Volume 48, Issue 2 - March/April 2009

A Manager's View

The Dinner Table
Don’t Be Afraid to Try Something New
by Keith Castleman, manager of 84 Lumber in Blue Springs, Mo. Mr. Castleman’s opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of this magazine. You can e-mail him at kcastleman@kc.rr.com.

Growing up my family always ate dinner together. When I say we ate dinner together, I mean that we all cleaned our plate every night. My mom is an excellent cook but that fact in itself has nothing to do with why my brother, sister and I cleaned our plates every night. We cleaned our plates because before we could leave the table, our plates were inspected by my dad so that he could make sure we weren’t wasting any food.

Dinner time at my house was usually very interesting. My mom worked full-time while I was a kid, but she still managed to muster up enough energy to cook a hot meal every night and the five of us usually sat down together to eat it—all of it. 

Dream Big
My dad usually dominated the dinner conversation. In the 18 years I lived at home, my dad held all of the following jobs: basketball coach, sporting goods store manager, real estate agent, homebuilder, lumberyard manager, cattle farmer and school teacher. That’s seven jobs in 18 years for those who are scoring at home. We also moved eight times in that same span, and I never even changed school districts. I remember a few specific dinners when my dad would talk about how he was going to become a millionaire. This list includes such ideas as parakeet farming (is this even a profession?); buying the minerals underneath people’s land (he made a bunch of money doing this); feeding chicken litter to his cattle to save money on feed (believe it or not the cows wouldn’t eat it); converting a church into a duplex (he made money on this too—hallelujah); and converting an abandoned church into a lumberyard (he was going to call it Holy Wood).

As you can imagine, there was always something for the five of us to talk about at the dinner table. The really cool thing is that every time my dad brought up a new idea at dinner, I believed we were on the edge of becoming filthy rich. Every single time, every idea, no matter what, I was a believer. I can still hear him telling us about the parakeets, and I guarantee you if I had it on tape, you would be doing research on the bird business right now.

Try Something Different
I’m constantly amazed at people who do the same things over and over again and expect to achieve a different result. Businesses today are full of employees and salespeople who haven’t been successful since the economy turned south, yet they keep doing the same things day after day and month after month. Business owners and managers keep saying the same things to their staff and then somehow expect the sales and profits to miraculously reverse course. Today, my dad is a millionaire and restaurant owner. No, you won’t find that on any of the lists above, but somehow, some way, he figured it out. I was sold on all of my father’s crazy and different ideas because of the passion he had for whatever idea was in his head at the time—in much the same way as your employees are begging you to come up with a new idea, a different process, a new program, something … anything. 

Be Passionate
Our jobs and lives these days are very difficult and full of stress. The same is true of the lives of your employees and your customers. They (your employees, families and customers) are looking for that new idea that everybody can get excited about. They want you to give them a reason to get out of bed every day. They get frustrated because you keep trying the same old stuff that works to a point, but won’t take them to the next level. When is the last time you sat down to dinner with your family and spent the entire time talking about your new idea at work? Believe it or not, your family wants to hear that passion in your voice that went away with the stock market. They NEED to feel like you are excited and doing well in your job. They will eat it up—every bite—and you don’t even have to be a good cook. 

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