Viewing some of the terrific photos taken at the event by Knoxville photographer Bryan Allen, I happened upon one of long-time business partners, Burke Pinnell (chairman of Hickory) and Chuck Alexander (Hickory’s former executive vice president / retired).
The picture struck me by just how clear it is that these two men have been not only career-long business partners . . . but also true and steadfast friends.
Given the privilege I’ve had in working with them both, the image also spoke to me regarding just how much one business partner needs to have in common with another in order to realize any level of real success – and certainly success sustained over 40 years.
While two or more business partners can be very different people in all kinds of ways, they must share a strong and interconnected set of values about what they want their company to be and how they want its reputation to be known.
Speaking from the perspective of an outside service provider who has had a chance to closely watch, observe and learn from Hickory’s leadership and team culture – now also led in large part by Burke’s son, Ben, as president of the company – it seems that a common thread of their success has hinged on an envious level of execution of the finer details that distinguish excellence from “good,” “good enough,” and “OK.”
Every company struggles with these issues. Certainly, hiring team members who have the level of commitment and the right skill sets to achieve and sustain excellence is a big part of the challenge for any business.
But let’s face it . . . if a clear mandate isn’t consistently trumpeted by a company’s leadership team about what excellence even means, what it looks like and how it’s experienced through the customer lens, then even a team with the most talented and capable people will likely feel rudderless against the day-to-day upstream current.
I can see Burke’s and Chuck’s fingerprints across the company’s culture and in the literal bricks-and-mortar legacy of the company’s work product.
I can see it in how my firm’s direct client contact at Hickory, Vice President of Marketing John McMillan – a 30-year employee of Hickory himself – manages my team’s own work product and how he helps inspire our “A” game.
I also can see it at my house this summer as Hickory is working on a fairly in-depth kitchen renovation . . . and every day, the level of detail in the built product as well as their management of the job site reflect the ethic that I know Burke and Chuck forged decades ago and worked meticulously to entrench, not just with people but also with processes and – most importantly – culture.
Role models in any business community make such a larger impact than simply through the work of their company or organization alone. They inspire others inside and outside the company. They encourage. They point the way. They create sources of meaning and impact that touch many other lives.
I’m quite lucky to know two such role models in Burke and Chuck, and I’m excited to see the future path unfold for a company that could only have been Hickory-Built.