Your first job can teach you a lot about yourself. It is typically the least paying with the hardest labor, making it tough to find the motivation to consistently perform at a high level. Many times you end up doing the work no one else wants to do for a manager no one likes. It’s a time in your professional life where you have very little knowledge, experience or refined skills to offer an employer. That makes growing with an organization a challenge since you are rarely given key responsibilities to show value beyond the grunt work you were hired to do.
At 16 I was hired to work at the Higginbotham Bros & Company lumberyard in my hometown of Comanche. They were the early DIY stores in small town, central Texas. My job was to go out to the lumberyard and carry back the lumber and any 60 lb bags of concrete on the customer’s order. The lumber was in long wood shoots in various sizes from smaller 2×4 to larger 2×20. We stocked pretty much all #1and #2 Southern Yellow Pine for the folks who know their lumber. Unfortunately, the lumberyard had no shade and was spread out over a large area behind the retail store. The job was very physical, especially for me as a smaller kid.
While hard and monotonous, I found a lot of value in my job at Higginbotham’s. I took great pride in how fast (shocker I know!) I could run to get the lumber and concrete back to the customer’s truck after the order was handed to me. The customers would always comment on the high service level I provided and how much they appreciated my extra hustle, which always made me feel good about myself. I always offered to come in early or stay late to help the store. I made sure I did my part to make the company successful. One thing everyone would say about me at the store is that I could never be outworked.
The work was not very cerebral of course. That was good for me, as I wasn’t blessed with a ton of book smarts. My blessings were more in the form of common sense, work ethic and drive. I even remember my dad telling me, “Son, never trade one ounce of your common sense for an ounce of intelligence.” This was his less than creative way of saying that street smarts matter in life.
I look fondly back at that time before my professional life. I don’t miss working outside all day in the 100+ degree humid Texas summers, or the $125 weekly take home pay after taxes, but I am grateful for the opportunity it provided me to learn about the importance of having a strong work ethic. It’s not surprising that I still value effort and hard work today at DWC.
Today’s progressive business world is focused on data and innovation. Good ole’ fashion hard work has become one of the most underrated competitive advantages a business can have. When you can inspire a group of people to work harder towards a common purpose, your organization can achieve almost anything. This isn’t to say you should abuse your people with long hours and no time off. It is quite the opposite. You should inspire your people to find real passion in their work if you expect them to work harder. They will know when to push hard and when to slow down if you give them the trust and autonomy to do their job.
When I think back to my first job at Higginbotham’s, I’m certain there was a smarter or more strategic way to do the work. However, I was able to find success by simply outworking everyone else. I never stopped giving maximum effort because it was the one thing I could always control. That was the same mentality I had when I started DWC. Call me naïve but I still believe if we just outwork the other guys, we can win. That has to remain part of our DNA, if we want to be successful.
A DWC Family member sent me a quote recently. The quote epitomizes our people and organization. Personally, it resonates with me as much as any quote I have ever read in the past. It summarizes how I have always felt about business and competition. You would think the quote was from a famous author, activist, capitalist or war hero. To my surprise this one came from Agent J, or better known to some, as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. For the record, I would die on a treadmill for this family.
-Written by Bryce Huett, DWC CEO