I’m honored to be speaking on the topic of leadership at this Chic-fil-A Leadercast.

However, before I jump into this discussion, I must first address a personal caveat on the way we approach leadership.  My views may be perceived as somewhat controversial.   My personal concerns relate to how we elevate leadership over other skill sets, that we have a tendency to exalt our abilities and skills over those whom we lead, the followers.  Perhaps the most integral character trait of successful leadership is humility – not perceiving ourselves as greater than, or more talented than those who have not been called or gifted as leaders.  For those of us who are of the Christian faith, we need to recognize that Jesus called us to take up our cross daily, and follow Him, to be His followers.  Nowhere did he discuss or extol leadership, and yet those that followed him paradoxically became strong leaders.  

I’m reminded of Joseph in the Old Testament who, as a young man, shared his aspirations of leadership with his brothers; how they, like the sheaves of wheat and stars of the sky, would bow down to worship him.  Because of his hubris and immaturity, he was thrown into the well by his brothers and ended up as a slave in Egypt.  After he went through the annealing process of being a slave and a prisoner, he was then promoted into the second highest position in the land of Egypt.  But he only reached this position after he had learned the lesson of humility and placing the needs of those whom he led over his personal needs. Continue reading

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Why the United States should get out of the business of delivering the mail.

The United States should not be in the business of operating a business.  That is an arena strictly for those experienced in private enterprise.  The United States Postal Service is a case in point.

After losing billions of dollars, in an attempt to stem the tide of red ink, it was decided that hundreds of rural post offices would be closed.  This was a logical decision.  If private industry operates at a loss, cuts are made to reduce those losses.

It was appalling to learn that last week the Postal Service had reversed their decision, and they will now be keeping those post offices open.  They proudly announced that they listened to their customers.  They obviously didn’t ask me my opinion! Continue reading

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An accolade to my lifemate of nearly 40 years.

You can tell by the look on her face that this nonsense has to stop.

With Mother’s Day coming up, the least I can do is write a blog in honor of LeAnna.  This woman has been my anchor, the ballast in my ship, the compass that attempts to keep me on true north, the mother of our four children, and a selfless woman who lives to assure that everyone’s needs are met but hers.

Everything God has blessed me with I owe to her. Continue reading

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Tips for the frequent flyer.

View of Hong Kong looking south from
Kowloon across the Victoria Harbor.

Having just returned from a ten-day trip to China, I felt it timely to post a blog on how to travel efficiently.

The number one rule of thumb is to build redundancies into your plans.  Whatever can go wrong will.  Healthy paranoia is your best asset.  Be a great horned owl. Have eyes in the back of your head. Continue reading

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“Bottle Bombs” and Fracking

A fracking well in operation in Williston, North Dakota. Two permits have already been issued for Wayne County.

I wasn’t surprised to read the editorial in yesterday’s Williston Herald addressing the concerns they are having in North Dakota over the truckers in the fracking industry not taking the time to make appropriate use of the latrines, but instead they are reverting to the use of a plastic bottle (referred to as bottle bombs in the article) while inside their cab, which they then throw out the window while barreling down the highway at full speed.

500,000 barrels of oil are currently being extracted daily in the Williston Basin by 210 separate well sites.  The efflux is so great that they don’t have the infrastructure to ship it out.  The Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania has proven to be productive, and now the oil industry is poised to move onto the Utica Shale in our back and front yard here in Ohio.

These drilling rigs are enormous.  They are situated on 5-acre lots.  Each well site costs $7,000,000 just for drilling costs.  Six to eight wells are drilled from the one location.  Once the drill bit reaches the shale at 8,000 feet, the rigs drill horizontally through the shale for an additional mile, each well drilling off in a different direction, to maximize the area within a one-mile radius of the drilling pad.  Water, with a mixture of sand, is then pumped into each well.  The horizontal bores are porous.  The pressure of the water “fractures” the ore, the grains of sand keep the ore from collapsing, enabling the oil to seep back into the well, which is then pumped to the surface.

A schematic of a well drilled by a fracking rig. Note this shows just one of six wells bored from each location, each drilling in a different direction to maximize yield

There has been a lot of talk of fracking in our community.  Apparently the talk has moved to action. Continue reading

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Bicycling or Biblical Studies – which comes first?

Don't they look great in spandex?

Our second son Thomas has two dueling passions – his love for Christ and his love for cycling.

Of course, we know where his actual priorities actually lie, but we can’t help giving him a little grief about it now and again.

Rembrandt's painting entitled The Mennonite Preacher Anslo and his Wife, possibly a harbinger of things to come.

Thomas and his older brother Paul share this passion together.  That’s not the only thing they share.  They both have a strong competitive spirit.  They frequently ride together, and they quietly relish the moment when one of them is able to make the other one “hit the wall” – a biking term for running out of gas.  Having been raised by a demure, quiet, and humble Mennonite woman, neither of them are prone to draw attention to themselves, or to the one that has been vanquished, but the truth does come out in a subtle form, one way or another.

Up until this point Paul has had the upper hand due to a number of reasons.  A couple of summers back Thomas came down with mono and it took him all summer to get back into condition.  Last summer he complained that his bike was 8 pounds heavier than Paul’s, a huge disadvantage when every extra ounce is critical.

For the uninitiated, this is the cycling transfer they put on the back of the pickup.

The Orville Cycling Club races every Wednesday evening, a group that Paul has been a part of for some time.  Unfortunately, Wednesday night is when Thomas is responsible for the weekly youth activity at the church.  To my knowledge, he has not had the opportunity to race with Paul with this group, another unfair advantage that Paul has over Thomas.

This summer Thomas picked up a different bike that is the same weight as Paul’s.  From what I’ve been told, it is game on. Continue reading

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12 qualities you want from your accountant.

We’ve had the same accountant working for our business and family for years.  His name is Mike.  I’m not going to give you his last name.  He has a right to privacy.  Besides, if I refer you to him, I want a commission.

He is the kind of accountant all small businesses would die for.  He is uniquely suited to guide business owners through the shoals of today’s economy.  Here are just a few of his character traits that we have grown to appreciate.

1.  He is not in a popularity contest with anyone in our organization.  He does not hesitate to call people out for poor decisions or inappropriate comments.  More than once he has taken me to the woodshed.  Rather than resent him for it, I’ve grown to respect him.

2.  He is genuinely concerned with our family, recognizing it is inextricably tied to our business.  Before making major decisions, he will sit down with us as a family and walk us through what he feels is in our best interest.

3.  Because he has been in public accounting for more than thirty years, there isn’t much he hasn’t encountered.  In addition, he does an excellent job of staying abreast of the continuously changing playing field called the IRS, and advises us accordingly.

4.  Mike takes the place of a board of directors.  I would not work well with a board.  They tell you how to run your company.  Entrepreneurs like control.  They think they have all the answers.  Mike, however, will mercilessly pound you until you have no choice but to listen. Continue reading

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Our old friends Sam and Mattie

The windmill that pumps the water situated between the laundry and farm house.

The world is seldom presented with an inside perspective on the lives of the most conservative group of Amish, commonly referred to as the Swartzentruber Amish.  One of the reasons for that is that they seldom allow English (their term for everyone that is not Amish) into their homes.

The dirt driveway.

Sam and Mattie have been friends of ours for going on twenty years.  Sam used to work for us until the church requested that he move back to the farm, and in hindsight, it is a good thing he did.  It has enabled him to be the much-needed father and husband on the farm.

Sam and Mattie now have nine children, six boys and three girls.  They purchased a 60-acre farm 11 years ago which has at least tripled in value since then.

My blog will only allow me to hit the highlights of their lifestyle as I deliberately keep my posts brief.

Think back to Laura Ingalls Wilder. This would approximate their lifestyle.

The hub of daily activities on the farm.

They use no electricity, no cell phones or landlines, no cars, no TV, no computers, and eschew graveling their driveways.  Their income is derived primarily from the land.  They plow their fields with a team of horses and a one-bottom plow.  If they can plow two acres a day, they and the horses have put in a good day’s work.

From the fields they harvest oats and corn for the cows, horses, chickens, hogs, and goats.  The hay is cut with a horse drawn sickle.  After it has dried, they haul it loose into the barn where a huge two-pronged hook pulled by horses unloads the hay. Continue reading

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60-hour work week? We could learn from this.

I had to chuckle, and chuckle somewhat derisively at that, when I read the media responses to the purported abuses in China related to the 60-hour work week.

The hysteria they have created is more of a critique on the lack of ambition and a desire to improve one’s lot in our society than it is a reflection of the abuses in China.

The 3.4% unemployment in Hong Kong combined with an 8% annual economic growth rate is not the result of a 35-hour work week and two month summer vacations which, in Europe, has become de rigueur.

The media betrays their lack of understanding of the life of a Chinese factory employee.

1.  The workers are migrants.  Where they work is not remotely close to their homes.  More often than not they live a jostling, two day, non-stop train ride from their homes.

2. They live in stifling factory dormitories that are seldom air-conditioned, many of which are located in the tropical coastal south.

3.  I would approximate the average age of the factory worker to be in their early twenties.  They are strong, healthy, ambitious, and most of them are single.  If, given the choice of holing up in their dormitory room designed to accommodate 6, but instead houses 12, or opting for additional work, their choice is obvious.

4.  Many of the migrant workers come from the family farm where the work is done by hand.  The estimated hourly income from working on the farm is 25 cents.  Working in a factory, they are paid close to $2.00 an hour, an 800% increase.  The goal of many is to work and save for five years before retiring to the family farm, most of which are a half acre or less. Continue reading

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Reduced to a Service Economy? America can do Better…

It is not the common perception, but there is a subculture within the RV industry composed of retirees who do not have the income to support the lifestyle of living on the road, especially with the price of gas approaching $4.00 a gallon when they are getting 4 miles per gallon, at best, with a tailwind.  To make ends meet, they take on temporary day jobs during the summer, working at theme parks such as Dollywood and Silver Dollar City.  When the tourist industry slows down they drive to one of Amazon’s distribution centers where, for the months of November and December, they become temps, filling fourth quarter orders.

Amazon and the theme parks recognize the advantages of this symbiotic relationship and comp the RVers with free RV parks, all hookups included, for those that chose this lifestyle.

Meanwhile, Amazon, within the last month or so, purchased a manufacturing company that makes robots.  They plunked down $750,000,000.  They didn’t buy the company as an investment.  They are looking to replace their employees that currently stock the shelves and pull product for order fulfillment, all with robots, with little regard for their current employees, and with no thought for the RV folks.

I then read that Google is actively working on replacing truck drivers with computers.  They are experimenting with innumerable cameras placed all around the truck, which relay vital information to a computer network within the truck.  It will then be remotely controlled through satellite systems.  The truck will start, backup to loading docks, and drive as long as their fuel tanks allow, as I understand they have yet to figure out how to pull into the fueling stations and remotely fuel up. Continue reading

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