Interaction Begins with A Warm Glazed Donut


So it was my turn to supply the donuts. Bob Potter was so gracious for the last couple of weeks to furnish the donuts for our group at Laurel Mountain on Saturday mornings. I thought I better step up and stop at the Pie Shoppe in Laughlintown to get the warm, glazed donuts and they were received at our table in the lodge with enthusiastic smiles. You see, our group at Laurel interacts with several other groups to form what we lovingly call our little private club in the middle of the Laurel Highlands. As the group munched on the donuts and drank coffee waiting for the lift to open, our view of the Ligonier Valley was sunny and spectacular. I really look forward to being with our group on Saturday mornings not only to ski, but to chat about the pending conditions and the day ahead, and also to find out how everyone’s week went.

The interesting thing is that you can write about the good times at Laurel, post on Facebook which can give you a thumbnail sketch in time of what happens, but it is nothing like personally experiencing the skiing, the mountain, the employees and especially our friends. The interaction is wonderful and we all look forward to seeing each other.

Switching lanes a little bit, personal interaction seems to be waning these days. I am kind of old school in that I call my friends and make it a point to get together with them. Local friends and out of town friends too. If someone is sick I send a card or visit, in short, I believe that personal interaction is so crucial in maintaining friendships. You have to see someone face to face to really gauge their feelings. If they are happy or sad, you can see it if you are with them. Sure, you can text because it is quick, and you can post on Facebook for those who you don’t see often, but social media pales in comparison to seeing your friends smile when you personally interact with them. That is losing ground today. I see it in the workplace. I tell the young folks all the time, don’t send emails back and forth, if you have an issue, pick up the phone and talk to the person. I spent 21 years with my current company building relationships. I took the time to visit suppliers and distribution center purchasing contacts. I would take them to lunch and dinner, hack around a golf course with them, and even ski with a few of them. Most of them became my friends not just because of business, but because I cared about them. If there was an issue, we could talk about it, solve it, and move on. You don’t get that kind of relationship texting or emailing. I have developed long standing friendships in the business world because I made it a point to care about their issues and how we could service them better. They jokingly call me the Director of Happiness to this day. I may not be the brightest bulb in the halls of Armada Supply Chain Solutions, but I do care about our customers.

I recently took my son Jack, who is finishing up his MBA, to visit my friend Fred Kohun who is a long standing faculty member at Robert Morris University where Jack is studying. Fred took the time to show Jack a lot of pictures, memorabilia, and things of interest from all over the world in his office. At the end of the meeting, Fred remarked to Jack that the reason he spent the time to show Jack all of that was to tell him how important it is to network in the business world. Most of Fred’s success as a consultant, and faculty member, was because of interaction with people and networking all over the world in his career path. Not sure if that resonated yet with Jack, but like a lot of kids in his generation, they would do well to take a break from the Internet and social media and personally interact with people.

So, the group in the lodge at Laurel booted up as we polished off the box of donuts and coffee and sprinted for the trail as soon as the closed sign was lifted. Everyone was smiling and ready to attack the freshly groomed trails and slopes. It all started with anticipation of the day, the “Cheers” like atmosphere upon entry to the lodge, and the warm glazed donuts. You can’t text that experience. You have to be there to hang with whom Rus Davies lovingly refers to as Laurel Mountain characters. Go call a friend today and meet with them. Maybe someone you have not seen in a while? Use the phone app on your I Phone and take a break from social media. Your friends will appreciate doing things with you and seeing your smile in person. Thanks for reading.

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Several photos  courtesy of Rus Davies. Long time Laurel Mountain skier and enthusiast.

White Line Fever

“Turn signals are a sign of weakness”
– Jenni Beigh MacDonald

This famous quote by one of my esteemed colleagues tells it all for a seasoned big city driver. I tend to be conservative when it comes to the roadways in spite of the fact that I participate in some higher risk sports. However, behind the wheel of an automobile, I tend to be very careful. I am a right lane hugger in most cities. Even though I have driven in most of the major cities in this country many times, I tend to rely on the I-Phone directions and conservatively ride the right lane. img_1137

Let’s start with the east coast. Boston- forget about it. Definitely the country’s most aggressive drivers. Storrow Drive is like the Twilight Zone. Moving to the NYC Metro areas and New Jersey- my knuckles start to get white by gripping the steering wheel as I arrive in the vicinity of the Garden State. I tell my sister, who lives in New Jersey, that they are not good enough to drive that fast. No wonder there are 26 car pileups on 76 East. I leave three car spaces between me and the guy in front of me. But in NYC or NJ, those drivers wedge their way in front of me like I left the space for them? This leaves 2 inches of space between cars and if anyone hits the brakes, big pileup. img_1134 The L.I.E- fuggheddabaddit.

Atlanta- they drive like it is NASCAR. Weaving in and out like their hero Dale Earnhart and leaving me helpless in the slow lane. Plus you have the transplants- New Yorkers pretending to be from Atlanta. Chicago- way too much traffic and construction. You get worn out just driving around. Bumper to bumper and construction everywhere. Denver in the winter on I-70 is either a parking lot or a blinding snow storm right in front of the Eisenhower Tunnel. One time last year- it was a white out and as I sat there, the heater brought in fumes from the cars in front of me relative to the new laws in Colorado. Hey- traffic? Light one up for the team. img_1136

Then we move to LA. Tons of traffic and no regard for the speed limit whatsoever. 6 lanes of traffic on either side of the highway and a half hour to Laguna Beach becomes an hour and a half before 10:00 am after 3:00 PM. If you want to see something nice, you have to pay the price.San Francisco- I am terrified of the Bay Bridge and either I talk myself over the hump to Oakland, or I drive 19 miles to the south to take the more civil San Mateo Bridge. I find that the older I get the more acrophobic and claustrophobic I become as I try to keep it between the white lines on those amazingly high bridges and guide my way in the right lane of a tunnel praying for the other end to come and not to bounce off the walls. Ridiculous.

I do have some shortcomings as a driver. My wife and son claim that the more I talk,the slower I drive. It drives them crazy but I make my point when showing them sites of interest along the way. I engage in a conversation and the foot in perfect harmony backs away from the accelerator.

It is a good thing I have four wheel drive because I tend to drive even more conservatively in the winter. I will venture out of the comfort zone to pass a stuck driver on a hill or venture over the snow hump between lanes but again, tend to drive slowly in the right lane and let the crazies fly by me. I see them later stuck in the berms or sideways in the road, and I always point out the folly of their way to my family as they raise their eyes in ridicule.

My friend Norm from Chicago will not let me drive. He gets too frustrated but I hit the imaginary brake frantically when he drives as he looks at me over the top of his glasses, explaining something to me in a rain storm driving 90 MPH on the I-55. Scary!!!

So, you probably would not relish a road trip with me because it may take longer to get to the destination. However, I have a good safety record and you could probably sleep with me at the wheel and feel ok. Jenni, Norm, and others-I would sleep with one eye open. My opinion- drive safely and arrive alive. Thanks for reading.

It’s not always the bottom line.

” We recognize that our profits are directly tied to the quality of our work and our product.”
– Yvon Chouinard-
Founder and Owner
Patagonia Inc.

How many of us can say we have been a loyal customer to a brand for over 40 years? If you look at this picture, you will see an Instagram photo that I sent to Patagonia when they asked for pictures of folks who had vintage clothing produced by Patagonia back in the day. They liked this photo and put it on their Instagram feed one day. I was proud to say that I still have that original Patagonia pile pullover and wear it to this day. It is a testament to what Yvon Chouinard says above. screenshot_2016-07-03-21-05-59-5

I have a lot of Patagonia gear that I have purchased over the years and have recently purchased a new shell for this year. img_1125 However, in accordance with the Iron Clad Guarantee by the company, I have sent pieces of clothing back for repair and they have been returned to me free of charge and in excellent shape. You see, Patagonia doesn’t necessarily encourage us to throw away items that can be repaired because part of their mission statement is a strong respect for the environment. They would rather repair an item of clothing than sell a new one because the bottom line is not the be all and end all of the company ethos. Check out their “Worn Well” section on their website.

If you take the time to read Chouinard’s book ” Let my people go surfing. the education of a reluctant businessman” you will find a fascinating story of a guy who had a very meager upbringing in Quebec, a “dirtbag” lifestyle as a climber in Yosemite ( dirtbag being a proud moniker for climbers), and finally an extremely successful business man whose main goal is the quality of his work and the welfare of his workforce. yvon

The impressive thing to me about Chouinard is that he really means what he says. He is committed to the environment. The paper that they use for their catalogs is recycled. Their T-Shirts are made from organically grown cotton. The first Synchilla jackets were first made using fiber from recycled soda pop bottles. As a company they petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on decommissioning dams in the Pacific Northwest to once again allow salmon to spawn upstream. Finally, he and his wife Malinda have purchased huge acres of property in Patagonia in South America and have created a natural preserve there that is unique. In short, Yvon is totally committed.

Patagonia has a day care center for its employees that has been given numerous California state and national awards. Their ” Let my people go surfing” policy allows employees to take advantage of powder days for skiing,and time off to hit the break for surfing near their Ventura, California headquarters. Casual attire is always encouraged and employees can bring pets to work if they so choose. The understanding is that if the work gets done, why not take advantage of outdoor opportunities as they arise. img_1124 Culture is extremely important to Patagonia and its founder Chouinard who is lovingly referred to as COO. Chief Out of Office. Chouinard says,” This flexibility allows us to keep valuable employees who love their freedom and sports too much to settle for the constraints of a more regimented work environment.”

Many companies today have finance and profit as the “tail that wags the dog.” Patagonia has always been reluctant to cut costs, skimp on quality, or lay off employees all to meet the bottom line. From the founder on down, their philosophy of quality first has allowed them to be a wildly profitable company without profit being the main driver.

So, I have always liked the quality that Patagonia produces and that is why I have been a loyal customer for over 40 years. When I read Chouinard’s book, I became even more of a dedicated customer and proponent for the mission statement of Patagonia. Whether you are an outdoors type or not, this book has value in describing what is not a traditional business model. Pick it up and read about a fascinating blacksmith who created one of the most iconic brand names that we have in outdoor apparel today. Thanks for reading.

Photo of Pat at Tuckerman Ravine- courtesy of Eric Durfee.