By Frank Ramirez, CEO & President, Leadpoint Business Services
Like most people, I’ve experienced highs and lows. I’ve built and grown businesses and lost more than one of them. I’ve learned the power of The Golden Rule and the importance of treating others with dignity and respect.
My story isn’t legendary or the stuff of a best-selling book or movie. But along the way, I formed a set of values and principles that guide my life and my business, ideas that I hope will inspire anyone that comes across these words.
Early Lessons Learned
In 1982, I graduated from high school in rural Oregon without a lot of choices. I ended up enlisting in the Marine Corps. and spent the next four years traveling the world, serving my country.
That experience taught me how to take responsibility, be accountable to others, and solve problems without a lot of resources. It also embedded a Marine Corp saying that has influenced me along the way: if you see something substandard and you do nothing, you just set a new standard.
These skills and lessons would prove valuable later in my life.
When I got out of the service, I worked for Volt Temporary Service as a temporary employee. I had an opportunity to learn the staffing business, go to night school, and save money. Within a few years, I was able, along with my wife, to start a staffing company. It was hard work, but the company grew fast and was successful. I sold it a few years later for more money than I ever thought I’d make in my life.
It’s OK to Fail
Full of confidence and with some money in my pocket, I moved to Phoenix. I thought, I can do this again!
Within a few years, I’d started a couple of businesses that failed within a year. I lost it all. That was my first hard lesson in humility.
I started all over again building another staffing company. After the 2008 financial crisis hit, I woke up one morning and all our accounts were gone. Except for two. One was a recycling company. I convinced Todd Hubbard, who was a high school friend and had some recycling experience, to join me. We focused on the recycling industry and began building a company with an idea to deliver our service from the inside of the plant, right alongside our customer and their operations.
This was difficult. I didn’t quit. I kept going. We struggled through it.
The Heart of the Recycling Business
That was 2008. That one recycling company, and the other client I retained, are Leadpoint customers to this day. I am grateful for the confidence they put in me and my team and for the opportunity to rebuild a business in the recycling industry.
Since then, Leadpoint has grown from this single client to a company with customers across the United States. We are grateful for the opportunity.
However, I’ve learned that you can have all the capital and money in the world but if you don’t have the right people, men and women with qualities and values that match those of your business, you don’t win.
When I think about success, there are five things I look for in Leadpoint team members and that I strive for personally.
- Be smart. I’m not talking about IQ. I mean the willingness and adaptability to learn. Expand your knowledge and take advantage of the opportunity to learn from those around you. In the last year, I’ve learned more about finance and accounting from Leadpoint’s CFO than four years of college and 20 years in business could have taught me.
- Be humble. Human beings are fundamentally flawed. We make mistakes. For me, when we don’t get it right, fail or have a tough day, I can feel sorry for myself for a few minutes but then it’s time to get back to work and do something about it. If you don’t have humility, you’re not going to learn.
- Work hard. There’s no substitute for hard work. No shortcuts. You have to do the work. There are two ways to do anything: the easy way and the right way. I’ve learned that if it’s hard, it’s probably the right thing to do. It’s not about putting in long hours. When you’re at work, give it your best. Be professional. Care about the outcome.
- Be accountable. Leadership comes from all corners of the company, not just from the top. We all need to take responsibility; whatever happens in this place is on me. Is that phone call so important that I have to return it today? Do I have to be on time? Is the quality of my work good enough? If I know something is badly broken, should I say something? Strive for collaboration and accountability when the leader’s NOT there.
- Be self-aware. Self-awareness gives you power and confidence. When you know who you are, that’s powerful. I take time every day to rewind how people reacted to what I said, what I could have done better and what I could have improved. A lot of times we ask, Why? Self-awareness is about asking, What? This simple word change can help you understand who you are and give you the courage to change. What could I have done differently? What was it about the outcome that could have gone better? What, not why.
What I’ve Learned
I hope others can learn these three things from my story.
- Don’t quit. Keep trying. Be resilient. Once you give up, it’s over.
- It’s ok to fail. Failure brings humility and understanding.
- Take full advantage of the opportunities that come your way. Some of them may last a lifetime.