Not-So-Average Joe
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Not-So-Average Joe

Fresh from GIE+EXPO, ASCA Executive Director Kevin Gilbride muses on a discussion about leadership and success with an unlikely character.

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October 29, 2021

I just got back from Louisville, Ky., where I attended this year’s GIE+EXPO. And for those of you not in the know, this trade show is a gigantic gathering of green industry professionals and suppliers from around the world, and it includes a fair number of pros who manage snow and ice in the winter, as well.

Over the course of a few days, I engaged in so many conversations with successful green and snow industry pros that I lost count. However, the topics de jure were the same: labor crisis; supply chain worries; weather (both pro and con); and balancing the rising cost of doing business with maintaining respectful profit margins.
What really intrigued me, though, were the discussions I had with successful business owners and managers – men and women whom I admire because they really know their stuff. Now, I intended to author a column about some of these conversations and pass their insights on to you, but exactly who said what began to get a little cloudy in my recollection.

So, I created Not-So-Average Joe, a composite representative of those conversations and an individual who represents the successful leaders in our industry. So, here’s my discussion with Not-So-Average Joe.

ME: Not-So-Average Joe, your thoughts on GIE+EXPO?
NOT-SO-AVERAGE JOE: Kevin, please, call me Joe. Wasn’t it great to be back, faced-to-face in Louisville with our industry colleagues? So much to do, see, and experience. And like always, so little time to get it all in.

ME: Joe, what sort of information or problem solving were you seeking out from this year’s conference?
JOE: Frankly, the COVID experience has taught me that I needed to spend less time working in my business and more time working on my business. Like most business owners, I was consumed with the day-to-day, week-to-week stuff. And only recently have I realized I needed to shift my priorities to focus on long-term goals and deeper strategic thinking.

ME: So, how have you been accomplishing this?
JOE: Well, this is going to sound very Zen and all, but sometimes you just need to set aside time to think. Guys like me maintain an open-door policy with our teams, but sometimes you just need to close that office door. I prefer to get away from the office and seek out the serenity of the community library, which happens to have its own coffee shop inside. I grab a cup – and maybe a pastry -- and get some deep thinking done.

ME: Ever find your mind wandering to other things other than business?
JOE: Yeah, and I learned that this is okay … for a little while. What keeps me on track is I make sure to take a notebook and pen along to record my thoughts. And through that I empty my mind and write everything down -- where to go with the business, areas of improvement, issues we’re facing and how to address them. When I finish my coffee, I’m done. Then I go back, maybe in a few hours or the next day, and review what I’ve written down to find any sparks of life in my musings.

ME: And this works?
JOE: I’ll be the first to admit there’s a lot of crap in those ramblings, but there are a few nuggets of gold, too, that offer clarity and inspiration for long-term goals and strategic thinking.

ME: But isn’t this what a consultant is for? To come into your business and help you focus and realize goals?
JOE: There’s nothing wrong with bringing in an outside pro in addition to routinely taking an inventory of your business-related thoughts. Together, they’re powerful tools to analyze your business. Remember, there are all kinds of consultants – financial, human resource, sales, even culture experts. One of the first steps down the road to success as an owner and business leader is the realization that you don’t know jack about everything. Instead, identify those areas where you’re weakest, then bring in a pro to help you sort it all out. What do you gain by struggling other than wasting valuable time running in place?

ME: What are your thoughts on peer groups?
JOE: Only that they’re maybe the most valuable resources available that you can tap into to improve yourself and your company. There are many ways to do this, from tapping into a formal organization like Vistage to reaching out and networking connections with industry peers. The goal here is to surround yourself with like-minded professionals who are open to sharing ideas, financials, strategies, success and failures and all with self-improvement as the goal. Together, you keep each other on task and provide a sounding board you can lean on when you have challenges.  And, in return, you can share your areas of expertise with others.  

One final thought from my conversation with Joe I should add … So many times, I hear owners and managers say they want their companies or snow and ice management operations to be more like XYZ company. And I bet if you looked closely at the people within those organizations, you’ll find that they’re being led by some Not-So-Average Joe's. So maybe it’s time to reach out and have a conversation of your own with them? What do you have to lose?

Kevin Gilbride is the Executive Director of the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA). You can reach him at kgilbride@gie.net