A perspective on greatness

“It is not that you should do wrong by design but that you should never do right by mistake.” – Junius

Following such a title, I suspect many a reader will continue on, expecting/hoping to find your own name or that of your own company. Truth be told, there are many great companies and leaders in our own PVF industry that aptly fit that title.

Often, I write to the next generation, acknowledging their self-described brilliance, their ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, cure cancer, eliminate diabetes, solve world hunger, broker Middle East peace, and apparently fix our enterprises. While their self-assessment is often exaggerated and fraught with hyperbole, they are indeed a talented generation.

In the classroom and at the company, I often take the opportunity to encourage them to slow down and respect the tradition that came before them. For, without a “before them,” the very enterprise that employs them wouldn’t exist. In the spirit of managing expectations, they must be reminded that a career is not a sprint, but rather a marathon. However, today, I write to us – to the incumbent leaders, to our generation.

Our industry suffers an identity crisis. Nobody at the neighborhood party walks in asking the host to point out the PVF guy in the room, and the crowd begins to form. If you don’t think we have identity issues, just try a bit of campus recruiting. While the media and government may be convenient targets for the unrecognizable status and value of our industry, I encourage a bit of introspection for our identity image shortfalls. Perhaps a peak in the mirror is in order as it would identify both the source and the solution.

You see, there is an impressive humility in our industry that at times works against us. Often that humility extends to self-depreciation. If Boomers get too big for their britches or millennials get over their skis, our industry has a way of resetting them. We have our very own version of the tall poppy syndrome.

Many of the great successes in our industry are self-made. There is a pride that accompanies the self-made, which suggests that our actions will speak for us. Our achievements and history are known, and we have survived some of the greatest challenges an economy or government can ever present. We hang in there on the high, inside fast ball known as chin music. We’ll take the hit of the inside pitch right on the elbow, refuse to flinch, and advance to first base with that air of, “is that all ya got?”

However, many in our industry need to broaden their horizons and as they say, get out more. At times, it takes that outside perspective to see how great of an industry we have, the jobs we create, the taxes we pay, the commerce to which we contribute, and the charities we support. We create positive ripple effects in our economies and communities well beyond the initial glance at the numbers, which alone are impressive enough. Just think, without us, construction/manufacturing grinds to a halt. Without construction/manufacturing, the economy stumbles, and without a viable economy, the country gets weak in the knees. Enough said.

If this were a doctoral dissertation, we would need to test that hypothesis, however, I’d rather not…as the economy did it for us beginning in 2009! I purport that our industry is relevant and, as the title of the article suggests, we are a great industry as evidenced by our perennial relevance. The endurance of our PVF industry is not measured in weeks, months, years or even decades, but rather centuries. As our industry and its leadership gets “older,” or euphemistically “mature,” we are now preparing the next generation of industry leadership; in effect, those to whom we will entrust our life’s work. It is imperative that we get the word out.

Our industry is indeed great. We offer high-paying jobs, willing mentors, accelerated promotional opportunities, educational support. What an appeal for someone to invest his/her career. The most appealing to this next generation may be the opportunity to make a difference — to make a difference in our communities, our country, and the lives of others. Our industry makes a difference. It is incumbent upon us to explain it properly and thoroughly. We must shout it from the mountain. The generation that follows us will have the ability, through our very own industry, to be a change agent and this will resonate with them.

First, we must find those individuals and begin packaging the attraction of our PVF industry. Next time you are either at a wedding or funeral, look around and note the number of your attendees that you know from our industry. Throughout life, friendships are formed, lives are lived and wealth is created. The medium facilitating this is our great industry. Find those with STEM education or technical interests and aptitude, for we will be their laboratory. Let’s network this next generation of High Potential Employees (HPEs) through our trade associations and friendships, so they know they are not alone.

Thus, the take-away challenge: Raise your heads a bit higher and your voices a bit louder. Puff your chest a bit more, and know that your existence has been far more important to many a constituency beyond your own family and company. Through academics, directorships, speaking engagements and investing, I have been exposed to literally dozens of other industries.

Academically, I prepared myself to have a choice of career options. In the end, I liked us! I elected to spend my career in an industry of greatness with people who make a difference beyond the borders of their own company. I have found that environment and those people, and it is us… l

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