Ramblings

Doing good deeds

Growing up in the small town of Humboldt, KS, there was this little welding shop. It was just a two-man operation, there in the late 80s, building trailer hitches for ranchers and farmers. The hitch they made was something different, the first real innovation in that industry. Over the past 20 years, that business has grown to employ hundreds of people, to lead their industry, and to enjoy some of the lowest turnover and highest employee satisfaction rates anywhere.

One of those cofounders and the owner & CEO is my dad, Joe Works. He’s a humble & caring man and when it comes to being acknowledged for the good he does, he tends towards humility, no want for personal recognition.

But in this economic environment, times are hard. Especially in the automotive industry: truck sales have plummeted; the RV industry ground to a halt due to high fuel prices; the price of steel doubled last year. Times are hard indeed. Today, the shop can’t afford to run their production lines more than a couple of days each week. But despite all this, despite this lasting for months, the company has yet to lay off any employees.

Here’s what they’ve done instead:

B&W has volunteered company employees to do a huge number of community improvement projects:

  • building a new baseball field,
  • repairing existing baseball facilities like painting dugouts and fixing fences & batting cages,
  • doing work at each of Humboldt’s many churches, including installing new gutters and handrails,
  • cleaning up Humboldt’s parks, repairing tennis & basketball courts, building new horseshoe pits, and installing grills,
  • re-roofing community shelters,
  • landscaping and building new welcome signs at the edge of town,
  • building new bike racks for the local elementary school,
  • and more, continuing today.

What’s more, B&W has also implemented an “Employee Appreciation Program”, whereby each employee can plan a home project day that allows them to stay home and coordinate three other employees to accomplish some much needed home project. These have included residing their homes, trimming trees, doing yard work, fixing fences, and so forth. It has, apparently, been a great success.

During President Obama’s latest speech to the nation, he recognized a Miami banker who shared his $60 million bonus with over 400 of his current & former workers. What an impressive thing to do, I thought, but it also made me recognize the good that a smaller business owner can do, not only for their business and their employees, but for their communities. And I’m very proud of my dad for being just that kind of guy, and for doing the good work he’s done.

I also just found out last night that NBC Nightly News is coming to Humboldt tomorrow to tape my Dad, B&W, and the community for their recurring “Random Acts of Kindness” segment. I don’t know any details about when it will air, but as soon as I find out, I will update this entry and post something to my Twitter account. Please watch, if you can.

My brother Tony has posted a Flickr photoset of pictures of B&W’s Community Projects. Check it out.

Update:
Here’s the segment, as it aired:

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Comments

  1. Aaron Stroot

    05 March 2009

    That’s awesome what your dad is doing, and I’m sure national recognition was the last thing he was looking for when he volunteered his employees to do this work, but it’s great for his company to be recognized so that it might inspire others to do similar things. I will be watching for some advanced notice so that I can catch it on Nightly News.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Brandon Ratzlaff

    05 March 2009

    Your dad should definitely be commended for everything he and his company are doing. It’s acts like these that generally go unnoticed by the media, but have a much more significant impact on people’s lives than what the media usually reports. With all of the doom and gloom going around right now, I believe more stories like this need to be told. Our nation needs that sense of hope, and telling the stories of those people who are truly making a difference right now can go a long way toward accomplishing that. I’ll be sure to check back for the update.

  3. scott finkeldei

    05 March 2009

    Pretty great idea and one that could work in many businesses and places. Like Aaron and you mention, i doubt he did this for any recognition but he sure deserves it. It is the kind of thing that people seem to have forgotten about in the rush of life for the last 30 years or so. It is nice to see that people all over the country are starting to see opportunities to contribute, give back, share, and participate in their communities.

  4. Tony Works

    05 March 2009

    I see one sentence that may contain a factual error. You wrote: “Today, the shop can’t afford to run their production lines more than a couple of days each week.”

    That was half-true as of a few weeks ago. Since then all employees have been working on the production lines full time. The reason it was half-true is that cost of labor was not (and maybe, rarely is) the primary factor for running only 3 days a week, which was done for months. The main reason is when people aren’t buying trucks, or 5th wheel campers, they aren’t buying as many hitches. It makes little sense to build too much inventory, especially with expensive steel, in that environment. Recently, inventories had dropped enough that we needed to start building it up again, hence the suspension of Workshare.

    That is the other little twist not reflected in your sentence. Workshare is where one is still employed, but with limited hours. At B&W, production only ran 3 days a week. The other two days, most production employees were off, and collecting a partial Unemployment check for those two days. B&W actually supplemented that Unemployment check to bring them to their standard pay.

    So that’s the source of this excess labor, which was put to use in the community, and then for the workers themselves. Even though production is now full-time, these projects have continued through the present, to leave nothing half-finished.

  5. Joshua Works

    05 March 2009

    @Tony Works
    Thanks for the clarification. I knew I didn’t have a full understanding of the measures that were implemented, so I appreciate the correction. Glad to hear the production line is running full-time again.

  6. Dylan Bathurst

    16 March 2009

    Very inspiring story. It’s nice to see people care more about people than money for a change. Thanks for sharing, Joshua.

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