Help is there if you want it

Help is there if you want it in Business and Life

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At some time or other in our lives we need help. Help is there if you wnat it.

This may be for school, home care after an accident, as we start a new job or in starting up or improving an existing business. We look to those we trust or have certain expertise to provide the assistance we need. We expect that they have the shills, knowledge and experience to get us through whatever problem or situation we are experiencing at the time.

Help comes in many ways. Such as:

  • A loan.
  • Contacting others to deliver services that are needed.
  • Advice and/or counsel on what we are doing wrong and establishing a course of correction.
  • Heart to heart intervention to stop us from doing something that is or will be harmful to us now or in the future.

Some help is given with no reciprocal action required. The person or persons helping us are doing so because they care about us and want to see us succeed.

In other instances there is some cost for the help through either cash payments or a requirement for some favor or action in the future. Then, the assistance provided is more of a business transaction. Hopefully the person providing the help is concerned about the end result, but too often the main reason is that it is their job and they expect remuneration regardless of the outcome.

Sometimes help is given without us requesting it. In those cases, the people closest to us see that we have a need that either they can provide or know someone who can. They offer us help, without our asking because they care about and are concerned for us. Usually this is a family member such as a spouse, parent, sibling or a child. They reach out to make sure we are doing ok and will hopefully be so after the help is given.

Usually we receive help when we ask for it.

We know that either something is not right or about to go wrong. We seek out others who can help us now or in the future.  We ask friends, clergy, business associates or specialists to help us. Depending on the circumstances, they along with the family may be involved.

The fact is that there are many people in this world and in our lives who are willing to and do help us when needed. Without them, we would be on our own to face a troubled world alone. In my life I had many people who helped me. This made a great impression on me and greatly influenced who I am and how I feel about helping others.

The first to help me were my parents.

While this was true in my case, it is not necessarily true in all cases. Unfortunately not all parents provide guidance and help whether it is money or other assistance to their children. They may not be able or willing to do so. I was fortunate in that they were both.

My parents helped to teach me right from wrong. They were strict disciplinarians and corrected me when I erred. They didn’t let others pick on me, but made sure that I wasn’t the cause for any problems that might have or had led to a confrontation with another person. If so, they took care of it between us out of the sight of others. I wasn’t coddled and they didn’t make excuses for me and any inappropriate behavior I demonstrated.

There was nothing I dreaded more than to answer to my parents about anything I did wrong. It wasn’t that I was afraid of them. I was afraid of disappointing them and diminishing how proud they were of me. They exhibited “tough love” in that they set a high standard that I was expected to maintain. It certainly led to my desire to be the best at whatever I did.

I hated coming in second in anything. It didn’t make me a sore loser, but fueled my desire to be better the next time. I didn’t always finish first. No one does. We all lose sometimes. But it made me learn how to handle losing graciously and strive to improve. I also learned to expect that from others and not to accept excuses for a bad or uninspired performance.

I also learned that as long as I did and tried my best, there was always someone there to love and support me. And, if I ever slipped up they reminded me that I needed to try harder if I wanted to get the results I desired.

Then, I left the safety of my home and the people who loved and cared for me. I was to find out there were others who would fill that space.

As an undergraduate at Rutgers University, I had two people who greatly influenced my life.

The first was Dr. Frank Fornoff, my chemistry professor. I was not a big fan of chemistry having had some bad instructors and experiences in high school. Dr. Fornoff saw my dislike for the course. He showed me how to enjoy something I was not crazy about. While I didn’t come to love it, I saw how important it was to my major studies and to life in general.

I also learned that getting through something you aren’t fond of and doing well at it can be rewarding. It made studying and working at the things you really do love and like can be even easier if you apply yourself.

Dr. Fornoff also took an interest in me as a person. After I had completed my chemistry studies with him, he would stay in regular contact with me. We would meet to talk about how my studies were going. He would give me advice on how to deal with any problems I was having at school whether in the classroom or outside of it.

His advice was always welcome and was always received with gratitude. He taught me that helping others is not a onetime thing. If you care about people you are there for them on an ongoing basis. And you stay in touch because you never know when they might need help or just a pick-me-up from the day to day drudgery that sometimes occurs.

Another person who helped me as an undergraduate was Professor Alfred Kuebler, my department chair and academic advisor. It was expected that your advisor was there for counseling when you were having any academic problems. That was not an issue for me. I was a good student. Professor Kuebler was there to just talk about things in general and to provide a boost to keep me going.

Unbeknownst to me, he was working on my behalf.

In the second semester of my junior year I received notification that I had received an academic scholarship that paid the tuition for that semester. And then, before my senior year, I received another notification that all of my tuition would be paid for the year. All of this was due to Professor Kuebler’s doing. I had no idea he was working on my behalf, something I am sure few if any other advisors did for their students.

As I started to look at graduate programs, I went to Professor Kuebler for advice on applying to Rutgers. I loved it there as you can tell from the interview I recently had for their SOE alumni publication. At that time, they were limited in programs regarding my major, Industrial Engineering. While he said that he would love to have me continue my studies at Rutgers, he felt that the graduate program wasn’t the best. He said that even if it was, it is best to go somewhere else and get a different perspective on learning. And, once I was done, I always had a home at Rutgers and would be welcomed back with open arms.

His care and concern for me is something I will never forget and will always cherish. He had a profound influence on me and my life. He didn’t have to. It made me think about those around me and how I needed to be aware of them and their circumstances even when they didn’t ask for help. To do that for others, even when not asked or required is truly noble. I have tried to do that for those who worked with and for me throughout my career, because of what Professor Kuebler did for me.

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My graduate studies then took me to Lehigh University.

It was truly a different scene than Rutgers. Most of the graduate students had done their undergraduate work there and so they knew the professors well. I was an outsider. But, the faculty immediately took me under their wing and treated me as though I had also completed my undergraduate studies with them.

While everyone was terrific, two people really stood out. The first was the department chair, Professor George Kane. He was one of the nicest people I ever met. He had a loud laugh, something that you never forgot. He always had time to talk about school or just things in general.

We spoke regularly and hit it off well. I didn’t have any real problems to discuss until it was close to graduation. At that time, companies were interviewing students for positions. I had signed up for some, but never an interview. I went to him to see what the problem was. He contacted the department responsible for advertising company interviews, getting information out about the students and setting up the appointments.

It seems that they had sent out the wrong transcripts on me to the companies I had applied to interview with. Instead of sending mine, they sent an undergraduate’s with the same last name. While I was at the top of the class, he was an average student and didn’t draw any interest from the companies I had applied to.

When Professor Kane learned of this, he immediately made calls to companies I had applied to. He spoke to their recruiters and told them what had happened and that I was definitely worth interviewing. Because of his help, I got to interview with companies after they were done and got job offers from most of them.

Professor Kane didn’t have to do that. He could have said that what happened was too bad and wished me well. But he didn’t do that. Instead, he sprang into action to resolve a problem neither he nor I created. I learned that it is never too late to correct a problem, even one of someone else’s making.

I also learned that it is never too late to go back to people to try to correct an injustice. The worst thing they can say is, “No” and they just may say, “Yes, no problem”.

The second person who went above and beyond for me was my thesis advisor, Professor Wallace (Wally) Richardson. He was an old Navy man and a very distinguished productivity consultant. Professor Richardson was one of the most down to earth people I have ever met. You would never know by just meeting and talking to him, how smart and accomplished he was. He never talked about himself. Yet, you could see what kind of person he was and how he was there to help you.

He was the most organized / disorganized person I have ever met.

His office was a desk and a collection of tables with piles of papers covering them all. What seemed to be chaos was actually very organized, at least for himself. He would talk about a subject, reach into one of the piles and produce a document on that exact matter. What seemed like clutter to me was his filing system and he worked it perfectly.

He had a story and a saying for everything. He was a treasure trove of life experiences which he used to get across his points. He dealt with people at all levels in companies, but was most influenced by the regular people on the production floor. They held the knowledge nuggets that the executives didn’t have. He made me appreciate them and that they should be listened to and taken seriously.

He loved teaching students who had work experience. He felt they could relate to him and his stories. He didn’t like or tolerate arrogance of any kind. Students in other engineering curriculums looked down on Industrial Engineering and called it Imaginary Engineering. They didn’t feel that our studies were as difficult as theirs. When any took Professor Richardson’s courses anticipating an easy A grade, he let them have it. By the time they were done they fully appreciated IE studies and really earned whatever grade they got through hard work and study.

Professor Richardson not only taught me about engineering, but life in general. I learned that if you are really smart, you don’t have to tell others that you are. Those that are truly smart demonstrate it. Those that aren’t as smart as they think brag, even when they have no basis for doing so.

He also made me appreciate people regardless of title or position. Respecting people for who they are and what they do is not based on rank. It is based on the person and how they handle themselves no matter who they are and what their job is. If they do it well and are proud of what they do, that is the best thing. Over my career, I usually was more comfortable dealing with the worker bees. They were not pretentious and told you straight out what they thought. I love honesty and directness. “Wally” taught me that.

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Help continued in my professional career. I wrote in another article about the best manager and boss I had, Bill Clymer. Bill always encouraged me and my ideas. He brought out the best out in me and gave me a raise when he reviewed my salary history and felt I was underpaid. He pushed my career ahead to where I eventually became a director for Crayola Corporation.

Another person who also helped me to succeed was Terry Schmoyer. Although I didn’t report directly to Terry, he provided guidance and mentored me throughout his career at Crayola.

Terry saw my abilities in working with Bill. He created a new position for me as a project manager doing the planning for equipment and facilities. He continued to guide me through a number of promotions until I finally became a director.

Terry knew that I was not a political person and that I was poor at playing the office political games. He coached me on how to maneuver through this and come out unscathed. He was the person who told me that how you were reviewed and rewarded was based on how well you were or weren’t liked by the executives.

He gave me a tremendous amount of latitude to get things completed. He told me that in doing so, I was to not mess up and cause problems for him. But, if I did, I was to clean up the mess as quickly and completely as possible. I never let him down.

We didn’t agree on everything. There were a few things he asked me to do that I resisted because I did not feel that they were correct. One involved developing some equipment I did not feel was worthwhile, even though he wanted it to work. It was one of the few times he got mad at me, but once he realized that I was correct, he backed off and we moved on.

Terry eventually lost to the politics of the company. Even after he was dismissed, he stayed in touch and we talked regularly. He continued to guide me and gave me advice on how to work with the power structure, especially those who cost him his job. I learned much from Terry regarding managing people and situations. It helped me to become a better manager to my people as I allowed them to grow and become successful without micromanaging them.

These were the people I feel most influenced my growth in the development of how I approach business in particular and life in general. Both are very connected. The situations that happen in one certainly happen in the other. People are people regardless of the circumstances. How you deal with them personally and professionally is the same. The outcomes are different, but the process is almost exact.

We all have people in our lives that help us. Sometimes we don’t realize or appreciate the help, especially when they tell us what we need to hear instead of what we want to hear. We want sympathy when empathy is the order of the day.

But, if we step back and realize that what they are telling us is to help get us through the situation and to move ahead that is what is important. We do not have to take every piece of advice they offer. Like everything we need to pick and choose. But, we do need to consider each before dismissing anything out of hand. If we do that, we may miss an important nugget that can make a difference not only now, but in the future.

The help I received and the lessons I learned have shaped who I am and how I think and act. I regularly think about the people I have previously mentioned. I remember what they told me and I share these with others. I always give them credit for any quotes that I use. They deserve that, for sharing their wisdom and council with me. I am ever so grateful they were in my life and cared about me. My way of repaying them is to try to help others and to share their wisdom.

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