Two More Letters Left

Doug Bellamy / May 2016

What follows is the 22nd letter in a series of 24 letters supposedly written by an owner (Jack Owployer) in response to a general superintendent’s (Joe Gensup) request for something more than the typical job description. Though the company had provided a generic job description, what the superintendent needed and received was much more personal and heartfelt when compared to the sterile notion of do’s and don’ts so commonly emphasized throughout our industry.

Dear Joe:

Writing my final few letters has caused me to do a little soul searching. Last words must by nature be selective and carefully prioritized and most importantly, “last.” They must be lasting words. They must have sufficient content and context to speak well into the future.
    
As I’ve searched I’ve decided to settle on concepts based on real-life examples, moreover, personal experiences. A few years ago, my wife and I jumped in our RV with Harleys in tow and set out on a 10-week road trip beginning in the southern United States and returning through the northern states. I only wish I had time and breath sufficient to tell you all about our trip, but for our purposes, this will suffice.
    
The highlight of the trip turned out to be a few days in South Dakota at Mount Rushmore and a nearby daylong motorcycle ride through Custer State Park. One word concerning Custer Park: Go!
    
Visiting Mount Rushmore was beyond remarkable. But let me take you back a decade or so to a training session I did for our management team titled, “A Monument or a Rock.”
    
A question was posed: “What is the difference between a monument and a rock?” The answer? Everything!
    
A rock is what it is. The only change is the effect of nature and time. Sometimes you do wind up with something nature does that resembles a sculpture, but there is no substitute for the detailed craftsmanship that results from the vision, skill, purpose, planning, disciplined and intricate effort required to take a rock and turn it into … well let’s just say Mount Rushmore.
    
I don’t think anyone would dare to suggest that eons of time, the howling wind and rain and whatever fury nature unleashed, would result in Mount Rushmore. Such daunting tasks are not left to happenstance.
    
So then, what are you doing with your career and our business? Are you settling for whatever time and nature happens to produce?
    
A monument is a rock that has been imposed upon. Someone had the vision to see the rock’s full potential and put in the painstaking effort to transform it, in spite of every imaginable detail/obstacle to achieve what to most, is quite simply, unimaginable. That is the definition of greatness: doing what the overwhelming majority consider impossible.
    
In the early stages, others won’t appreciate it. It may seem futile or a mammoth undertaking. They don’t have the energy or interest. Feeble bunch!
    
But the sculptor sees beyond what the rock is, recognizes its potential and goes to work fashioning that rock into the monument he (and perhaps he alone) can see in its present state.
    
Now, let’s work in a little more allegoric content. What follows are random interviews with three workers on Mount Rushmore. Certainly there were others who saw the potential and purpose much more clearly—clearer, that is, than two of the three interviewed.
    
They were asked a simple question: “What is it you do here?” The first individual answered, “I earn $8 per day.” The second replied, “I run a jackhammer.” But the third got it right, and I want his answer to echo in your brain from now, until forever. His answer? “I am building a memorial.” Two of the three were working on a rock for money, but one of them was hard at work creating a monument for all time.
    
Our business is 40 years old. You are entering into the third generation of the top leadership position, so what’s it going to be? A monument, or a rock and another day’s wages?
    
Do you have a wisely considered plan, and can you see it taking shape? Moreover, can others understand it, see it taking shape, share a personal vision consistent with yours, and are they determined to deliver on it?
    
I’m assuming the former, so let me expand on the allegory. First, there were setbacks, time and money were wasted. During the Depression, portions of the project had to be scrapped, money ran out frequently, the project came to a repeated standstill, the master sculpture died in process, and his son stepped in to complete the project. Even at that, the original vision was never fully realized. Sound familiar?
    
I’ve saved the lessons learned from all that for my next letter.

—Jack

Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. He is available for consultation, business management seminars and training. Visit him on LinkedIn or contact him at doug@altadrywall.com.