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Letters to a General Superintendent (Part 17)

What follows is the 17th letter in a series of 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:

You know what? We did it! To put in drywall slang, we got it done! We made it happen. We took care of our customers during this crazy boom. We got ourselves and our customers past this crazy period of year-end closings, and we did it by doing everything according plan. Mission accomplished! I chronicled the whole episode in these letters. How good is that? Perhaps too good to be true, but it happened and we’re past it. Customers are happy, and so are we. Been there, done that, let’s move on. Although we can glory and gloat for a nanosecond, it’s time to move on to bigger and better things. Let’s get back to the matter at hand.


Back to self-eliminators, the term I’ve coined to describe pesky individuals who cause more problems than solutions—far more. These are the pain-in-the-ass individuals who haunt an organization with their dismal contribution of nothing. Why in the world would anyone put up with such nonsense, especially when it comes to management? We don’t! Right, Joe?


Self-eliminators are bad apples, dirt on the floor, cobwebs in the attic—without a doubt, they are the bottom 10 percent. To put it my terms, these are the “culprits.” Self-Eliminators! My mentor, Jack Welsh, wouldn’t put up with them. He cleaned his house annually, systematically and deliberately. I’ve mentioned Jack before; he was and still is the manager of the century! Managing the gigantic octopus of General Electric, with sprawling tentacles all over the globe.


Jack had a very simple system that worked plenty well. The bottom 10 percent were gone. The middle 70 percent were kept and cultivated. The top 20 percent were promoted! Promote from within. That’s the mantra. At the same time as you are promoting from within, boot the riffraff out! Kick them out. Be courteous and legal, but remove them. If they quit on their own, better yet. A letter of resignation is the best news you’ll ever get. They are a stain on the white cloth of a clean and sanitary organization. Tell them goodbye!


Now you can re-organize things. Having removed the obstacles, you can improve our organization. Let them (the organization as a whole) witness the example. Let them see top management in action, dealing with the problem. They are begging for it. They know it needs to be done. The only question in anyone’s mind is, Why didn’t it happen sooner? When it comes to a crap-sandwich like this, the sooner you can flush it down the toilet, the better.


Let me help you define a self-eliminator. These are those who don’t get with the program. They are resistors, those who don’t buy in. They are the downside of the upside, and they need to be turned inside out and downside up. The sooner they are bloated and floating downstream, the better. If they really aren’t on board, they need to abandon ship. If not, they need to be pushed overboard by the captain.


We’ve got a business plan. Hopefully that’s been clearly communicated. If it has, and they express anything from outright resistance to a silent veto and you’re sure of the plan, dump them. Get it done and get it done now and hope that they leave on their own in the meanwhile. They will be doing everyone a favor. Thank you. Thank you very much.


OK, we both know we’re past this. You’ve seen to concept in action, first hand. Jack, I’m expecting you’ve learned something here and next time around you can do it yourself. We’re going forward, onward and upward, doing things like things need to be done. No more BS with self-eliminators, and you and I are leaving the past in the past, no matter what the future holds. I sure hope so. Because you’re the man, and I’m the man counting on you to be the man.


Bear with it, because you’ve just suffered a Jack attack and as you know full well, I’ll be back.


Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. Visit him on LinkedIn or contact him at

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