author: Lee Buttolph
I once had someone come to work for my wholesale lumber company(1) in a part-time sales position. He was retired, in his mid-60’s and had a ton of experience in my industries. He was planning on working 3-4 days a week from 10:00 to 4:00 making outbound sales calls to help me fill out our trucks for the next day’s shipments.
On his first day he asked if we could go into the conference room to talk about “administrative” issues. He starts out by saying “I know I am only putting in 20 hours a week so I don’t plan on taking an official lunch break but is it okay if I eat my lunch at my desk in between calls?”
I had to stop him there. I said “First, let me tell you a quick story that should hopefully tell you a little bit about how I run my company.”
I ended up going to Iraq in late July of 2003. This was after the main thrust of the invasion had happened and my future Commanding Officer (CO) wanted some of this new Officers to join him so we could see a real communications network (we were Comm Officers) “in the field.” After about a month, most of the Officers that had been there for six plus months rotated out and I was left with my CO, a Master Sergeant (20+ years experience, former Recon and a Grade A badass) and a small skeleton crew that was responsible for convoying with our gear back to Kuwait and then home to the states.
It was the day before the convoy was to leave when a Marine Lieutenant came into our Camp and asked if he and his three vehicles could join our convoy. I immediately told him yes. I only asked that he have his chief talk with my maintenance Corporal about getting on the manifest.
Well, an hour later, my Corporal comes to find me and says “Sir, I just had someone come and tell me you authorized them to join our convoy tomorrow. You can’t do that.”
“Excuse me. You may want to rephrase that Corporal.” I said, a little ticked off at his forwardness though knowing he didn’t mean anything by it.
“No problem. Okay, tell me why they can’t come.”
“Sir, I haven’t had any time to inspect their vehicles and the Master Sergeant told me ‘if any vehicle breaks down on the convoy tomorrow, he’s gonna kill me.’
“Okay Corporal. Well, their on the convoy. Do your best to look their vehicles over. I will personally talk to the Master Sergeant and let him know it was my call to add them and you haven’t had the appropriate time to look them over.”
“Thank you Sir.”
Well, later that day, I found the Master Sergeant at noon chow and told him the story. I had to ask “What the hell did you say to the Corporal to get him so freaked out?”
“Well,” said the Master Sergeant “I told him, I'm not sure how your old Staff Sergeant used to deal with you (the Staff Sergeant had left on an earlier convoy). If she told you when to be at work, when to eat chow, when to use the head or when to hit the rack. I don’t care about any of that trash. This is all I’m gonna tell ya… If a vehicle breaks down on the convoy home, I’M GOING TO KILL YOU! Do you think you can figure it out from there?”(2)
"With that being said" I started back in with my new sales rep “here is how I run my company. I don’t care when or how you eat lunch. You have been in the business longer than I have been alive. I hire adults that know how to manage these details without taking advantage of me.”
“The only thing I care about” I emphasized “IS IF YOU DON’T MAKE SALES, I’M GONNA FIRE YOU.”
With my full time employees I expand on the speech to include other things I don’t care about: when they start their day, when they finish their day, I don’t care when they have doctor’s appointments or which days they go on vacation. These details are irrelevant to me. For sales people, if they don’t make sales, they are fired. For my yard foreman, if they don’t get the trucks loaded on time, they are fired. For the truck drivers, if they can’t make a delivery on time, they are fired.
My outside sales rep asked me when he started how much he could spend on his expense account. My answer, “don’t spend too much.” I hired him because I knew he was an adult and knew how to spend my money. I also had an Office Manager who would have let me know if he was spending too much.
Hire adults and treat them as such and it will save you a lot of time and hassle.
(1) I sold the wholesale lumber company in the summer of 2014.
(2) We did have one vehicle break down on the convoy home. One of the ones I added at the last minute. Corporal’s life spared.