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A Leadership Message From Ethan Chumley

Abraham Lincoln Memorial Lessons I’ve picked up from a few other Presidents

We honor our Presidents this month because they’ve been charged with leading our country and regardless of your political persuasion; we can all agree this is no easy task.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other,” said John F. Kennedy. I couldn’t agree more. As President and CEO of Armstrong Steel, each day is another opportunity to learn more than I knew the day before.

At some point, however, it isn’t all trial and error. There’s an invisible milestone good leaders reach when the culmination of knowledge and experience reaches the tipping point from experimentation to wisdom. Imparting that wisdom to the people in this organization who are speaking to you is one of my most important tasks.

There’s a culture at Armstrong Steel which I’ve continued to nurture. I ask our Building Consultants to understand that the people who choose us for their construction projects – whether it’s a backyard workshop, a church, an industrial complex or a commercial project – have real lives and real challenges. You’re looking for a steel building because it’s a solution to a problem you’ve decided needs solved. The best way for us to help is to first learn as much about your needs as possible.

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit,” said Harry S. Truman.

When I formed Armstrong Steel, I had the privilege of an empty canvas on which I could paint any picture I wanted. I didn’t build Armstrong Steel alone. The talented individuals surrounding me share in my vision and help to shape it everyday. But presidency, whether of a nation or a company, requires that some of the ‘on-the-job’ learning requires a foundation in ‘on-the-spot’ decision making. What I mean by that is, while I learn more everyday about people and running a growing organization, I’ve learned to trust my gut, my intuition.

Thomas Jefferson

“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock,” said Thomas Jefferson. When it comes to industry trends, technology, or even the services we offer, staying current and adaptable is something we’re great at. When it comes to Armstrong’s core values, our principles – the idea that service comes first, that our customers need us to be willing to roll up our sleeves and deliver a building which houses their valuables, their business or equipment, their memories, or grow their livelihoods as if we were doing it for ourselves. And we do, every time.

“If you treat people right, they will treat you right…ninety percent of the time,” said Franklin Roosevelt. I won’t say we please everyone all the time. In fact, if any business owner ever tells you that he does, run – run fast and run far away – because he’s lying. There are times when we aren’t the right fit or the right choice for our customers. There are also times when we go above and beyond only to be taken advantage of. It’s my nature to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. However, sometimes giving an inch leads to folks instinctually wanting to take a mile.

We’re not in the business of making everyone happy. We’re in the business of making the people we can make happy, very happy. More than that, however, we treat people with a level of decency that’s so often lacking in other steel building companies. Treating people right isn’t about giving them what they want 100% of the time. To me, treating you right is helping you with the process, understanding your limits, working within those limits as often as we can, and really, it’s about treating clients like partners in each project. Was it always this way?

Simply put, no…

Thomas Jefferson

“I walk slowly, but I never walk backward,” said Abraham Lincoln. The kind of company Armstrong is today took time to create. Your building takes time to create. No process with any value happens immediately. The success of this company and your steel building project requires attention and nurturing. Attention must be paid to every detail, to every communication, to every activity, by everyone involved – you included – to nurture the relationship that’s going to eventually get you what you want.

“Accomplishment will prove to be a journey, not a destination,” said Dwight D. Eisenhower. I take an extremely pragmatic approach to leading this company. I have goals, you have goals, but if we focus so much on the big picture we lose our ability to focus on what we can achieve each day. Maybe all you can accomplish today in your steel building plan is to read a few posts on the Armstrong Steel Network, or check out customer profiles to see how previous customers tackled their projects. Maybe all you can get done is call and request a quote. The fact is, you’re one step closer to realizing your dream.

I can’t project with one hundred percent accuracy where Armstrong Steel will be a year from now. But I can continue to do the next right thing this week, today, in the next hour. Breaking it down like that makes it a lot easier to make sure we’re on the right track and taking you with us.

It isn’t as hard as you might think…

“Tell the truth, work hard and come to dinner on time,” said Gerald Ford. Some of the most important things I’ve learned in my role as leader are the simplest. Granted, there are complicated decisions I have to make all the time. You, too, have complex decisions to make in life. I operate by the belief that if I can rely on the basics – be honest, work hard, fear no man, and take care of myself; if I treat others decently; if I keep doing what is right whether or not it’s the easiest; if I don’t look for shortcuts and I set a good example; then when it comes time to make the complex decisions, I can make them with a higher degree of confidence.

Because…

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there,” said Theodore Roosevelt. It’s something I’m asking you to consider, too. If you get halfway there, and we get halfway there, well, then our destination becomes reachable, together.

Have a productive and safe Presidents’ Day

Ethan Chumley

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