"Piglet noticed that although he had a very tiny heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude"
~ A.A. Milne
~ A.A. Milne
A few weeks ago, I found myself traveling through New England on a training assignment with one of our newest team members, Sara. Sara is one of our three new regional sales managers at OptiFuse coming to us directly from the campus of San Diego State.
On this particular trip, my goal was to introduce Sara to many of the customers we currently work with in the region as well as having the opportunity to visit with several great industry friends that I have made over the years.
Over the course of the last several years, my duties at OptiFuse have evolved from mostly sales related functions to managerial and financial tasks. Therefore I was excited about the prospects of getting back on the road to actually meet face-to-face with current and future clients.
Although there have been several advancements in electronic communication over the past 30 years, I still can’t think of a better way to exchange ideas and thoughts than to sit across the desk or restaurant table conversing with someone directly.
Friendships are created by sharing experiences and creating some history between one another. Rarely can this be done via text messaging, e-mail or even on the phone.
Although there is always the subtext of a supplier / customer relationship, more often than not, I find that many of our clients have become personal trusted friends of mine as well.
Such is the case with my friend Lou Dinkle, founder and president of Beyond Components, an electronic components distributor, based just outside of Boston.
Now I wish I could say that Beyond Components was a major customer of OptiFuse, but in reality, we still haven’t found the right formula for much success... I mention this only because it means that a customer doesn’t have to be large in order for me to respect the manner in which they do business.
Whereas many companies have a mission statement and perhaps core values that most people who work at the company can’t remember or recite, Lou has created a company credo that helps to guide all management decisions and let employees, customers and vendors know exactly where they stand.
Some of Beyond’s fundamental tenets include never hiring employees away from competitors, hiring people based on character and integrity versus being based on their degree or the college that they attended, promoting from within solely on merit, keeping each employee until retirement and never laying anyone off (even during the lean times), giving back to those less fortunate (Lou and Beyond have given to more than 100 different charitable organizations - including my favorite charity - Arthritis Foundation), and always trying to find a way to put other people first.
This isn’t just talk... this is how they operate... and it’s been wildly successful as they have grown to become the 27th largest electronics distributor in the world with 120 employees, 20 locations doing over $70M in annual sales.
As mentioned previously... OptiFuse and Beyond do not do much business together... but they have my complete admiration and respect for everything that they stand for and represent.
During my last visit to Boston, Sara and I had the opportunity to "hang out" with Lou for a short while.
As we sat there discussing business and personal philosophies, Lou confessed that although the business was continuing on the path to success... over the past few years he was beginning to feel a bit of personal stagnation and complacency.
At a relatively young age, he had met many of his personal goals and now was trying to figure out his next motivation.
He explained to Sara and me that one day it finally hit him that the one thing that was missing from his life was a sense of humility. He was fortunate enough to find his success... now it was his job to help others find their own success.
He spoke to us with a renewed passion that was driven from the idea of finding ways of putting others first.
"I flipped our entire org-chart upside-down", he went on, "Instead of our employees trying to find ways to make management happy and successful, it was now management’s job to make them happy and successful... my job is no longer sitting around trying to make more money... it’s to make our little company a better place to work and breed successful customers and employees".
I told Lou that I had a similar experience not all that long ago myself... however instead of the idea of humility... I found a certain peace in the idea of gratitude.
One of the essential reasons I founded OptiFuse was to give me a vehicle to help others who were being underserved... customers... vendors... employees... our local community... and everyone at OptiFuse continues to work hard to keep that dream alive...
What we seemed to be missing, however, was gratitude... we erroneously believed that we were succeeding based on our hard work... but in reality... it was hundreds (if not thousands) of other people and organizations that were working together to help to make us successful...
But our gratitude doesn’t stop there...
We have to give thanks to the people in our lives that selflessly prepared us for any success that we’ve found... people like our parents, extended family, educators, scout leaders, athletic coaches, mentors and clergy.
By great fortune we were born into a society that prizes security, stability, a rule of law, education, clean water and air, and health care... all things to be truly grateful for...
Most of us should be thankful of stores with a bounty of food and clothing for sale, the employment opportunities that exist for us, the freedoms and rights afforded through our constitution and corresponding laws, safe roads and bridges, and access to global communications.
We are living in a time where there is a great abundance rather than scarcity of resources... and that in and of itself is a reason to offer gratitude...
No matter what drives us... humility, gratitude, or some other factor... we are all in this world together... and by helping others we are in fact enriching ourselves... perhaps not monetarily... but by making this world a far better place for generations to come.
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we are grateful that you are a part of our team..