Working for The Man

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.

a large dryer

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?


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