Founding Fathers: A Father’s Day Greeting For Our Industry

While the official title of Sunday, June 20th is “Father’s Day,” I can’t help but be appreciative of the many bosses, supervisors and executives I’ve worked for that made a difference in my career by their mentoring or example.

“If I have seen farther than most, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants” was Sir Isaac Newton’s eloquent tribute to the many mathematicians and mentors who preceded him.

While the official title of Sunday, June 20th is “Father’s Day,” I can’t help but be appreciative of the many bosses, supervisors and executives I’ve worked for that made a difference in my career by their mentoring or example.

While all of us in management stay focused on getting the product out the door on time and in spec, I wonder if we understand how important our leadership and example are to those around us.

Here is a respectful tip of the hat to some of the men and women in authority who, at some point in my career, made a difference.

Joe Vaschak, Maintenance General Foreman Joe taught me the difference between “thinking” and “knowing” the parts were on-site. I was an hourly wage maintenance expeditor at the time.

R. Grant Ingersoll, Manager, Metallurgical Services He made me laboratory supervisor after my successful assignment in environmental engineering. Lessons taught: “authority” could, in fact, be just and fair; and that the safety of my crew was more important than anything anybody else asked me to do.

Reg Kirsch, Chief Chemist Reg showed me, by example, how to use influence when authority wasn’t there. He also taught me how to take care of my best performers, even when they were being let go.

Chet Pucilowski, Vice President From Chet, I learned that it was easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission. He also said that well-interpreted data trumps mere opinion and experience every time.

Rick Ressler, Sales Manager Rick taught me one of the most important lessons of my career: Always respond to the customer’s inquiry with what we can offer, not just what we can’t. Giving the customer some form of positive response gives the salesperson another opportunity to get his job done (an order on the books) andto get work for the crew in the shop.

Barb Sprankle, Sales Manager, Acting Plant ManagerDespite self-doubt and the size of the challenge, Barb kept her plant operating, her customers happy, shipments on time product in spec, and everyone safe despite the stress of the plant closing. She made sure her employees didn’t fall through any “administrative cracks” through the shutdown process.

John Asimou, Vice President of Quality and Operations“If you aren’t helping either sales to get the order or operations to make the order, then you are just an obstacle needing to be overcome.” The understanding of that statement and the lessons of empowerment from John are long overdue in many minds, in many departments and in many industries.

William Scott, Quality Systems “If the process isn’t documented, it isn’t a process; it’s a practice.” If any quality system that Bill touched ever had a discrepancy in an audit, I’d be amazed. Bill pioneered paperless documentation systems using servers instead of forests’ worth of paper-filled manuals.

Miles Free, Jr, Motor Inspector and my Dad— When I was still in a high chair, eating breakfast, my dad would come home after a midnight turn and talk about his shift fixing the annealing crane or the pickle house roof ventilators or whatever. His help with science projects made my understanding of many things clear at a very early age. His example of going to work and coming home to family are indelible examples of what a father should be. Getting to college and finding out that what we discovered in a fifth-grade science project was called the “Galvanic Series” taught me a lot about the difference between understanding and book learning.

I hope that this list of some of the folks who taught me important lessons and mentored me in my career helps you to consider the contributions that you, too, are making every day by your example and leadership. Happy Father’s Day!