Life Lessons from a Tool Junkie (and why every man needs a good pair of pantyhose)

I’m into tools. I’m not talking the software kind, but the kind you can hold in your hand. I like the weighty feel of a 22 oz. framing hammer. The kind you can really use to bash stuff, with the life-saving pick-axe-like claw at the end. (In the event you start falling, you slam that sucker into the roof and then hold on!) Or, the fluid motion of a chop saw. Or, the rhythmic-clicking of a socket wrench. All that may sound funny coming from a gal. People expect guys to like tools, but girls?

I learned how to change the car’s oil and tires when I was about 12. My father sent me to college with my own hand-me-down toolbox. Nothing fancy, just the essentials. My mother tossed in a roll of quarters. Her daughter would at least launder her overalls. It’s probably not surprising then that I married a Yankee carpenter. We bought a perfectly good 150-year old house ten years ago, and then stripped it to the studs. Nights and weekends--we rebuilt it ourselves.

Most of the tools you need to fix things can be found in that hand-me-down toolbox. Or in a pinch, the junk drawer in the kitchen. (I frequently use duct tape, much to the chagrin of that Yankee carpenter.) I haven’t swung a hammer in about seven years now, much less changed the oil in the car; or a light bulb for that matter. My husband now does those things. But, my experiences gave me a unique toolset for dealing with today’s market conditions. I’ll share some here...

1. Most things can be fixed with duct tape. It might not be elegant, but it’s functional. And, a dumb fix ain’t dumb. That sticky stuff is spirit. The indomitable kind. Have it. Spend it. Spread it around. It’s the juice that keeps people going and coming back for more. It’s the stuff of the Stockdale Paradox: ‘you must retain faith that you can prevail to greatness in the end, while retaining the discipline to confront the brutal facts of your current reality.’

2. I once saw a guy in a pinch replace a fan belt with a pair of pantyhose. That’s ingenuity. In stressful situations, we have a tendency to be task saturated. We don’t see the life raft because we’re so busy treading water. Or in this case, the pantyhose on the gal calling for a tow. Surround yourself by good people who disagree with you. And then listen. Really listen. Get out of the rut of your own ideas.

3. Measure twice and cut once. In every carpenter’s toolset you’ll find a measuring tape, a pencil, and a sharp blade. They know. Due diligence costs a lot less than a short cut. The best thing you can do to protect your people is to ensure the financial stability of your company. Look everywhere, in every crevice, nook, cranny and corner. If you’re not getting what you need out of an investment, chop it off. Do it once and do it cleanly. This includes software, marketing expenses, rent, people, and everything else. Outline your ROI expectations for everything; measure whether or not you got it. If not, get rid of it. Remember to cut once though: Nothing can be more poisonous and draining to a team than repeated layoffs and pay cuts.

4. Many hands may make light work, but they also give people a place to hide. Choose a champion for projects. Delegate to the most capable and hold her accountable. Require that she holds her team accountable. Give her enough distance to get leverage and watch her lift the world. She’s the quintessential pry bar.

5. I’d take a boatload of time over a boatload of cash any day. Most of us are so focused on cash, but time is what we run out of. Think about it. You can conserve cash, but time keeps ticking. History has its share of disadvantaged first-movers. People who arrived too early and lost out to those better capitalized. Still, running out of only one of those two things will kill you. Back in my early days of selling on 100 percent commission I used to determine how much I wanted to make that year and then divide it by the number of hours I wanted to work that year. That told me how much my time was worth. Putting it in perspective made me squeeze the most out of every hour. If I could pack more productivity into a minute, I could buy more money with my time. When I see time traded on NASDAQ, I’ll be sure to let you know.

I’ve shared just a few ideas here, but I hope you’ve found something useful, and I encourage all feedback. These five ideas fall somewhere between the Law of Gravity and Murphy’s Law. One rules that falling piece of bread; the other tells you your odds of soiling the carpet. Good luck.

Oh, and if you’re interested in hearing industry expert, Fran Goldstein’s advice, on preparing for the rebound then I’d encourage you to join her this July 30th at 1PM at The Recruiter Training Center.

Views: 33

Comment by Ambrish Kochikar on July 28, 2009 at 4:45pm
Great post, Amy! You serve up very useful tips. Posts like this one help keep the reader's mind sharp. Thanks for sharing.


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