Giving Something Back

He is both an old toolmaker and a modern businessman. He knows that he knows a lot, even though his wisdom is almost completely lost on the general public.

Columns From: 10/1/1997 Modern Machine Shop, ,

He is both an old toolmaker and a modern businessman. He knows that he knows a lot, even though his wisdom is almost completely lost on the general public. And he'll share his knowledge with just about anyone he thinks has the inclination and capacity to understand.

Even other tool shops. Well, maybe he doesn't quite show them everything, but he's certainly willing to help a young guy along. No doubt it makes him feel good to express his competence to a willing listener. Who could blame him? But there's much more to it than just that. He remembers the mentors who helped him when he was just starting out twenty-five years ago, and to this day his gratitude hasn't diminished. He'll give something back whenever he can because he believes it's good for the industry.

He is also spreading the word that manufacturing matters, and that those who make things for a living are engaging in the most honorable of professions. But he is not saying that simply making an effort entitles any shop to success. The businessman in him knows that you earn your keep every day, or you'll earn your fate, however so sadly.

So he believes in technology, but not more than he believes in his people. He knows he needs the best of both, and isn't afraid to invest in either. Buying machines can only keep you even with anyone else with as much money to spend. It's knowing better ways to use technology that keeps you on top.

He knows all about the trendy management theories, has read the books, and thinks many of them have a lot to say. He's even tried some of those ideas out in his own shop, and they've helped. But he's never given up the heart of his business to anything other than his own wisdom and, for the lack of a better word, instincts. He speaks of the big ideas quietly, not wanting to seem haughty or somehow above it all. He speaks of the little ideas —the good ones—with the delight that he can genuinely share with the guy on the bench. What toolmaker can't love a trick that saves ten minutes or gets you a couple tenths closer to perfect?

He's getting a little older now, maybe a little more reflective, but he hasn't lost his edge. He understands why it's so important to bring the younger guys along, and puts more thought and effort into that job than they'll realize until many years later.

Is he only an ideal? Not at all. I've met a number of people just like him. Thank goodness they are out there making more, just like themselves.

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