Lessons learned ...

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

This year completes my thirty-fourth year in the industry. I was privileged to join my dad’s company, AMCO Medical Service, in December 1970, one semester prior to my graduation from Texas Tech University. For the next 15 years, I worked my way from cleaning commode chairs and delivering electric hospital beds up two flights of stairs (before split springs!) to keeping the books and completing payroll and finally to owner and president. While those were the days of the “golden commode,” they were still challenging and rewarding.

Thanks to Dad’s foresight, AMCO became a member of The MED Group in 1973, and I began to learn from the masters of the industry. Leaders such as Nagle Bridwell, Lewie Bates, Bob Kruse, Marty Franks, and Tom and Jim Dowd all took me under their wings and taught me so much about life. Oh sure, their expertise and knowledge of our industry was important and some of that rubbed off on me, too. But, more significantly, they taught me much more about the attributes of a truly successful person that go far beyond being a successful business leader. Please allow me to pass on to you just a few of those tidbits of wisdom that they modeled for me.

Humility - I believe this may be one of the most attractive leadership traits a person can possess. I am not talking about being a wall flower or a head hanger, but instead am emphasizing the understanding of where one really stands in the vastness of the universe. The apostle Paul wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Just imagine a world made up of people who are “looking out for the interests of others.”

Kindness - When Dad died a few years ago, his minister asked our family what we remembered about him that we wanted to be said at the funeral service. My brother-in-law said something that I hope I will never forget. He said that the “absence of unkindness” is what was most unique about Alex. He didn’t say Dad was always kind; he did say, however, that he couldn’t remember him being unkind. This reminds me of the old saying “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!”

Contentment - When is enough enough? And when is too much too much? All this striving that we do, is it really worth it? Doesn’t it seem some days that, as Solomon said, we are all simply “chasing after the wind?” When Jayne Ann and I married 32 years ago, we lived in a little 900-square-foot cracker box of a house. Today, we have the pleasure of living in a much larger home, but we are not any happier today because of the size of the house than we were all those years ago. Why not? Because we have learned to be content whether we have plenty or little. The things that matter are health, grandbabies and peace of mind. Grab hold of a little contentment today - it will slow your heart rate down a bit!

Passion - Now this may seem at first glance to be at the other end of the spectrum from contentment. Not at all. Instead, passion is what fires our engines in the morning. It is what causes us to focus on the important rather than the urgent. It is what gives us purpose, because our purpose becomes our passion. I assume if you are reading this you must be connected somehow to the HME industry. Well, let me tell you that if you didn’t have passion for what you are doing everyday for the people you serve, directly or indirectly, you would have been gone long ago. Thank you for the passion you do have in helping those with illness and disability. “When you have done it unto the least of these…..”

Perseverance - Oh my! How we need perseverance today in this challenging business world of ours. Let me give you a different perspective on “sticking with it” or “hanging in there.” If you are going through a valley in your life right now (whether it be personal or professional), please know that your character is being refined just as precious metals are refined in a hot flame. The refiner knows how hot to heat the flame and how long to leave the metal in the flame. You have the assurance that you will be stronger, more valuable and more useful when you come out of that fire. So, don’t give up. Consider it a benefit that you are struggling as your leadership and life muscles are being strengthened.

Thanks for letting me share these thoughts with you. And, thanks to those who went before us for showing us the way. My best to you.

- David Miller is chairman of The MED Group in Lubbock, Texas.