Seek Out Mentors and Recognize Your Support Elements

An Exclusive

CHICAGO — No matter your position in this industry, at one time or another, you must ask yourself: Why am I here? Where am I going?
Before we get to these questions, we must first examine the industry as a whole. For example, our industry is considered one of the top 100 industries in size. When you add drycleaning, it moves into the top 75.
While segments of our industry tend to consolidate, merge and cease to exist, the fact of the matter is that much in our industry, when compared to other industries, has really remained, with some minimal exceptions, consistently stagnant.
The obvious current lack or use of institutional and corporate knowledge is coupled with the absence of a consolidated educational base, which, quite frankly, is so fragmented that we tend to lose focus as an industry.
Most educational programs are pretty much outdated; even the basics are flawed in some respects. Hands-on application in an educational environment is pretty much gone, not to mention the obvious lack of using real experts from our industry.
Just think, wouldn’t it be great to hear from folks like Norvin Pellerin, Peter Mier, Hans Hertig, Sam Tadros, Bob Fesmire Sr., Jeananne Grandenetti, Bill Gurtler, Bill Crawford, Logan McCabe, Bruce Jensen, Bob Quigley, J.D. Edwards, Lynn Dunning and David Stern, not to mention gather the memoirs of industry legends who have passed on, such as Howard “Pappy” Reeves, Sam Gardner, Wilbur Johnson, Dorothy Kuhn, Ray Kehm, Bill Bee and Jerry Kemick?
There are many to add to these lists, but I hope you get the gist of where I am going.
Hopefully, some of you have had the pleasure of knowing these people, and you understand the mark all of these individuals have made on our industry.
Most of these folks are mentioned on the Web several times over, but remarkably, none of these individuals are ever mentioned in any educational forum that exists today — History 101, I think they call it.
Coincidentally, these individuals shaped my 30 years in this industry. I consider myself fortunate. Let’s face it, to build and design more than 50 laundries during a career takes additional help.
Now I ask you, do you have a mentor? If so, can your mentor shape your future in this industry? Being in the right place at the right time certainly has merit, but being surrounded by really knowledgeable leaders who are not solely distraught over competition is unique. One mentor will never do — you must have many to cover the myriad elements of our industry.
These industry leaders I’ve mentioned had patience. Some of them I never particularly cared for, some I liked very much, but they were all exceptional listeners. Did they know everything? Probably not, but they sure knew more than most. One thing for sure, they all had our industry in their hearts and were willing to talk about it more than any other subject.
They were all successful because they surrounded themselves with the best teams available. They all set benchmarks, and they all reached them no matter what their level of management was. They all recognized their support elements: family, co-workers and their families, members of their organizations, and others.
True mentors/leaders, like those I’ve mentioned, are/were fighters who have supported recommendations that were vetoed at the top. Usually the people at the top (and they always exist) don’t understand. One role of a leader is to act out the beliefs of the organization and act out his or her part in achieving an organizational goal. Just discussing parts of an issue or goal with the leadership without educating the leadership on the big picture is a virtual waste of everyone’s time.
Find true mentors (there are many fakes out there) who are proven, and who will encourage reflective industry back talk. This is critical! Once this is accomplished, your path to the future will begin to unfold.


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