of innovation and new technology is encouraged. The owner gave me a copy of Disrupt by Luke Williams which I’ll be reading this weekend. How great is this place?
As part of an interview process, I recently took a predictive index behavioral assessment evaluation. I appreciated the people looking at me taking the time to evaluate me in more depth than just my resume and a phone call. Most people are familiar with the Myers-Briggs test, which precipitated from Carl Jung’s work and slots you into four categories, eg: ENTJ. I love these types of assessments and have always been fascinated by human psychology. I considered majoring in psychology for a while in college and took enough classes in it to nearly do it. And I read a lot of books that dissect the mind and tinker around to see what make us tick and causes us to behave the way we do and make the decisions we do. As a marketer, I’m passionate about consumer behavior, aka human behavior, which bumps up against sociology as well. It’s fascinating to study people as individuals and how we act collectively in certain situations, in certain cultures. It usually leaves more unanswered questions than answered ones, but it’s fun and fulfilling to know how we’re wired and engineered. I also find it helps interact with others more easily, which is also why I suppose I was asked to take the test. They wanted to know who they were dealing with.
Most of these types of tests ask you the same questions over and over in different ways. And you sort of know what they’re getting at. In other words, you can easily manipulate them. But that’s not advised. Unless you truly just don’t care about your results and the purpose for which you’re taking it. Answering them honestly and thoughtfully will yield some interesting insight as to who you are and how you work, and people being people, everyone loves to know about themselves.
This Predictive Index test is different, however. I did a bit of research on the company and history of the test and how it’s built, because it’s only a 2-page test, with a list of adjectives. All you have to do is indicate how you think others view you and how you view yourself, or how accurate the words are to that end. Many of the words are synonyms, and being an English major, I also found this test to be even more interesting for the choice of adjectives used and their subtleties. The test has been in use since 1955, which is a LONG time ago, for the psychological field, so one would expect accurate results, right? Here’s how they developed the form:
Adjectives for our form were field tested with results from more than 136,000 people and went through content review, psychometric review, and fairness review. The assessment was then given to a global norm group of more than 10,000 people. Norm tables and scoring models were updated and verified before finalizing the form and sending it through a multilevel translation process and regional review.
I found my results to be surprisingly accurate, inasmuch as I know myself and consider how others describe me.
I later took a DISC assessment, which is a 24 question “test” in which you arrange a series of adjectives in order of how you feel they define you, from most to least. The adjective sets that you must arrange sometimes have nothing to do with one another, which makes you choose a hierarchy of traits. As with the Predictive Index, you can tell the words were carefully chosen, and what the exercise is aiming at. But I take them seriously, since trying to game the thing is pretty poor form and will end up only hurting me and the company.
Not surprisingly, it reflects the results the Predictive Index found. I’m results-oriented, care a lot about quality and details, have high standards, can communicate well, am careful and deliberate, and don’t have much patience, which I’ve always struggled with. The funny thing is, I consider myself patient. Our perception of ourselves and how others view us being different isn’t news to me, though. That’s the case with nearly everyone, I’d imagine. It’s like hearing your voice for the first time compared to what you think you sound like.
2017 has been the worst year of my life without question, and there have been some depressingly strong competitors for that title. And I hope I’m never able to revise that.
Despite my bellyaching, I have a lot to be grateful for and am grateful for all that I have. “Have” not just meaning material possessions, which ebb and flow through life for many people, but health, companionship, support, love, and many items that aren’t physical. Although some may embody a physical form, like my dog Annie, who has now made it to age 16, unbelievably.
As much as I have to be grateful for, I’d like to be grateful for more. And I don’t think one’s circumstances and self-improvement happen by chance. To the contrary; I’m always trying to be better, and our circumstances are a result of our decisions, for good OR bad. And optimization’s my thing. In fact, when times are bad like they’ve been at times I feel like my life becomes a series of platitudes and inspirational “Hang in There, Baby” posters.
But it works, because for the most part, those Tony Robbinsesque strategies really do change your perception. And to change your circumstances, changes obviously must be made. Sometimes drastic and often uncomfortable.
To prove it, here are ten things I’m going to work on in 2018 that are hard to do, but I believe pay dividends:
Mastering my sleep
Asking for help
Knowing when to shut up
Minding my own business
Mastering my thoughts
Some of these will come easier than others but if I focus on all of them, 2018 should be brighter. I’m posting them here to remind myself, lest I forget and for accountability’s sake.
I don’t post much personal stuff on this blog, ironically, because there are better places to record those types of things, and I know no one cares about it anyway. “Ask not what you can do for the internet, but what the internet can do for you” is most people’s attitude, so I’d rather provide informational posts of value rather than useless personal blather. I’ve managed a personal blog since 2010, so I’ve learned what sells and what doesn’t. Which is a good lead-in to this post.
Today was one of those days that I’ll remember for a long time, for two reasons.
When I first moved to Louisville back in 2011/2012 – I can’t even remember off the top of my head anymore because I don’t generally spend a lot of time looking in the rear-view mirror, I set out to find who the movers and shakers are in the tech and business scene here. Louisville isn’t a massive city, so it wasn’t too hard to pinpoint a few dozen names who were making things happen here. Who’s been having successful exits, who’s in the 40 under 40, etc… And one of those people kept popping up, all the time on my radar. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and even work with quite a few of those impressive people, but never that one guy who really impressed me among the top few. But I’ve followed his work this whole time, in a professional-stalker manner (I’m intentionally not mentioning his name because that doesn’t seem polite or appropriate).
And today I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to him for an hour or so about working with him, just sort of randomly. I’m in the job market now, looking for digital marketing work, and it just so happens he’s in the market for a digital marketer. He’s the Managing Director and was a co-founder of the business, which has been on the Inc. 5000 six times and has won many awards and is simply a great tech firm with some of the biggest brains in Louisville, with operations overseas that employ around 1,200. But that I was in that room telling him how I could help him was a strange experience, after following his body of impressive work for so long. Which brings me to the second reason.
I realized I know a lot more about digital marketing and marketing in general than I thought I did after that meeting. Sort of like reverse-imposter syndrome. While I thought the meeting might be a humbling experience(the man has been described to me as a “genius” by others), it proved the opposite and was more encouraging than intimidating. I’m sure that has a lot to do with his obvious humility and character. But it shouldn’t be such a surprise, since I have an MBA in marketing strategy, have taught marketing management, and for years now have lived and breathed the exact work they’re having pain points and problems with, if not decades when talking about writing compelling copy and following bleeding-edge tech. And it’s not exactly a crackerjack operation. So the same strange meeting also yielded the realization I’ve been selling myself pretty short. Which is a nice sensation-don’t get me wrong.
My little business operates at a $95/hour rate, which I haven’t had a problem getting, once qualified clients are located. That’s the hardest part, which is the same issue many businesses have, including the one I was exploring today. But it may be time to reevaluate some avenues I’ve been feeling out because I think my capabilities and skills are above where I’ve been punching. Which is a great epiphany to have, but makes your mind spin with new opportunities. It’s exciting to think about what the future may hold. We’ll see what doors today open.
SO. Here’s what happened. This is my email to the Managing Director of the firm.
For professional reasons I just wanted to document what transpired regarding my consulting engagement offer with GlowTouch Technologies, so hopefully, the situation doesn’t reoccur, to record it for my reference, and make sure the event doesn’t just vanish into the ether.
On October 17 you verbally extended an offer for a three-month engagement after interviewing and gathering information with you and Paul Kuamoo to identify areas for optimization via data collection, analysis, and marketing strategy implementation and techniques for your customer support division, including writing SEO optimized blog posts. I was to increase conversion rates for your sales department by identifying and executing marketing methods and was allowed three months before reviewing the measurable results and effects of my efforts. For my work, we agreed compensation would be $5000 per month, and I was to begin on October 23 at 1:00 pm to provide time for you to prepare your marketing team for my complementary insertion and due to the fact I had prior commitments before that date and time. After the three month engagement, we would review the outcome and situation to see if my continued efforts would be of utility in a full-time capacity or not.
On October 20, after I appropriated some necessary software and developed preliminary strategies to hit the ground running with as little friction as possible on October 23, and declined two other procured but scarce consulting offers to focus intently on the quarterly GlowTouch Technology engagement, we discussed the agreement once again. You informed me you had alerted GlowTouch Technology’s marketing team that I would be helping them in a consulting capacity, and their reaction to your presentation was revolt. Your solution was to immediately remove me from the verbally agreed upon engagement and put your staff on a type of notice, with the mention that my services may or may not be needed at some undefined point in the future.
I’m still currently available and willing to assist GlowTouch Technologies with marketing issues. However, my experience causes me to suspect the misalignment within your marketing department may be a result of using an agile methodology which tends to separate duties over time within operational sectors, resulting in inefficiencies. There may also be managerial issues at play, but I have no way of pinpointing them without assigning myself to research and inspecting where the business problems may lie.
In any case, I wish you the best of luck in your efforts and pursuits and hope you find the solutions and results you’re seeking. It was a pleasure to finally meet you, and I truly hope our paths cross again.
Recently I decided that it was time to build myself a workbench in my garage. As the mechanic, groundskeeper, repairman, and scullery maid, I’m constantly digging through piles of tools and junk. Constantly. It’s a waste of life and can frustrate you on some days. I’ve built a couple of simple benches before, and I’ve built elaborate (NOT fine, although that would be awesome if I had the shop) cabinetry and furniture so it wasn’t going to be a difficult project. I designed and built the weird trash can beside the bench, for example, to keep an old hound dog I once had out of the trash. I also discovered some great tips and learned a few things along the way, as I typically do. That’s partly what makes these types of projects fun. Here’s the debriefing:
I started sketching out some ideas, given the limitations, budget(as inexpensive as possible, but not “cheap”) wants, needs, lessons learned from other benches and so on.
my workbench plans
I measured out space I had available and spent a LONG time trying to decide between a 6, 7 or 8-foot long bench, and 30-36 inches deep. People think deep benches would be great until they have to reach the back of them and discover their arms aren’t tentacles. I also had the problem of hauling my lumber back, because we don’t have a pickup. Just a couple of soccer-mom SUVs that don’t even have roof racks. So I couldn’t just buy several 12-foot-long boards and a bunch of 4×8 sheets in other words. I had to be frugal with my cargo space. Also, as anyone who works with wood knows, estimating projects is an art that requires some creative mathematical logistics. The goal is to have a little scrap as possible left over. (I cringe when I drive by house construction dumpsters piled high with scrap, although contractors are much better these days with lumber being more costly than when I was little. Every kid in the neighborhood had a half-pipe in their driveway courtesy of the new neighbors.) So there were quite a few considerations.
Also, and this was important, I want to be able to disassemble it and move it fairly easily when needed, yet be as solid and heavy as possible. That was a tough one, but I did it. I didn’t want the additional height of casters and didn’t really feel like engineering around that either. Also, the butthead contractor that built this house only put ONE outlet in the garage. That’s insanity. So I also needed to work some electrical magic. The bench needs a lot of outlets. I have an old tablet and great-sounding Klipsch Bluetooth speaker going on the bench (for music mostly, but also internet advice when I get stuck on something) that need juice, plus soldering irons, chargers, glue guns, lights, USB, a little fridge, and a bunch of other power-hungry items. My power tools will be plugged into some other outlets I rigged elsewhere.
In the end, I chose a 72-inch by 30-inch bench top. Six feet. That allowed me to buy 3 sheets of 4x8x1 plywood, and all 2x4x8’s but one, which was a 2x4x10. It also left some good space around it in the garage. 8 feet would have been unnecessarily tight and large. The benefits of those 2 extra feet of length wouldn’t have been worth the extra material costs and resulting mathematics because the whole thing would need reconfiguring. If I remember, the 8 8-foot boards were about $3.50 apiece and not the poorest quality that were about $3; not the best that were about $5. Just plain studs. I had the store make the cuts for me which mostly were the same length except for the longest, which was a cut-to-fit diagonal brace which was of course only a little over six feet long. This saved me a lot of time and gave me square cuts and chops and nice clean ripped plywood that would have been tough for me to get in my garage setup, which I was obviously underway renovating. And it allowed me to fit it all in my vehicle. By the time I reached that point and unloaded it in my garage it was like assembling a kit. And here’s a big reason for that: I bought the legs and shelf supports already made.
a better shot of the front of the workbench
I discovered these things which are awesome and were a key to the project. They make sure your bench and shelves are flat and square and that it’s already at the right height. It comes with brackets and pre-drilled holes for the wood, and makes it super-easy to build, and they’re very affordable. I built this entire thing myself with no help, except for the guy that cut the boards at Lowe’s. For the legs and shelf brackets, they were about $65 on Amazon, and money very well-spent.
workbench right. note the position of the lightswitch
I wanted a pegboard for my tools to go vertical, plus that space would just be wasted otherwise. My tools laying around in piles and in buckets and hidden all over the place was getting to be a bit too much to keep maintaining my sanity. I shouldn’t be spending 5 minutes looking for one socket. And all my sockets and bits and screws and such were rusting away in 20-year-old plastic deli meat containers. Ridiculous. I decided on upgrading this part because these metal powder-coated enameled boards that are heavy-duty should last a lifetime, and have a lifetime warranty to back that up. I’ve come to hate thin MDF pegboard that frays and breaks and pegs have to be jammed into and is crap. These are like what you’d find in a pro shop. They had a premium price too but considering their lifespan and utility I’ll get out of them, they’re a good value. I bought a rack for my many pliers, which I also recommend as well. A really nice, well-made, helpful product that can go onto the pegboard or sit on the bench. I also got some really cool pegs for them to go with the ones that came with them, and since they’re metal, they’re magnetic, which is nice. I have some cool magnets that’ll work well on this board for clipping and hanging things. The metal pegboards are attached to the back of this bench in 2 ways. (They’re made to mount onto a wall and come with the needed hardware.) At the top, they’re screwed into the above-head shelf through pre-drilled holes, and at the bottom, they’re screwed to a 3x1x6 strip of oak I have across the front of the boards along the length at the back of the bench, which also keeps screws and little things from rolling away, and creates a nice little shelf to put little things out of the way. I oiled it as well when I was oiling all the oak.
I screwed a strip of steel across the bottom shelf to prevent wear and tear from feet and other things sliding around on that corner and keep the splinters at bay since I have a 1 year old toddling around. The center shelf has a 90 degree angled strip of molding that was stock from another project which was already primed and I painted. It keeps things from rolling off as well and is easily removed if wanted. For the bottom 2 shelves, I used sanded 1-inch plywood. Nothing too special but much nicer than particle board. $23 a sheet if I remember which was a little more than I wanted to spend but since the essence of the bench is the bench top, and to make my life easier and not harder, ultimately it was worth it to me.
For the rest of the bench, other than the bench and shelf tops, I use some really clean and nice 8-foot pine studs. I was surprised at how clean and knot-free they were compared to what I found at Home Depot not that long ago. Incidentally, I bought my lumber at Lowe’s. For no other reason than their prices were better and their lots of lumber they each had at the time were way different quality. Lowe’s had far better. Their customer service sucked incredibly though, except for the kid that cut my lumber. But that’s another post.
For the top, I used 1-inch sanded oak veneer plywood. In retrospect that wasn’t the best decision, but it’s no big deal because of how I built the bench. The top isn’t secured down by screws; it doesn’t need to be. So I can change out tops easily if and when I want. I considered using 2 or 3 separate pieces as the top but thought the seams would be too much of an annoyance and could see too many problems developing from that. I hope to eventually find a thick solid top to put on there, like an old door, but that’s going to take some doing. I didn’t want to use MDF because of the aforementioned tearing and total hatred of moisture and I just hate the stuff for most projects. It’s frailty, unnecessary weight and short lifespan aren’t worth the marginal cost savings to me. Finding a piece of solid, natural, heavy wood, at retail, would blow my budget. Oak is hard, heavy and durable and nice to look at to boot. The only and main problem is that the sawmills use micron-thin veneers, so I’ll need to be mindful of tossing a transmission up across it. I oiled the top and the small amount of finishing around the bottom above-head shelf with Danish Oil, natural. Tung oil would also work but I’m out. There’s no reason to do any more than that. It’s a workbench. But the oil will condition the wood and help protect it from the slop and spills that are about to be all over it. It’s also cheap, easy to reapply and easy to find.
There’s a diagonal board to support the top which some people seem to feel is optional. I wouldn’t recommend doing that. And considering you can get a board that’ll work for about 3 bucks, if not free if you don’t mind construction-site dumpster-diving, why wouldn’t you? And even if you don’t want to do the math of figuring the diagonal, or using an online calculator or app, you can still just measure it when needed for the proper fit. It just sits atop the leg brackets and doesn’t even need to be secured. The whole thing is nothing but 90-degree cuts and is a basic project, in fact. But the added strength this gives the top is well-worth any effort needed. The top will likely be sagging otherwise, especially if you live in high-humidity areas like the coastal deep south.
I primed and painted the bench to match the rest as best as possible with leftover primer and some red metallic enamel paint I found on sale at Target of all places for $4, which I have a ton left over that I’m excited to use elsewhere. I obviously have a black and red thing going on just by looking at this very site. Red being my favorite color and black being its natural partner. And just coincidentally, my tools and stuff go perfectly together for the most part. All these drawered containers are already changing my life.
I also installed some cabinet lights above, which are hidden behind a 6-foot oak strip I already had, and put the switch on the right shelf post. I was tempted to use velcro or something other than the screws to just slap the lights up there, but I’m glad I wasn’t lazy. Use the screws, after predrilling. You’ll be glad you did. I plan on covering the wires on the post near the switch once I come up with a good idea for doing that. I secured the wires with some clear little removable clips and the twist ties that came with them. 20 clips did the trick. I ran the wires to the front so they’d be hidden. Initially, I instinctively planned to run them to the back because that’s where the plug is and it seemed natural. But after thinking about it, that made less sense. Just a tip.
For the shelves and shelf brackets, which I had never used before, I learned a few things and didn’t follow directions anyway. I had the guy at Lowe’s cut the plywood I bought for the three main lower bench shelves widthwise first, meaning chopping it short, then ripping it lengthwise afterward. This gave me 3 boards that were exactly the same length and depth, and the exact same length of the workbench, and all perfectly square. So I sandwiched 2 of them for the bottom-top shelf above the bench and just a single 1-inch plywood scrap for the very top shelf, which only has empty containers on it so even if there was a disaster, no one would be brained by putting anvils up there.
A 2-inch thick shelf is pretty sturdy, so I’m confident about it. I’d need to buy 12 more 2x4x6s if I were to build them as intended. I don’t see the benefit in that cost, considering what I’ve got. I put the best-looking face of the oak plywood on the bottom shelf facing the bench. I didn’t oil that part-the underside of the “lower-top” shelf. In retrospect, I wish I had because the oil, again, would have not only conditioned it but also reflected the lights onto the bench well, albeit subtly. But it’s a relatively light color which is why I chose to do that, plus the top will take a beating with stuff being tossed and slip up on it, so it makes sense to use the cheaper plywood for the top of the shelving sandwich. And if anyone’s short enough to see up there, it’s nice looking natural wood.
I spent a lot of time planning this out. I wanted to end up with a good bench, which I did, and not spend months on the project (I built this in a couple of hours, once planned.) Usually the least fun parts, the planning and prep are the most crucial to the end result. They paid dividends in this case for sure, which is why I’m sharing the details.
A before/after of my workbench project.
Edit: May 30 – So far I’ve added a 48-inch power strip with surge protector that’s attached with little machine screws and bolts to the base of the pegboard, facing outward, just above the strip of oak along the back. Other than that addition, cleaning up the electrical wires from various tools that I like to have at hand like a Dremel, soldering iron, battery chargers, and a glue gun; arranging the pegboard and drawers better and putting a screw on the side to hang my yardstick, I haven’t had to modify anything major so far.