Do You Stay Inside the Lines?

Editor's Note: This blog post (originally titled "The Ant Who Can't") by our CEO and President Mark Inboden was shared many times and has been one of our most popular posts this year. We wanted to bring it back for a new round of readers. Enjoy! 

Last Saturday morning as I waited in the lobby of my hotel in California, something very small moving on the floor caught my eye. It was an ant, and the ant seemed to be “trapped” on a 12-inch-square light-colored tile.

As I watched the ant, I noticed that it would only crawl to the edge of the tile and not cross the dark-colored grout lines. The ant walked up and down; side-to-side; and randomly, all over the tile, but never crossed the line.

After several minutes of being mesmerized by this ant, Ant #1, I saw another ant, Ant #2, walk straight by Ant #1 and onto the next tile and the next. Ant #1 remained walking within the grouted borders.

The group I was waiting for arrived in the lobby, but I was still thinking about the two ants. What does this have to do with making industrial control panels or running a business? Let me explain.

Mark Inboden

Mark Inboden

I believe that Ant #1 is “uncomfortable” or unwilling to venture into new territory. I have seen people working in jobs for five, 10 and 15-plus years (sadly, even six months), who never want to learn anything new. They get pushed by others to expand their “boundaries” but always resist and walk within their “self-imposed” borders. They resist doing a task or function differently even if it is more efficient and would save the company time and money. Ant #1’s often tell you they have been doing a job for “longer” than you, and that the company has “always” done it this way. Number 1’s see change as a risk and often block out talk about the reward.

Ant #2 is one determined ant. Number 2 doesn’t pay attention to any “borders” as he is focused on the end goal. He might encounter some detours along the way, but is determined to get to where he wants to, or the company wants to go. Number 2’s are always moving forward; they are not satisfied by the “status quo.” They rely on their experience to get them to the next level, and they value the opportunity to make things more efficient, less costly and improve the quality of the end product.

There is a saying on Wall Street that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” I am certain that the #2 ants are doing the “lifting” while the #1’s are benefiting from the #2’s. I believe the #1’s are putting roadblocks in the way of #2’s making even greater strides. My task this year is to reward the #2 thinking and move the company forward. The roadblocks, the #1’s, need to “stretch” their boundaries and commit to learning new things. With newly committed #1's in place and empowered #2's, UCEC will remain the best, forward-thinking industrial panel shop it can be.

Mark is President and CEO of UCEC.


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