Dolly Parton & How To Succeed In Our Industry

Each year a hundred or more popular books are published telling us how best to manage our operations and businesses. When I was a young man, back before disposable diapers, I used to read these books hoping to find a formula for success. Fortunately, my bosses had firm ideas about how things were going to be done, so I never got the opportunity to make a complete fool of myself.

Oct 1st, 2011

By Ernie Childs

Each year a hundred or more popular books are published telling us how best to manage our operations and businesses. When I was a young man, back before disposable diapers, I used to read these books hoping to find a formula for success. Fortunately, my bosses had firm ideas about how things were going to be done, so I never got the opportunity to make a complete fool of myself.

I am now quite old, actually legally old (over 65), and want to use the license of elderly age to suggest unique management success insights for our industry … from an atypical source and hopefully with a bit of humor.

I grew up in Eastern Tennessee. The family home was originally in Powder Springs, just down the road from Tater Valley, but we moved to Knoxville before I was out of cloth diapers. Country music was a hard core part of the culture. A local grocer sponsored a country music program on all three networks every night of the week. Acts included such stalwarts as “Honey Wild and His Poodle Dogs” which went awry when two of the dogs bit Honey and he bled all over the stage. Also “Bonnie Lou and Buster” a down home couple who sang, clogged, and told terrible jokes. For example, “Heard a trombone player talking about a Sonata. What’s a Sonata? Something you get from a bad cold or hay fever.”

Then one evening, there was a newcomer on the show, a young lady named Dolly Parton. Suddenly, having to listen to a few minutes of Bonnie Lou and Buster to get to see Miss Parton was fine, well worth the wait. We were immature boys so what could you expect.

She went on to become a world renowned music, film, and stage performer and in 2006 was a Kennedy Center honoree for contributions to American culture. But she also became an enormously successful business person. And as you read further, you’ll see this did not happen by accident.

Some of her classic quotes are:

“It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.” Few people understand the costs of producing clean water or processing wastewater. They want to assume it is cheap and pay accordingly. This is one of our most difficult problems.

“Nobody ever notices how nice my behind is.” Folks generally notice us when there is a problem. They never notice the effort and diligence that goes into day-to-day maintenance of systems. The positive public health impact of our industry is assumed but generally not noted.

“It is hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world.” One of my favorites. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of several industries. Ours has the highest percentage of positively focused and well-meaning people I’ve ever seen. It is amazing to see this concentration of great folks in an under-appreciated sector.

“If I see something sagging’, bagging’, or dragging’, I’m going to have it nipped, tucked, or sucked!” Most every time people in our industry get together, the conversation turns to problem solving. It is the core of most of our days.

“I was the first woman to burn my bra - it took the fire department four days to put it out.” When we make a mistake, it is public record and it usually takes a lot more than four days to be forgotten. And the fines are generally pretty significant.

“I tried every diet in the book. I tried some that weren’t in the book. I tried eating the book. It tasted better than most of the diets.” We’ve all tried in our own ways to improve our operations or our companies. Blissful success is hard to achieve. And sometimes the result of our efforts is negative. Disappointing, but a part of life.

“It’s a good thing I was born a girl, otherwise I’d be a drag queen.” We are what we are. No need for additional elaboration.

“If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.” There is no one better road. But we always have to be looking. And working to be ready when we find it.

Hope you smiled a bit. Hope there were some nuggets of wisdom. We share a wonderful industry. We carry immense responsibility. All of us can make a contribution every day. Keep up the good work. And thanks Dolly.

WW

About the Author: Ernie Childs is Immediate Past Chairman of WWEMA. He is President of BioXact, Inc.™, a company focused on using biological tools to remediate, sustain, and enhance water resources.

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