Secrets of Success: Make a difference

Recently Galen Lehman took several weeks off from his job as president of Lehman’s. He spent this time visiting suppliers and other businesses he knew and admired. The companies he visited ranged from 1 employee to 300 employees. Most were owned by Amish or Mennonite families. At each stop, he asked, “What is the secret of your success?” This is one of a series of postings about what he learned.

The smallest business I visited had one employee and two horses. Ok, the horses weren’t employees. But, they very definitely made their presence known. The shop reeked from the smell of their urine in the stalls next door. My breath caught in my throat as we stood in the shop and talked that cold February morning.

I found the maker of our Popular and Favorite Clothes Dryers down a curvy country lane deep in Pennsylvania’s Amish country. Even finding this place was an adventure. I drove by the farm twice because there was no sign or any indication of that manufacturing was happening there.

When I went to the door, I felt like an intruder from another planet invading their privacy. They greeted me with the typical reserve many Amish have for outsiders. Even when I introduced myself by saying, “We buy your dryers,” they didn’t immediately warm to me.

Ultimately I did get a tour of the shop with its antique equipment stretching out in a row along the line shaft that powered it. A single gasoline engine drives the shaft. Pulleys every few feet along the shaft send power from the engine to each piece of equipment.

Before long, we were engaged in good conversation filled with the regard and genuine interest I often see from my Amish friends.

The owner started making the dryers at an age when most men retire. He inherited the business from his Dad, who had been making the dryers for us from 1970 until his death last year. His father died while at work in the very shop where stood just a few days short of his 90th birthday. This led to an interesting conversation about success.

“I’m a farmer,” he said, “I’d rather be outside. But, at my age I need something slower to keep busy.”

Success doesn’t always have to involve a lot of money or prestige. But, everyone needs to feel productive. “Keeping busy” really means “being productive.” Sometimes, we end up doing things that aren’t our first choice. But, the feeling that you’re making a difference is often enough to make it all worthwhile.

My desire to make a difference is what gets me out of bed every morning. I hope that in some small way (whether you are an employee, customer, friend, family member or acquaintance) that I’ve helped make your life a little better.

Am I doing a good job of making a difference? What are some of the ways you try to make a difference?

Galen Lehman

About Galen Lehman

Lehman's CEO and son of founder Jay Lehman. Homesteads on five acres. Believes in a Simpler Life...rewarding relationships, fresh, local (preferably homegown) food and the gratification of hard work. Plant a tree!