Volume 40, Issue 3 March 2005
by Lyle R. Hill
I can’t tell you exactly why, but I liked him the minute I met him. He was not only bright and witty, but also articulate and polished, easy to talk to, pleasant to be around.
He’s been retired for a few years now, spending his winters in Florida and his summers in the suburbs of Chicago. My first encounter with him was approximately four years ago when he was working as a consultant for the owner of a well-established competitor of ours in Chicago. And while I instantly found him interesting and likable, I thought his Internet screen name … Old Buff … was particularly delightful, not only because of its uniqueness, but because it seemed to fit him so perfectly.
I answered the phone on the second ring and instantly recognized the voice of Norm Weiner.
“Norm … Old Buff … how have you been?”
“I’m OK, Lyle, not bad at all. And I’m particularly glad that I’m down here in sunny Florida while you are up there with all that snow and cold.”
“Yeah, it has been a little rough of late, Norm, but what can I do for you today?”
“Well, Lyle, a few years ago, I got kinda intrigued by the glass industry. In fact, I found it to be quite interesting, and for the past four years, I’ve maintained a subscription to USGlass Metal and Glazing magazine just so I could keep up with the industry and, in particular, its people.
“Really, Old Buff?”
“Yes, Lyle, as strange as that may seem to you, I have, and that’s what prompted me to call you today. For you see, I’ve begun to sense … from what I’ve been reading these past several months … that the glass business may not only be overly competitive with inadequate rewards for the effort expended, but perhaps even self-destructive as well. Your articles in particular, Lyle, could lead one to believe that the glass business is worse than ever!”
“You know, Norm, if you keep exhibiting this level of perception, you will have to change your moniker from Old Buff to Old Fox. The glass business is very tough and with 34 years of experience, I feel qualified to tell you that it is, indeed, harder than ever.”
“OK, Lyle, let’s suppose you’re right. Then why … and this is my question … do people stay in the business?”
“Flawtification, Norm. Genetic Flawtification. You see, the ones who get in and never get out are simply programmed to suffer in this industry for as long as their health allows. It’s a genetic problem … a flawtification.”
“I see, and are there other symptoms … perhaps other ways to recognize people with this so called flawtification?”
“Actually, Norm, there are. In fact, sometimes you can even see it developing at an early age. They’re the slightly built, quiet kids who, for some unknown reason, pick fights with the playground bully knowing that they will get the snot beaten out of them. They’re the people who enter contests that they know they can’t possibly win, try out for teams that they can’t possibly make. Once they get into the industry, they start to believe that the estimates they put together can be met, that their suppliers actually care, that their customers actually intend to pay. Simply put … they are semi-crazed dreamers who, because of their flawtification, are completely out of touch with reality.”
“I’m having a hard time accepting this, Lyle. And I suppose you will also tell me that only people in the glass industry have this problem?”
“I’ve met others with it, Norm. But it seems to hit hardest … do the most damage … to glass people. But l can tell you’re doubting me so let me give you a more specific, current example. Have you ever heard of Elmer Hayes?”
“Actually, Lyle, I think I have heard that name, but I’m not sure where or why.”
“He’s a legend in the Chicago area glass business, Norm. Very well known … very dynamic … an all-around super guy … someone who I hold in the highest regard.”
“And he has this flawtification thing you’re talking about?”
“Yes, Norm, he does. Let me explain. A couple of weeks ago, Elmer called and said that he had been told that we had a couple of glass rack trucks with almost 200,000 miles on them that had been in daily service for more than 18 years without a breakdown. He first wanted to know if this was true and if so, what kind of trucks they were and where could he get a couple like them. Said he had just bid a large job that would start up in a year or so and that a great deal of trucking of materials would be needed.”
“So what, Lyle? What’s wrong with a guy wanting to buy a couple of trucks that he can put heavy miles on and get 18 years of service out of? I mean, that seems pretty normal to me.”
“Norm … Elmer’s 83.”
“Yes, Norm … Genetic Flawtification!”
Lyle R. Hill is president of MTH Industries of Chicago. firstname.lastname@example.org
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