Okay, I’ll Do It: Handling a Serious Call with the Boss

By Lyle Hill

The sound of the ringing phone startled me. I had been in a reflective mood and was looking out my home office window, watching a beautiful snow fall while contemplating the meaning of life, when it started its clang. I answered it as it began its third ring, but before I could offer up a greeting, the caller began to speak.

“Lyle, have you got a minute?”

I quickly recognized the voice. It was the boss and there was something in her tone that immediately let me know that we were about to have a serious conversation.

“Of course I have a minute for you. Or even an hour if you want or need it,” I
responded.

“Good, Lyle, because we have to have a serious conversation about your next article.”

Didn’t I tell ya? I knew from her voice that we were not headed to any place but serious.

“Okay,” I replied, “let’s have it.”

“Well, Lyle, a lot of indicators are pointing to some really tough times ahead for our industry and I think it would be a good time for you to put together a serious and comprehensive article about where we are headed. You know, call some of your contacts and get some behind the scenes information that only you can get and then provide an open and candid report on what the next 18-24 months look like.”

I hate being told what to do. And what’s this “behind the scenes stuff that only I can get?” I think I’m getting a “snow job” here and if she thinks I don’t know it than she’s got a problem.

“You know, I think I understand what you’re trying to say, but we both should know by now that I don’t really do ‘serious’ very well. Mostly because I don’t think I am ever taken seriously.”

“I disagree, Lyle. I can think of several times when your articles were taken seriously.”

“Okay. Name one,” I fired back.

“The first ones that come to mind,” she began, “were your articles about the hated ‘energy surcharge.’ Remember those? They were serious and we got a lot of feedback on them. And remember when you attacked our neighbors, the Canadians? I still bear the scars from that.”

Of course I remember those articles. But they didn’t do any good. Nothing changed and those crazy surcharges are still alive and as big a nuisance as ever. And totally phony.

“Listen, Lyle, we got some nice feedback about your cute little COVID Christmas poem, the article about working a day for your son, and the one about ‘beautiful glass’ really hit the spot with some people. But we are a hard-hitting news organization representing the glass industry and we need to cover serious topics that are both timely and meaningful. And one more thing, Mr. Hill …”

As she was speaking her voice had grown louder and she was picking up speed with each sentence. I was starting to resent her tone. I mean, who does she think she is?

“And what,” I snapped back, “might that one more thing be?”

She didn’t answer immediately and I could hear her breathing getting heavier. Then finally …

“I am your boss,” she uttered with a fair amount of emphasis on the word boss.

Now let me clearly state that I am no wimp and I don’t like to be pushed around. So I did what I think any other man or women would do in this situation and without hesitation, I fired back …

“Okay. I’ll do it”

Thus it was that I mustered up all the seriousness that I could and began making calls to my contacts at every level of the architectural glass and metal industry. I spoke with the owners of large and small companies …with wholesalers, manufacturers and glazing contractors. I even called one of my old friends in the financial industry who deals primarily with large project financing. I also started reading articles and commentaries on
the subject, and at this point I need to pause and offer some “serious” advice to you. And here it is. If you are not reading the USGNN™ daily news briefings you are really missing out on some very important, timely and meaningful industry information. Specifically, before you read another word of this article, I am going to suggest you read Deb Levy’s blog in the February 1 USGNN and the February 3 blog by Nick St. Denis also in
USGNN. Then, after you’ve seen what Deb and Nick have had to say, continue on to my summary.

Summary: If you are a Bible reader, and I am, there is this great book in the Old Testament named Ecclesiastes. The book is credited to King Solomon and I am now going to borrow a few of his words (NIV) to conclude this article …

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:”

Depending on which segment of the industry you are in, you might be seriously challenged in the near future and it may be coming at you faster than you realize. I sincerely hope I am wrong, but I don’t think that is the case. How bad it gets and how long it lasts is up for grabs, but I am quite convinced that we are in for a tough time ahead. Shed debt, get lean, pay attention to what’s happening and follow all of those good business practices that by now you should have learned.

Okay. That’s about all the seriousness I can take. I think it might be a good idea for me to revisit that surcharge thing one more time.

Lyle Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America, a company providing research and technical services for the glass and metal industry. He also serves as president of Glass.com, an information portal and job generation company for the glass industry. Hill has more than 50 years’ experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at lhill@glass.com.

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