Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Need a job? We don't have an unemployment problem here...

It's January, so most of us are thinking about spring and summer. My Truck Buddy is most definitely thinking about it, but for slightly different reasons. We have six months of prep to do to get ready for the summer rush, and we need people.

Here's the thing: every year there's a greater demand for our service, but we never have enough men to cover all the work. After a certain point, we ask guys if they'll take on a few extra jobs in a week, and enterprising Truck Buddies often take those jobs, but there's only so much they can do. This year, I don't want to turn away 50 percent of customers who come to us because we just don't have the manpower.

We're looking to fill multiple crew leader and crew positions, with special emphasis on crew leaders. Who are they? Crew leaders are maestros. They must harmonize thousands of variables in often high-pressure, low-time environments. They must safely drive and load trucks. They must lead groups of men into "battle;" often, they must lead men with...ah..."skeptical attitudes" about authority. All the while they must be empathetic, good communicators, and objective-oriented. Above all, they must be people of integrity, honest, and have a positive attitude.

In the past, we've looked for "professionals between careers." We've had military officers, journalists, photographers, consultants, and even a published author. Surprisingly (to an increasingly older fogey like me), students have been some of our best guys. For most people, this is a break from their "real" lives, but this break is still physically and mentally challenging enough to be far more than simple grunt work.

Nonetheless, reliability and integrity don't reside in any particular background or profession. Some of our best guys have had mediocre resumes. Some of our worst guys interviewed extremely well, had tons of experience, and then completely flopped.

So, do you know anyone who's looking for a change? Are you looking for something different to get you through a rough patch in your life? Do you or someone you know recognize the opportunity to get in with a start-up company at the right time when it's experiencing record growth every year? (Until last year, we more than doubled growth for four straight years.)

Let me be frank, though: we won't take just anyone. In this highly competitive, high-cost industry, reputation is everything. I've been through this enough times now that I won't waste my time with guys whose best "asset" is that they "need a job." Perhaps deservedly so, this industry has a reputation of being at the very bottom. I see it differently -- I know from years of personal, back-breaking, soul-crushing experience, through literal blood, sweat and yes, literal tears, that tough work properly approached can refine and build character. It can be a dead-end job, or it can be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Heh. If nothing else it'll give you a baseline for what you never want to do.

Absolute minimum requirements:
Must be able to lift 50 pounds.
Must have a valid driver's license, reliable transportation, or live near public transportation that can get you to the office even on Saturdays.
Must be able to get to work on time.
Must be able to work well with a wide variety of people -- both co-workers and especially customers.

I'm looking for leaders, or people who can become leaders. Let me be absolutely clear: while I'm probably the most sympathetic employer you'll ever work for, my first priorities are the successful relocation of our customers, the financial health and reputation of this company. Guys who show up late or don't show up at all will not last long here. Guys who gossip and erode morale -- one warning, then you're gone.

On the flipside: if you're someone whose reliability and integrity is always beyond question, I'll bend over backward to keep you here and happy.

The pay is good. The hours are flexible. If you're interested, shoot an email with resume to David@mytruckbud.com.

Let's do mighty deeds.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Today is the most depressing day of the year

Today, a lot of us look at the calendar, realize what day it is, and sigh. We sit on the edge of the bed and think, "How did it come to this?" We will each of our feet to move, slowly, one at a time. We get in the shower (it's not hot enough, but what's it matter anyway...), and our leaden arms try to shampoo a head full of woe...

Wait -- what? You thought I was making a political point? Lol. No. I try to avoid that here. I'm talking about "Blue Monday," which apparently is a thing.

There's some truth to it, I think. All my life I've been a pretty depressed person for whatever reason. But after I got married, had kids and massively increased my responsibilities, I didn't have time to think about my "problems" like I used to. In fact, now I wonder what I was griping about all those years.

Nonetheless, this weekend was rough. Part of it was seven straight days of powering through a plague that makes the Old Testament look like a picnic. My wife and I were only taken out for 24 hours, fortunately at different times. Our kids, however, ages four, two and 8 months, are still not completely over it. Imagine, if you dare, 24/7 puking, diaper overflowing, burning fever fun times. At one point I was holding an infant while helping my oldest son out of his soiled clothes, while listening to my wife retch in the next room at 3 AM...after 24 previous straight hours awake.

Yesterday was mostly better. Sunshine, warm weather, even a little work in the woodshop, which I always love. But man, I was depressed.

It turns out that today, January 21st is the most depressing day of the ear because of the post-holiday financial blues, the lack of light dragging on us, and other things. We look forward to spring, but it's still so far away...

So, don't worry about it if you're miserable. You're in good company.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Are you looking for a manly hobby to take up this year?

Then check out MTB favorite's "Art of Manliness" post on 45 Manly Hobbies to take up in the new year.

I've taken up reading (something three kids and a business tend to take away from) and woodworking. Fortunately, the boys like woodworking, so they can at least focus their chaos in one place with me.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Some time/project/HR management lessons I've learned the hard way

I never took a business class. I studied underwater BB stacking with a minor in underwater basket weaving. (They seemed naturally complimentary). So when I had to figure out how to build and manage a business, I made a lot of mistakes. I still do. In fact, I'm a horrible manager.


I've learned a few basic things, which I call my First Principles. Abiding by them creates order and harmony. Ignoring or forgetting them creates discord and chaos. All of these principles presuppose things like integrity, honesty, honor, courage and all other virtues. Here are the First Principles I try to abide by in order to minimize the daily chaos:

Know the goal.
As some guru or another said, if you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time.

Keep it simple.
I just have to. I'm easily confused.

Have a plan.
It should point toward a goal and it should be simple.

Be intentional.
This is huge for me. "Live and let live" is the fastest way to die, in my experience. Either DO or get out of the way. Or, as Lincoln allegedly said, "Good things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.

Break down the big projects.
Feeling overwhelmed? That's probably because you're looking at the whole thing before you start. Break it down. One thing at a time. "Bird by bird," as Anne Lamott writes re: writing.

Structure your days, weeks, and if possible, months and years. 
This might be a bit repetitive, but it's at least another way of looking at similar things. Once you have a goal and a plan, you have to implement it. That's done day by day, trench by trench.

Don't be a control freak. Get rid of the tasks that are keeping you from the fun/creative parts of your job. If you have no fun/creative parts to your job, delegate yourself a new job.

Take risks.
Get uncomfortable. You'll get nowhere in your comfort zone.

Follow through.
Don't just be a dreamer. If you commit to it, see it through until the end, bitter or otherwise.

Implement your vision, but be open to new ideas.
Democracy is overrated in this day and age. Be a tyrant. But...be a beneficent tyrant.

Hold people to the standards.
If you're not going to hold people to standards, don't bother having any.

Be positive. Negativity is a cancer. 
Having spent most of my life in a negative funk of my own making, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that negativity A) is a choice, and B) so completely warps your point of view that you are literally unable to see reality.

Them's my thoughts. Please feel free to enjoy, comment or argue!


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year! Goals, gifts and going for it.

Howdy! It's a new year, in case you didn't know. Lucky 2013. I am enormously excited (if that's a possible phrase) about this year. Why? Several reasons, but two leap to mind:

  • First, we have never been more prepared, more (forgive me) PRO-ACTIVE going into a year than we are right now. Many thanks to scheduler/estimator/soon-to-be-general manager David for making that happen.
  • Second, I'm on day 3 of the P90X workout (lean version) and my endorphins are having a party up and down my body just beneath my skin. Now, I may have never taken an anatomy or biology course, so that's probably not literally what's happening, but it's what it feels like. It may also be a stroke. We shall see.
We have some pretty bold, ambitious goals for 2013. Some of them are monetary, of course. While I don't do this just for the money, I have to keep it growing to keep up with taxes (uh oh--politics!). And, of course, keeping a fleet of diesel trucks in good repair is a delightful chore I underestimated. And then there's payroll -- some of the Truck Buddies have been here for three years, something I never expected. They're clearly insane. I'll need to give generous raises to pay for psychiatric care.

For the most part, though, our goals have little to do with money. No, I'm serious. For as much as I'm demonized as a business owner, capitalist, whatever, money seriously isn't my first priority. Taking care of my wife and children is. I've been married for six years now. We have three children. The chaos of our early marriage, what with the loss of our first home, the bankruptcy, then the slow, grueling climb out of poverty and business creation kept me pretty preoccupied. It's only in the last few months that I've been able to slow down and appreciate them so much more. My wife: she's beautiful, driven, naturally brilliant and insightful. She thinks she isn't very tough, but while she does whine a lot (;-)), she is still standing tall, face to the sun, educating three high-energy kids while not just passively accepting life, but freaking crafting it to her vision. It's amazing, inspiring and terrifying.

Then there's the kids. The most surprising thing about kids I've learned so far? It's how different they are, how clearly their individual personalities shine through so early. Our four-year-old is freakishly brilliant. He counts backward and forward in Spanish and is already doing math in English. He sees everything and forgets nothing. Our two-year-old, while still showing zero interest in the toilet, is sensitive and fearless. The intensity with which he goes into his imaginary land is so powerful when he goes into playtime mode that I can almost see the topography and foliage of whatever world he's playing in. And then there's our little 8-month-old princess. She glows. I'm not kidding. She stops people in their tracks. She's alert, unfailingly happy even when she cries (she almost seems to be saying "I'm so sorry to bother you, but I'm frightfully hungry, father, and that mysterious smell has reappeared in my diaper. Could you please look into that?)

What's the point of all this rambling? It's this: I've been given a lot, and it is my duty to do a lot with it. As one of my buddies said a few months back, "You don't deserve this." He's right. He remembers me from a time when I had a hard time getting to work before 10:30, staying later than 3:30, and doing anything meaningful between. Pretty much the story of my life for the first 30 years.

We'll hit our five-year anniversary in April. That marks five years since, one night in a gin-fueled panic around 11:00 at night, I randomly decided to get an EIN number on IRS.gov and spend almost a quarter of what I had in the bank account to have LegalZoom.com create an LLC. We were about to lose our home and I had a handful of moves on the calendar -- nowhere near enough to keep our lights on.

Five years later, we still have a lot to do to "ensure" (as far as that's possible in business, in this economy) longevity and financial security. A lot. But thanks to YOU, (assuming any of our customers actually read this blog), we're doing alright. We've helped thousands of people in the DC area. It blows my mind. Thousands of you have taken a chance on our service, told your friends, and/or have come back for further service. Again, it Blows. My. Mind. 

Also mind-blowing: that a handful of guys have stuck through the chaos and remain committed to the vision of this little organization. Some of the guys remember a time when we'd meet at the nearest Starbucks to Penske, have a quick pow-wow, and go do our jobs. We had no central command, no HQ. Standards? Policies? Hope? Little of any of that. But these guys are still here, still (to one degree or another) looking to me to lead this thing to greater heights. 

With the weight of that appreciation and responsibility on my shoulders, I'm going to do everything I can to keep earning your trust and kind words, and the trust of the guys who keep this thing running. We have to erect a sizable bureaucratic structure to keep everything working smoothly as we expand, but at the core of everything we do is service. It always has been, and God-willing, it always will be. While some of the faces around here have changed, the size, type and number of our trucks have changed, the shirts changed, the office changed, EVERYTHING always seems to be changing, in 2013, one thing absolutely will not: our operating principles.

Show up on time. Work hard and fast. Be friendly and careful. 

It's that simple.

So we're going to go for it. We've done amazing things in the last five years, and I think -- and perhaps I'm being a bit naive or idealistic -- I think we've got the basics figured out. 

Thanks again to everyone who's used MTB and told their friends about us. We look forward to an awesome 2013 serving you.