Legacy’s Biggest Influence – Work Ethic

In the days of old when every child worked along side their mom or dad, taking care of the house chores or all around the farm, there were multiple moments in every single day that a good work ethic was learned, taught and lived.

Those days are over.

I would guess that anyone over the age of fifty, could tell story after story about how they learned their good work ethic from their parents. Maybe not in those settings described above, but in similar settings none the less. I can tell you that I sure did. From as early as I can remember, my mom Polly was always working. Since my parents divorced when I was one year old, most of my upbringing was at the sole hands of my mom. Mom worked at the Clinton Regional Hospital as a dietitian when I was four years old. In fact, we lived just across the street from the hospital.

She later worked for Puckett’s Food Stores in the meat department, along with Steve Haggard. Anyone in grocery retail knows how hard that job is. She was the meat wrapper and could manually do her job at least twice as fast as any of the auto wrappers we have in our stores today. That is where, at age twelve, I got my first job in the grocery business. I started out just racking empty pop bottles and bagging groceries on the weekends. By the age of fifteen, I was in charge on Sunday’s – opening the store, running payroll, issuing checks and making sure the store opened and closed properly and that customers were taken care of. (didn’t have child labor laws back then…lol)

Steve Haggard & mom – 1970’s

One of my favorite stories to tell about the time that mom worked at Puckett’s was when I was a Sophomore in high school, we’d ordered our class rings and the cost of mine was right at $80. When it came time to pay for it, my mom signed her weekly paycheck and I cashed it to pay for that ring. It took her whole check. I’ve thought many times about how hard I know she worked and how she gladly signed over that check to pay for my ring.

A few years later, she bought her own store in Arapaho. The 183 Quick Stop from Dave and Sylvia Krantz. As anyone that owns their own business knows, that experience was one that you had to live in the store to make any money. She did very well during that time, but I’ll never forget how many hours she put in every week to make a living there. She was a great connector and was a large part of the community there.

Melanie and I both worked at the quick stop during our Junior and Senior years when we weren’t working for someone else or going to ballgames. I worked for Larry Coulson, along side C.L. Preston one year, driving a wheat truck and plowing the wheat ground after harvest. We built fence during the winter months that year. Another year I worked with Johnny Mack Shephard – helping with wheat harvest. Johnny’s sister Connie made the best breakfast and Bess made the best field dinners you can imagine. Melanie also worked at the Arapaho Dairy Boy for Bess in our earlier high school years and then two years at Bluncks Studio.

Another major example of a good work ethic in my life has been Melanie’s dad, Ralph Roll, a third generation farmer who worked typical farmers hours along side his dad, William ‘Bill’ Roll. Sunup to sundown and most of the hours in between. He never complained about the hours required or the toll it took on his body. If wheat or alfalfa needed to be cut, or cotton stripped because the weather was just right until 3 or 4 a.m. in the morning, then it was done. If cattle decided the grass was greener on the other side of the fence at 8:30 a.m. just as you were leaving for church, everyone got out in their Sunday best and rounded up the herd and drove them back to the home pasture. Lettie, Melanie’s mom, was a bonafide city girl who was plunged into the strange world of country life when she married Ralph. Lettie learned to can and preserve food, sew most of the family’s clothes and haul wheat to town in a truck.

(Top) – Roll Family Farm, (Middle) Bill Roll, (LL) Melanie, Jessie Roll, Bill Roll & Ralph Roll (LR) Jared Black, Bill Roll, Ralph Roll, Melanie Roll Black

The whole family was involved in running the farm. Everyone chopped cotton in the hot summers together (we had to get all the cotton chopped every summer before we could go on vacation in the family RV that was a converted bread truck that Ralph had customized), harvested crops, milked cows, raised chickens for eggs and meat, raised thousands of hogs and cattle not only for the family meat supply but to take to the market to feed others. They grew cotton, wheat, alfalfa, silage and raised a large garden for a supply of fresh vegetables. A farmer is on call 24/7. His family can’t help but be influenced by his work ethic. Ralph would say, ‘Put your mind to it and you can do it!’

If you’ve ever watched the Dodge Truck commercial below that was narrated by Paul Harvey, then you know exactly what life was like on the farm. From the time that Melanie and I first saw this, we thought of Ralph. He could have starred in this video. Serving the family, school board, church and community.

After I graduated high school and got married – mom continued to work at the store until she sold it and went to work for my cousin, Anita Radke, and worked for Anita until she retired just a couple of years before she died. That job had her either driving 175 miles round trip every day from Arapaho to Oklahoma City or 34 miles round trip to Weatherford for over twenty years.

Needless to say, mom instilled in me the work ethic I have today. I’ve always been one of the first ones to the office and stayed as long as necessary to get the job done. You’ll always find me with my iPhone close by and checking it regularly for immediate business needs. Over my career, I’ve worked more weekends and given up more vacations that I’d like to admit, but that comes with a work ethic that always has you giving your best, and just a little more.

What I’d say I’ve learned over my forty-five year career in the business is that you must work hard, but you also must work smart. It is a requirement for you to be a great time manager. I always say, “Hurry to work, get your job done, then hurry home”. You can’t do that in today’s world if you’re not working smart. Meetings are the efficiency killer in business today; so plan them well, have an agenda, only have the people in them that need to be in them, and finish on time or early.

One practice I’ve used that works well is to block off the first two hours of the day and the last two hours of the day and don’t allow meetings during this time. That’s YOUR time. Your think time. Your work time. Your catchup time. Your connection time. Otherwise, you create a culture where your team has to take their work home or stay late. Taking work home or staying late should be the exception, not the rule. If your team has to stay late every day or take work home every day, you’re doing something wrong. Fix it. It’s your job as a leader to fix it. Otherwise, you’re stealing from them (their time).

When it comes to work ethic, one of my very best friends, Mark Woodress, could teach classes on work ethic. He was very instrumental in having an impact on our sons, Jared & Travis. They both had the privilege of working for Mark during their high school days and there is no doubt that he made a difference in both their lives. Mark owns a pawn shop in Altus, Oklahoma. A business that he inherited from his dad. If you know Mark, you know that he is the friendliest, most kind person you’ll meet. He knows everyone in the Jackson County area and everyone in that part of the state knows him and loves him. It doesn’t matter if you’re the president of the bank or unemployed, Mark treats you the same. As a parent – do everything in your power to expose your children to someone like Mark. They are out there. Find them. It’s one of the greatest things you can do for your kids.

Mark Woodress

I’ll end with two words. Maximum Impact.

You can’t watch a football or basketball game today on any level that the announcers don’t talk about impact players. Those are the players that change the outcome of the game. Not just once, but every time. That’s the way I’d describe a good work ethic. Not just once, but in everything you do. Give it your best effort, learn from everything, everyone, every time!

Day after day, week after week, year after year, decade after decade. That’s how you have the right foundation to be a Legacy Builder.