In The Footprints Of Peter Jorgensen

Peter Jorgensen was a personal and professional friend of mine for many years, since he first expressed an interest in promoting a new fire industry publication. I told him absolutely not to attempt it as we already had too many trade magazines. Obviously, he did not heed my advice, and he produced a new concept with this publication.

His wife, Kathryn, has taken over as the Fire Apparatus publisher and asked me to be the first person to “fill Peter’s shoes,” so to speak, in providing for and continuing his column. I thought about that for a few moments, and primarily due to Kathryn’s request and my very unique personal and business relationship with Peter, I agreed to write this column (just once).

First of all, I have no bow tie! However, otherwise, we had many similarities, and although we remained uniquely different, I will attempt to follow Peter’s principles.

A lot of things that are changing in today’s fire industry have occurred in the past, but perhaps never with such impact as in today’s economy.

Today there appears to be more risk involved in decision-making and strategic planning. Not all risks carry a reliable reward. For example, there is a possible risk in writing this column for both Fire Apparatus magazine, myself and the Darley Company.

I think one of the unchanging, successful attributes in our industry should be a continuation of ethics. I have attempted in my life to pass on to our company leaders and employees the value of ethics. In addition, I have presented as a speaker my personal experiences involving ethics relating to our business, to the IAFC volunteer chiefs and Dominican University. 

Strong Sense Of Ethics

It’s what we do and decide every day that establishes our code of ethics. Don’t mistake my strong sense of ethics for a weak sense of economics or leadership. I expect all who work with me to have high performance without compromising our values.

I am not in this column going to comment, as Peter often did, on rumors in our industry. Either rumors or true, I have none to report.

Peter and I used to meet frequently, generally just the two of us, for a quiet dinner. Everything we discussed was done with total confidence that neither of us would express what we discussed with anyone else, and that unwritten agreement was never violated by either one of us.

For all of us, I would like to share the following thought:

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up and knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up and knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve. And it doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better be running.”

Succession Planning

A few words about what else we should be doing in today’s world. I can’t speak for all of us, but in Darley’s world, I think succession planning and strategic planning are needed in all areas of a company. 

About 30 years ago, I had a triple bypass, and as I recovered, I realized that I wasn’t immortal and that I’d better look ahead if I wanted the Darley Company to reach 100 years and beyond as a successful family business. 

I realized a succession plan was needed, and then I proceeded to implement one. If you want more details on my plan, give me a call at 800-323-0244. I think today about the following, “If the student surpasses the teacher, it is an honor to the teacher.” 

My philosophy today is, “nose in, fingers out.” What sense is there to have and implement a succession plan and then not to allow new leadership to determine strategy and decisions? I have learned there are many ways to skin a cat.

As many of you might know, Darley is now in our 101st year. I’m reminded as I write this that Peter came to our 100th anniversary celebration and presented me with a quarter dated 1908! It was such a thoughtful gift. 

Diversification is essential at Darley, and we have found it rewarding to look at new opportunities during this economy, including water purification, in conjunction with the Fire Service and a special government sales division.

I remember years ago going on a trip to Mexico with a number of leaders of other companies in the industry, including a leader of the industry, who was reaching retirement age, whose successors told him, “be a good listener, and don’t tell too much about what we do and are doing.” 

I was hesitant to tell my leadership team that I was going to write this column due to the same reasons. You never saw a fish on the wall with its mouth shut.

We have a whole new challenge facing our industry. It is the cost of constructing a new fire appliance to meet today’s standards. For example, the new EPA standards for diesel engines going into effect in 2010 will require exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) or selective catalytic reduction (SCR) at an increased cost of approximately $20,000. 

I can remember the day when a complete pumper could be purchased for less than today’s present and coming-up engine costs alone!

Winding up – perhaps some action items for all of us: 

“Be the change that you wish to see.” – Ghandi
“Work is not a place, it’s an activity.” – Bill Darley
“Newton’s Rule of Inertia – Objects at rest tend to stay at rest, so… just keep moving!” – Bill Darley
“In Today’s World and at Darley, we know that ‘It’s not the Strongest of the Species that Survives, nor the most Intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.’” – Bill Darley and Charles Darwin

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