The Fuel to Find a Way Home

An article in my local newspaper The Ledger was brought to my attention. A truck driver for Publix, a regional grocer, had set a safety record. 36 years! More than 3 million miles! No accidents.

As someone who has had multiple accidents driving (when you see me sometime, I can tell you stories), that kind of driving safety speaks volumes. The driver wasn’t lucky. He was intentional about safety. He took his job to heart. He refined his skills. He was mindful of how a mistake on his part could be “life and death” for all those around him as well as for himself.

It’s a good safety story. I could stop the note now. But, he said something in the story that brought you to mind.

He said he had never been lost. Here’s how he put it:

“A man don’t get lost. If you have plenty of fuel you’ll find a way home,” he said.

Every woman who is reading this is chuckling. What man behind a wheel ever thinks he is lost?

But, the truth of this statement fell over me.

One of the great things about my job is that I get to be involved in “turn arounds.”

A veteran of our industry once told me about our business: “There are three things in this business: sales, material and people. Sometimes one of those things will be right. Sometimes two of those things will be right. But, there won’t ever be all of those three things working right at the same time.”

So, that leads me to the “turn arounds.” With our number of plants, I can tell you that the veteran’s assessment of how this business rolls is correct. And, because of the complexity of our business – markets served, labor available, raw material needed – we always have plants performing at lower than expected levels. I spend more time thinking about those than I do about the ones that are prospering.

When we are in the midst of one of those “turn arounds,” I find the truck driver’s comment holds.

If we have plenty of fuel, we will find a way home.

In our case, fuel isn’t gasoline. It comes in the form of our perseverance. That ability to treat the problem as the task and to begin to whittle on it every day to make it smaller.

It comes in the form of resilience. That ability to get up from difficult situations, to take stock of our new reality and to go after it afresh despite our disappointment.

It comes from our creativity. The ability to combine the intellects, ideas and inspiration of all the folks on our team to come up with new ways to solve a problem and to execute those strategies for positive change.

It comes from our team work. Our commitment to each other to turn things around, to be accountable, to step up the pace, to find new levels of performance and achievement.

It comes from our confidence. A confidence that comes from having “turned around” before. A confidence that can be derived from being part of a corporation of locations who have done what we are trying to do. A confidence from being part of a country that “turns around” decade after decade.

“Turn arounds” aren’t always fun. But, when you are part of one and you have tasted the satisfaction of that success, it brings joy. A joy that you won’t ever forget.

When you have enough fuel, you always make it home.

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