Pimp your own ride

Kerry Knudsen

Kerry Knudsen

According to Scott Nelson, president of the Wood Career Alliance of North America, in the next years we will see more entrepreneurs coming out of the trades than out of four-year institutions. I wish I’d said that.

Let’s test it. There has never been a day of my adult life that I was not a proponent of education. Education is the foundation of freedom. It is mandatory. However, one is not an adult long until you discover that education can take many forms, and not everything labeled as education meets the standard.

A favourite description of education holds that education is the process of knowing more and more about less and less until you know everything there is to know about nothing. I’m not sure that’s totally accurate, but I have concluded that the endless stream of graduates from universities shows little initiative, small ability to find a job and a huge lack of performance once employed. Decisions in university-think are made by committee, and responsibility means blaming someone else.

I advertised a few years ago for a salesman. One of the first respondents was a fellow that said nothing about his experience or his productivity. He said before he offered himself as an applicant I would have to guarantee him $70,000 per year. I said that sounded fair, and I would be happy to guarantee him $70k. However, I said, fair is fair, and if I guaranteed him $70k per year, he would have to guarantee me $700,000 in revenues. So far, I have not heard back.

These are not the qualities one sees in a business owner. I have been writing profiles of business owners for over 25 years in several industries, and if one thing stands out, it’s that they were going somewhere. Some had degrees, and some had certificates. Some had none. All had initiative. I never interviewed a business owner that ended up there by accident. However, I have met many managers (and teachers) with advanced degrees, where accident is the only possible explanation.

Naturally, I have also known many competent MBAs and Ph.Ds. The degree is not the fault. I just don’t think that education, as it’s currently defined, means what it implies.

I would argue that universities are not producing leaders, but that leaders produce leaders. I have heard dozens of business owners over the years remark wryly that anybody that wanted to compete against them came to work for them first. It’s almost as if you could say anybody that wants a good job goes to school, but anybody that wants to own a business goes to work. An upcoming expert studies at the foot of the master.

“In the next years we will see more entrepreneurs coming out of the trades than out of four-year institutions.”

What motivates those people? Some would say it’s money, and that’s probably true, as far as it goes, but there has to be something more. After all, most business owners seem to make money only if they risk money, so a pure love of money would almost argue against business ownership for fear of loss. I think money is not so much the goal, but in business it’s how you keep score. The goal is probably harder to define. It may be as simple as being who you are.

Therefore, if a young person, in his bones, is a business owner, how does he get launched? Since time began, he studied at the foot of a master. Universities and colleges have tried to wear that mantle, but it has become tattered. In search of head count, schools have softened standards, mislead seekers, preferred certifications to experience and focused on pleasing governments instead of creating excellence.

I have a proposal to make. Most of you that have made something of yourselves both know it and know you should share what you know. One way people show their personalities, and one form of evidence of success that students look for is a car. It’s not much, but it’s real and it’s universal. Some business owners have a Ferrari. Others like a Harley, a Navigator or a Benz. It’s a statement of the score. Some, of course, are not as focused on cars, but many would-be trainees are.

I propose that you, as a business owner or manager, send in a professionally done image of you in front of your shop with your car for publication in Wood Industry and for promoting the wood industry in Canada to young people that want to own a business one day.

Outrageous? Probably. However, we need to do something. Everybody complains about the shortage of help, yet we either won’t or can’t do the one thing that will attract the calibre of worker we need – show the money. We all know we simply can’t raise the starting wage to $70k per year, just to meet the demands of the wanna-bes. However, we also know we cannot either demand or rely upon the educational system to provide for us that which we cannot supply for ourselves.

If this works, Wood Industry’s commitment will be to publish serious photographs (all models should be cars and all antiques should be people), compile the images where possible and circulate them in an effort to catch the attention of potential wood industry leaders of tomorrow.

We are losing the PR war, folks, to TV-generated forest-trail monitors and forensic dead-guy fascination, yet the only thing many of our potential workers want is a chance to be themselves and pay their bills – and maybe pick up a nice car along life’s way.

This idea may not be the answer, but I haven’t seen much new on this topic in 20 years, so I am willing to do my part if you are willing to help.

To participate, have a professional photographer (if you can own a Benz you can afford a pro) do a session with the owner(s), car(s) and factory, and send a high-resolution (RAW or similar) file to news@wimediainc.ca. The Subject Line should say Cars. In the body, give the names and titles of the persons in the picture, the make, year and model of the cars and the name, location and number of employees of the company.

Speaking of promotions, Wood Industry hosted its Second Annual Canada Night on Thursday, August 23, in Atlanta, in conjunction with the management of IWF. You can read a full account of the show and the party in the September issue of Wood Industry, but let me say it was a humbling and exciting success. We report an estimated crowd of 330 – 350 attendees, plus 120 – 140 associates and sponsors, for a total of 450 – 500 total people in attendance. What an experience to see nearly 500 Canadians assembled in one spot outside our own borders! In honesty, I don’t think we have seen that many industry people gathered together in all the inside-Canada association events for the full year, combined. I would especially like to thank Jim Wulfekuhle with IWF, and the sponsorship of C.R. Onsrud, General International, Doucet, Akhurst, Stiles, Blum, AkzoNobel, Richelieu, Royce//Ayr and Weima.

Wood Industry has more promotional projects on tap for the coming months. We have a proven record of success, and we are bored with the stagnation the industry has suffered since the American sub-prime mortgage debacle tried to sweep the legs out from under the world economy. Time is moving on, and so is the wood-products manufacturing sector, the housing market, the economy and Wood Industry.

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