Making a Living and a Life

Speaker Name: A. F. Sloan
Speaker Title: Chairman of the Board
Speaker Company: Lance, Inc.
Lance, Inc. Website

A. F. SloanI’m delighted and honored to be here and look forward to spending these few minutes with you. When you listen to an introduction like that, your chest kind of swells, and you get a little proud and you say, "My gosh is that me? I’m not that old; I haven’t lived long enough to do those kinds of things." We can all get shot down quickly if we stop and realize that whatever successes or contributions we have made, we haven’t made by ourselves--whether it be corporate-wise or community-wise or education-wise or whatever. I can compare it (and it’s not original with me) to going down the road and seeing a turtle sitting on a fence post. The one thing you know for sure is that he didn’t get there by himself. And, that’s certainly the case with me.

I got carried away at a sales meeting some years ago, and our sales manager introduced me as a model chairman. Again, that made me feel real good, but then he went on to explain that a model is a small replica of the real thing. Some of you, particularly the students, may wonder what a chairman does. A chairman is kind of like a corpse at a wake; they really don’t do very much but you’ve got to have one. Now it will be obvious to most of you that some of the thoughts I express today are not mine, but it’s been said that all work and no plagiarism makes for a dull talk, so I’ve tried to spice it up a bit.

When Dean Davis and my good friend, Lewis Mack, paid a visit and invited me to come here today, we were having a nice conversation and the Dean asked me if I believed in free speech. I told him that yes, I certainly did. He said, "Fine, I want you to give one." I hope that as we go through some of these "Delbert Earlisms," as Bob Inman has created so well, you’ll be able to sift through and find a little bit of crop sprinkled between the fertilizer.

I’d like to start by telling you a little about Lance. Then the rest of my remarks will reflect the philosophies by which our company is run. There was a gentlemen years ago, a retired Baptist minister and industrial psychologist named George Heaton, who used to say that all of us--you and I--are unique, non-reoccurring phenomena. There never has been one like us; there never will be another one like us. We’re as different as our fingerprints. We have all had different experiences and we are a product of these experiences. I’d like to carry that one step further--we are a product of the experiences that we have had and our reaction to those experiences. Let me give you an example. There is a father that’s an alcoholic with two children--one is a teetotaler, one is an alcoholic. Both had the same father, both had the same experiences, but their reaction to those experiences was totally different. You and I control not our experiences, but we can control our reaction to those. I’m a product, and my philosophies are a product, of almost 35 years of exposure to Lance, to the experiences I have had and my reaction to them.

Lance is well known over most of the area. Our company has a reputation of having a strong relationship with its employees, of treating each person with individual respect. That used to be kind of old fashioned, and we were more into things that increase productivity and that type of thing. All of a sudden, and the Japanese have had some influence on it, that’s back in style. So, while we were old-fashioned, we’re in style today and we haven’t changed.

Lance has a long history of hard work and a tradition of being a pleasant and good atmosphere in which to work. The company was started in 1913, so we’re in our 77th year, by Mr. Lance who was later joined by his son-in-law, Mr. S. A. Van Every. Mr. Lance was a coffee salesman, and back in those days every grocery store had a hand-operated coffee grinder. He would sell roasted coffee beans to the grocers which they would grind and sell to their customers. Mr. Lance got the idea that he could pick up a little extra change if he’d get into moonlighting a bit, so he made some deals with farmers to purchase peanuts from time to time and he would sell those to the grocerymen. On one occasion, the grocery stores could not take the peanuts they had agreed to buy. Remember that this was back in the early 1900s. Rather than go back on his word to the farmers, Mr. Lance paid them for the peanuts but he had to recover his money somehow. He took the peanuts home, roasted them in his kitchen stove, put them into brown paper bags in a basket, went out on the streets of Charlotte and sold them for 54 a bag. So, Lance started by accident, as a lot of companies did back in those days. But from that meager beginning, we now produce over 100 different products, in 166 different configuration of packages, and each week over 9,000,000 packages of our product are consumed in 35 states and the District of Columbia.

Let me quickly run through some slides describing our product line. We have what we refer to as our sandwich line, and I’m sure you have seen those in vending machines; our nut line in which we have about any kind of nut available in the marketplace; potato chips and related items; various cakes, pecan and other pies; candy; meat line; and an institutional line which is the type of package that you would normally see in the cafeteria or food service areas.

Our Charlotte plant contains about 900,000 square feet. Our Texas manufacturing facility is about 350,000 square feet. Our tractor-trailers each week take over 200 loads to our salesmen to supply the products to them for sale to the customers. The trucks leave the products in a series of buildings with individual doors on them. Each of our 2,500 route people have a warehouse where they receive a delivery once a week from the tractor-trailer. We have several varieties of vending machines, with a total of about 80,000. We have a subsidiary plant in Burlington, Iowa, which also makes cookies and crackers, but not in the same small packages. Most of this is for the grocery store trade, some is made for other people under their label, and about 50 percent of it is for us.

Of course, no company can survive or grow without people. We employ 5,400+ employees who determine how well we do or whether we do or whether we don’t. It’s up to us as leaders or managers to be sure that we take care of them and keep everything moving in the right direction for the benefit of not only the shareholders but for the employees as well.

Let me give just a quick run through of some numbers. This past year our net sales were $432 million. Over the last 15 years our total revenues have increased 206 percent and our earnings per share, or profits, have increased 294 percent. The return on the average equity, which normally will be in the range of about 20 percent, in 1989 was 21.4 percent. Our dividends have increased about 500 percent over the last 15 years.

Some of you may find it interesting to hear what our monthly grocery list is: 7,377,000 pounds of flour, 1,768,000 pounds of shortening, 3,207,000 pounds of potatoes, 2,166,000 pounds of peanuts, and 870,000 pounds of sugar.

Enough talk about numbers; let’s get into some things that should concern you more. Over the years we’ve all heard various secrets for success. I’d like to talk to you about a couple of these secrets or formulas--one from a gentlemen who runs a pizza operation in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the other from H. L. Hunt of the famous Hunt family of Dallas. The secrets of success from the gentleman in Tennessee start with self-discipline. That means to go by our conscience--to do what we know we need to do, should do, and when we should do it. I can’t kid myself. I have to have confidence in myself. But I can’t have that if I don’t have self-discipline to do the things that I need to do, whether it’s to go to class, study when I should, or to be considerate of others. Self-discipline. No one else can do that, only me. That’s the number one step--the foundation upon which everything else has to be built if I’m to be successful. The second item is self-respect. I can’t expect to get the respect of others unless I respect myself, and I can’t respect myself if I don’t have self-discipline. I’d like to read you something called "The Man in the Glass, " and it has to do with self-respect.

When you get what you want in your struggle for self,
And the world makes you king for a day,
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife 
Whose judgement upon you must pass,
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life,
Is the one staring back from the glass.

Some people might think you’re a straight shooting chum,
And call you a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum,
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear to the end,
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test,
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears,
If you cheated the man in the glass.

~ Anonymous

The third item that the gentleman from Tennessee spoke about and said we would get if we had self-discipline and gained our self-respect is confidence. With confidence you can take on the world. The fourth item in his steps for success is that old four-letter word that a lot of people are afraid of and don’t like, and that’s work--W O R K. But without work nothing is possible. And not only work, but work to the absolute best of our potential and ability. I’m sure all of you have seen the Army’s recruiting slogan--"Be the best you can be," and that means be the best you, not someone else can be.

A good friend of mine, Norman Sloan, basketball coach for 30+ years, used to coach a player at N.C. State by the name of Kenny Carr--an outstanding athlete with tremendous talent. Kenny never could understand when, after a winning game in which he had scored maybe 23 points and gotten 11 rebounds, the coach would sit him down and say "Kenny, now these are the areas I want you to improve in. This is where you can do better." Kenny would say "Coach, we won the game, I was the high scorer and I got 11 rebounds." He said "Kenny, you don’t understand. With the talent you have, and the body you have, and the mind you have, you’re capable of scoring 30+ points and 15 rebounds.7quot; So that’s what we’re talking about. Be the best that you can be, not measured by someone else. He did better than anyone else on the team, but he had more potential and more talent than anyone else on the team.

The second group of thoughts on success came from Mr. Hunt. Number one on his list is: decide what you want. Decide what YOU want, and be sure that it’s really what you want. Alfred E. Newman from Mad Magazine used to say that most people don’t know what they want, but they know they don’t have it. How do you know you don’t have it if you don’t know what you want? At your point in life, that’s difficult to do. But you need to get on about it and decide what you really want.

The second point that Mr. Hunt makes is: once you have decided what you want in the way of a career, in the way of life, then decide what you’re willing to pay for it, what you’re willing to do to get it. You know, as you look at careers, if you’re not willing to pay the price of travel and being away from home all week, then certainly you don’t want a job as a traveling salesman. If you want to be a doctor, then you have to recognize that you’ve got six to eight more years in college and medical school to become a doctor. All these things are required. If it’s your intention to never leave North Carolina, or Boone, then you shouldn’t interview for jobs that will be contrary to what you have decided on. It will be a disruption in your life when you have to change.

Decide what you want and the price you’re willing to pay. All the time keep in mind that reward comes for achievement, not for ambition and not for good intentions. You have to be sincere in the price that you are willing to pay. I went to school with several people who liked athletics, and liked young people, and wanted to coach. Coaching is a great and honorable profession, and yet if you look even in the professional ranks, the coaches don’t make what the players do. Well, they got married, had babies and before long they had all the bedrooms full, and they could not attain the standard of living they wanted for themselves and their families and still be in that profession. So, once again, put all these thoughts through the filter before you decide what you want.

Third: set your priorities and goals. Ask yourself, "What am I going to do first to get to where I want to be? What’s my first objective? Am I going to finish college on the dean’s list, is that necessary to get into the graduate school that I want to go to? Am I going to finish second or third in my class to get into medical school?" What are your priorities? What are you going to do? Go back periodically and set definite time tables on these priorities and then go back and look and see if you’ve met your goals. If you haven’t, shame on you. Your self-discipline broke down, or you didn’t work or attain one of the other things we’ve talked about. Obviously you’ll have to make some changes.

Several years ago a gentlemen from Japan visited my home for dinner. In an import store I found a sake set to use to serve hot sake with dinner. The set had Japanese writing on it. I was a bit nervous because I had no idea what the writing said and I didn’t want to offend my guest. When he came I asked him with my fingers crossed what the writing said, and he replied, "Get knocked down seven times and get up eight." The message is that as you get knocked down, get up one more time than you get knocked down. You will be knocked down somewhere along the line, and I hope it doesn’t hurt you real bad. But, it does happen; it happens to all of us. It might happen to you when you go in for an exam and think you really have knocked the socks off of it and you come back and the grade is not so good. At that point you can’t do anything about it, but you can get up again and do something about the next exam.

Calvin Coolidge said it well, "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

I’d like to shift gears a little bit now and talk about leadership. I know we have schools of management, and we have top management and middle management. But I want to talk about leadership. I think that leadership eventually will replace management as a word to describe the function of what these people do. You manage things; you don’t manage people. You lead people. Several years ago there was a lady on "60 Minutes" by the name of Captain Hopper. At that time she was 73 years old, a Captain in the Navy, and a computer expert. She said the two things that we need most in this country today are loyalty and leadership. Loyalty to ourself, loyalty to our family, to our school, to our company, to our country--just plain old pure loyalty. Second is leadership. She didn’t say management, she said leadership. She went on to give the example that if she had a Marine standing beside her at that point, the Marine would tell you very quickly that you couldn’t manage him into combat, but you could lead him.

Who ever heard of a world manager? A world leader, yes, we’ve heard of those or an educational leader, political leader, scout leader, community leader, or business leader; all of these are leaders, not managers. I’ve got a little piece of string here in my pocket. If I try and manage this string, if I try and push it, look what happens, it just flops. But if I go around and take this lead end and I go back up to the top with it and I get out front and I lead it, it will follow me anywhere I want to go. People are the same. People want to be led, not managed.

The same gentlemen that I mentioned early on, Dr. Heaton, used to talk about thermometers and thermostats. A thermometer only measures the surrounding conditions. If we had one in this room right now, it might say 72 degrees but all it does is tell us what the surrounding conditions are. If we wanted this room to be 75 degrees or if we wanted it to be 69 degrees, a thermostat would do something about it. It would take some action. It would call down and send me some heat, send me some cooling rather than just reflect the surrounding conditions. As a leader, that’s what you have to be-- a thermostat. If you go into a situation with people where the attitude is bad, and if you go in and all you do is join the crowd and become one of the guys or the gals, then you haven’t done anything. But if you’re a thermostat, you can make changes.

Fifteen to twenty years ago, Lance spent a lot of money and sent me away to some fancy school for a week. The most valuable thing I learned from that experience is that when you’re the leader, you’re in charge of the climate. I’m not talking about whether it’s snowing or raining outside, I’m talking about the atmosphere in which those you are to direct the efforts of are going to work, or if it’s just two of you, the conversation that you are going to carry on. If you’re going to be the leader, you’re in charge of that atmosphere. I maintain that people are similar to plants, that they can’t grow and produce if the climate isn’t right. We all have within us some 10-15 percent potential for giving an effort in productivity without working any harder if the conditions are right. If you’re the leader, you have to create those conditions. Years ago the theory was that the way you grow people or the way you supervise or manage people is just like growing mushrooms--keep them in the dark, feed them a lot of horse manure, you know that will take care of it. Well, thank goodness, that theory is in the past. But your attitude will determine the climate, and that’s your responsibility.

My former boss used to say that every morning when you get before a mirror--us men to shave and you ladies to work on your natural beauty--that there’s two great big buttons on that mirror. One of them is a happiness button and one of them is a misery button, and we alone determine which one we’re going to push. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said "Misery is Optional." Well it is. You decide whether you’re going to be miserable or not. Remember when you go before that mirror that you can push either of those buttons. You get up and if you’re not feeling 100 percent, then you can talk yourself right back into bed by saying you can’t go to class or you can’t go to work, and before the day’s over, you’re going to feel miserable to verify the fact that you didn’t do what you knew you should have done. But if you get up and say, well I’m 70 percent, and you push the happiness button, after you shave and shower and get a cup of coffee and go on into work, you know you’ll feel better, and you know it’s an amazing thing, you always do. You control that. If you push that misery button and you go ahead with that attitude, that attitude is going to multiply with all of the people you come in contact with that day. You’re going to tell them how bad you feel, and they’re going to tell you how much worse they feel than you do. If you tell them how good you feel, they’ll tell you how much better they feel than you do.

I heard a minister giving his Labor Day talk a couple of years ago, and he asked, "When you get up in the morning, do you get up and say ’Good morning, God,’ or do you get up and say, ’Good God, it’s morning!’" We determine that. It’s been said that the only way you can multiply happiness is to divide it. If I give you some of mine, then we’ll both be happy, then you will give some to the person that you next come in contact with, and this way it can just become a tremendous thing. Back during World War II, there was a group called the Andrews Sisters who sang a song called "Accentuate the Positive and Eliminate the Negative, Don’t Mess with Mr. In-Between." And there is no in-between in life--it’s either positive or it’s negative. We either add to it and we make the world a better place or we take something away from it and it’s not quite as good; there’s no such thing as just drifting through. The positive will win every time.

I’m going to step a little bit on the media’s toes because it’s difficult today to keep a positive attitude when most of the news is given out on the basis that something bad, or negative, is news. We don’t talk a whole lot about our successes. I really enjoy WBTV’s Carolina Camera where we see some genuine folks who have been successful. But the weather report usually says, for example, a 30 percent chance of rain. What’s wrong with a 70 percent chance of sunshine? Or 5 percent unemployed; what’s wrong with 95 percent employed, more people working than have ever worked in this country at any time in history. We have to overcome this and go ahead and keep a positive attitude.

When people ask you how you are feeling, first of all, they really don’t want to know, it’s just a way to start a conversation. Tommy Lasorda, with the Los Angeles Dodgers, says don’t tell people your troubles because half of them don’t care and the other half are glad you’ve got them. Be concerned about others and listen to what their problems are and help them in any way that you can. Do they feel better or worse for being in my presence? Obviously, we want it to be better and if we’ve exhibited leadership in a positive and happy fashion, then that should be the case. There’s a gospel song that goes, "There’s a little light in all of us by God’s design, but you can’t be a beacon if your light don’t shine." And, you can’t be. A beacon either directs us to a desired destination or it keeps us away from the rocks, if it happens to be on the coast. But by and large, a beacon directs us to a desired destination.

It’s been said that knowledge is power and I used to sell vacuum cleaners--excuse me, home sanitation systems--with a friend of mine and he said knowledge without action is nothing. It makes no difference how much knowledge you possess and how many credentials you have; if you don’t take that knowledge and do something with it, it’s nothing. You’ve got to take the lid off of that can of knowledge and open it up and use it. But this is a delicate line; if you only use it to show how much you know, then you’re in trouble. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. But if you have created the right atmosphere and you have let them know that you care about them, then you can take this knowledge which is power and you can be a beacon and let your light shine and direct them to the desired destination.

Let’s talk a little bit about time. We hear a lot about concerns of discrimination in various areas. Time is one where there is absolutely no discrimination. We all get the same amount--168 hours a week. The difference is in how we use it, and this is part of the test of life. After a two-hour test in my second year of college accounting as the professor came around picking up the tests, one of the students said, "Professor Baker, I can do this, I really know this, but I just need more time." Professor Baker answered, "Son, that’s part of the test.&quot Time is part of the test and how we use it is part of our test of life. It’s been said that yesterday is a canceled check as far as time is concerned; tomorrow is a promissory note and we don’t know if we’ll ever get tomorrow or not; and today is the only spendable cash that we have as far as time is concerned.

If you watch sports very much, whether it be professional or college, basketball or football, the coaches absolutely hate to take a time-out early in a game. If a quarterback for some reason has to take one because somebody didn’t understand the play, he’s dern near shot when he gets to the sidelines. We need to do the same thing with our time--save our time-outs. If you’ve got an exam tomorrow, then go ahead and do the studying first, do that in the first quarter, and don’t say, "Well I’ll go to the movie this afternoon, and I’ll study tonight." Then you get to tonight and say, "Well, I’ll get up early in the morning and do it." Then something happens that you can’t do it, and you don’t have any more time-outs because you used your time-outs to start with. There’s nothing wrong with being somewhere early; I don’t know of anyone who has been criticized for that. When going on a trip, start early and get there a little bit early if necessary, then you keep from putting yourself under the pressure of having to go faster because you’re supposed to be there at a certain time. Use your time-outs at the end of the line rather than at the beginning.

As I mentioned earlier you have to decide what you want to do. You’ll be interviewing, and some of you maybe already are, for jobs. If you’re going into a profession you know what a doctor does and a lawyer does but in the business world that’s a difficult question for you to answer, at least it was for me when I sat in your seat. Because you don’t know or have not had the opportunity to find out what there is to be done. You might want to be in personnel because you like people; well, there are people in finance, and manufacturing and sales. So, it’s a little bit tough to do. But, I would urge you to do as much research as you can to determine what is involved with a particular company or field that you want to get in, so once again you can decide on number one--what you want. When you go for an interview, whether it be for a job, or graduate school, I would approach that interview as if there was only one position or one job left in the whole world and the person that was doing the interviewing had it. Now, if you are successful and you are offered the job or position and you decide later that’s not what you want to do, fine, you don’t have to do it. But, pursue them all seriously.

In summary, secrets for success include: self-discipline, do the best that you can and be the best you can be, set your priorities and goals and go for it, be persistent, get knocked down seven times and get up eight, be a thermostat not a thermometer, take action, be a beacon, let your light shine in a positive happy atmosphere, manage yourself, lead others and serve your fellow man. It’s been said that life is like the game of tennis--the player who serves well seldom loses. I’d like to read you a statement that was given in an address by John Carey to students of Presbyterian College back in May of this year. He said, "Friends I’m here to tell you that right now you’re in the real world. This is as real as it gets. The pressures you face here are real."

We hear a lot about pressure and stress and so forth. But we can control a lot of that pressure. I maintain that pressure is kind of like a pressure cooker with two parts to it. One is a big pot that you put water in and get it boiling; the other is a lid that you put on and clamp it down. Once it is clamped down, the boiling water starts to build steam and builds up pressure. I maintain that you and I will be put in a lot of boiling water, but we have the lid in our control. We control when the lid goes on and if I clamp that lid on, yes I’m going to have pressure and I’m going to have stress. But if I can keep that lid off then all I’m going to have is boiling water and I can handle that.

The choices you make here are important and will shape the direction of your life for a lifetime. The social skills will guide you for years. In all likelihood you will never again make friends like you’ve made in college, because later demands of job and families mitigate against having the time to invest in friendships. Habits of leadership and visions of service are formed here and friendships of a lifetime are made. Marriages are born here; the pain of broken relationships is felt here. Sometimes the gift of a second chance is experienced here. So, the second truth is that you’re living real life now, it’s not just a game, a warmup, or an exhibition season. Your choices and experiences here are the real thing so this time is enormously important.

It’s been said that life is a journey and not a destination, and every day of the trip should be enjoyed. I don’t think that our Maker meant for it to be anything less--life and work were supposed to be enjoyed as long as we keep it in a happy atmosphere. How many times have you gone on a trip with great anticipation that once you get there, you’re going to absolutely have a ball and by the time you get back home you realized that you had more fun on the journey, on the trip down and back, than you really did at the destination. Life is the same. So, enjoy the trip.

Happiness is not a matter of good fortune or worldly possessions, it’s a mental attitude. It comes from appreciating what we have instead of being miserable about what we don’t have. It’s so simple and yet so hard for the human mind to comprehend. Eddie Cantor, one of the great entertainers of this century, used to say that we should live every day of our life as if it were our last one, and one day we’d be right. But I say wouldn’t we not have a better world if we treated everyone that we came in contact with as if it were the last day of their life.