Volume 42, Issue 4 - April 2007

the BUSINESS 
Ben … As In Franklin-Part Two 
by Lyle R. Hill

OK, let’s back up a bit and provide a little clarity as to the background and reasoning behind what is to follow. Specifically, the nefarious Jungle Jim Bruney called me a couple of months ago and mentioned that he had seen an actor playing the part of Ben Franklin in a TV series and that the actor looked like and reminded him a great deal of me. I admitted to Jungle Jim that others had called me with this same observation. We talked for a bit and he continued to compare me with Franklin … but in a not too flattering way. In fact, Bruney pretty much called Franklin, and therefore me, a bit simple-minded and full of hot air. He also stated that Franklin was over-rated and that his well-known aphorisms were both trite and of no value whatsoever. 

We argued for a while, and I told him that I was going to do a little review (with an added comment or two) of some of Franklin’s witticisms in an effort to prove that they were meaningful and insightful then and still are today. So there you have it. And if you want a little more of the background for this, may I suggest you track down and read a copy of the January 2007 issue of USGlass magazine, page 80. Soooo, here we go! 

“The worst wheel of the cart makes the most noise”: There have been many variations of this saying, the most famous of which is probably “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” My guess is that Franklin was trying to say that often the person doing the least, or who is the most problematic, is usually the one who complains the most or makes the most noise. In business, I think we often live with the noisy wheel a little too long and if a little grease (and grease comes in a lot of different forms) doesn’t quiet the noisy wheel, I recommend finding a replacement wheel as soon as possible. You know, it’s not really fair for those other wheels to have to listen to that squeaky wheel all the time either. 

“He that lieth down with dogs, shall rise up with fleas”: There is a lot more to this than might be realized at first glance, not only on a personal level, but on a professional one as well. A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to take a look at a newly-completed, mixed use building on the north side of Chicago. The lower floor of the six-story building will be commercial rentals while the upper five floors will be very high priced condominiums with a terrific view of the Chicago skyline. The building’s window and curtainwall system is leaking terribly. I soon found out that numerous lawsuits have already been filed; the glazing contractor involved is most likely going out of business; the aluminum supplier has not been paid and has filed a mechanics lien on the property; and the “fix” needed to make the building waterproof will most likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The glazing contractor was woefully incompetent and maybe we could say that he was the “dog” in this adventure. But the aluminum supplier involved had absolutely no business whatsoever in selling his products to the “dog” to begin with and, in my opinion, they deserve the “fleas” that they have now acquired. And believe me, their reputation with a number of people, has been damaged because of their ill-advised decision. 

“A good lawyer, a bad neighbor”: Think about this for a second or two. I was under the impression that the lawyering profession in this country had only become scummy in the last 50 years or so. Evidently, they have always been a despised bunch! By the way, another of Ben’s sayings that dealt with lawyers was this “A country man between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats.” Now there’s a thought for you.

“Well done is better than well said”: I guess there are a lot of variations of this. For instance, “talk is cheap”; “easier said than done”; “the proof is in the pudding” and so forth and so on. But the point is easily seen—there are a lot of great talkers in the world who spend virtually all of their time doing nothing more than talking. What a terrific thing it is when you run across someone, whether it be a supplier or even a co-worker, who does their job efficiently and effectively and doesn’t need to talk about it or themselves in the process. By the way, another of Franklin’s favorites was “speak little, do much.” I love this guy! 

OK … that’s it, at least for now. I am a big Franklin fan and I could go on for several more pages with what the great statesman said. And, unlike Jungle Jim Bruney, I feel that Franklin is pertinent today, just as he was then. But, alas, I am only allowed so much room and while I have certainly tried to use it well, I have, nonetheless, used it all. 

the author: Lyle R. Hill is president of MTH Industries of Chicago.Mr. Hill’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.


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