Volume 45, Issue 12 - December 2010


Ten From ’10
By Lyle R. Hill

My father, Lyle Alvin Hill, was the hardest working man I ever knew. He was the night foreman at Deans Milk in Franklin Park, Ill., for most of his adult life. He and his crew loaded milk trucks six nights a week and when they were done loading them, they gassed them up, checked the oil, made sure the tires were properly inflated and then washed them. At about the age of 12, on hot summer nights, I was allowed to sometimes tag along. And while I was never allowed to actually drive the big refrigerated trucks, the crew would readily give me a couple of dollars a night to check the tires and help with the washing duties.

I liked helping out. It made me feel useful and I always enjoyed watching the guys work because they seemed to actually enjoy what they were doing and each others company as well. They laughed easily and often and there was a natural rhythm to the whole process that made a lasting impression on me even as a kid.

By morning … meaning sometime between 5:00 and 6:00AM … I could usually be found sleeping in the back seat of my dad’s car while he wrapped things up and completed the shift’s paperwork requirements. I would then get dropped off at home and my dad would go on to his second job … a part-time position at a local gas station where he pumped gas and did light mechanical work. When I was younger, I was actually convinced that my dad had been born with some sort of a genetic abnormality which only allowed him to sleep on Sunday afternoons.

Lyle Alvin dropped out of school after the eighth grade to work on the family farm in downstate Illinois. He read a lot … mostly the Chicago Tribune and the Bible … but he was a man of few words. However, when he did speak, I always listened and many of his favorite and often used sayings are still with me today. Some of my favorites include “the only legitimate excuse for turning down overtime is to attend a funeral, but only if it’s your own” … “nothing is more dangerous than a confident idiot” … “never be ashamed of admitting you don’t know something ’cause nobody knows everything” … “try to learn something new every day” … and the one most often quoted by him … “if you spend too much time looking backwards you won’t see what’s coming frontwards.”

So with Lyle Alvin in mind, and with the closing of what for many of us was yet another challenging year, I want to share a few of the 2010 lessons I learned (in some cases, perhaps, re-learned). And after this, no looking back. 2010 is done. Forever!

In Business, Bad Things Sometimes Happen to Good People
… but truly good people are not ruined by them and often move on rapidly to bigger and better things. It’s not the end … it’s a new beginning for them.

Popeye was Right … when he said “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.” Trying to be something you are not is a waste of time and energy.

The Team with the Best Players Almost Always Wins … no matter what the sport and, in many ways, business is a sport. I am the first to admit that sometimes a quirky bounce of the ball or an off day will allow an inferior opponent to prevail, but day-in and day-out, there is no substitute for talent. And by the way, it really helps a lot if you have an all-star or two on your team as well.

Big Titles and Fancy Offices … are often meaningless. They can’t make a person anymore of a sound business leader than dressing me up in scrubs and handing me a scalpel would qualify me to do open heart surgery.

Often, the Most Important Thing in Business is NOT Your Customers … it’s your employees. Depending on your size and focus, customers may be a whole lot easier to find than good employees. Treat them well. Don’t demand or expect their respect … earn it!

Some People Never Miss Their Target … because they shoot first … usually from the lip … and call whatever they hit the target. Nobody can be right all the time and yet I know people who would like you to believe that they are never wrong…their judgment is always correct … their reasoning is always sound … their memory is always clear. I think they are delusional!

Embrace Technology … it can only make your life better. It has taken me a long time to reach this conclusion. But yesterday, I put up our eight foot pre-lit Christmas tree and after almost two hours of trying to get two strings of lights to work, I broke down and went to the hardware store and bought a $19.00 tester-fixer device and had the problem resolved in less than 3 minutes. I am now a believer!

Nothing Can Replace Family and Friends … and nothing should. Our jobs are important and I know we support ourselves and those we are responsible for by working and earning a paycheck. But while a commitment to excellence in a chosen profession is admirable, at the end of the day, it’s just a job.

As Lyle Alvin Would Say to Me … whenever I got too Up or too Down, “Son, no matter how bad it gets it will ultimately get better and no matter how good it gets, it will ultimately get worse so don’t let the pendulum of life knock your head off.”
Light Still Travels Faster Than Sound …which is why some people appear to be so bright until you hear them speak.

HAPPY NEW YEAR (2011 … can you believe it) ONE AND ALL!!!

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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