Were You Listening?
By: David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

May 18th was a warm late spring day. As the day progressed, and the humidity started to build, it almost felt like a mid-summer day, and severe thunderstorms were in the forecast. Thankfully, the worst of the thunderstorms went south of the city sparing the six hundred plus who were entering the OnCenter for MACNY’s 104th Annual Dinner. I would guess that I had attended twenty or so Annual Dinners dating back to the days when MACNY met in the Grand Ballroom at the Hotel Syracuse. Back then I was so impressed with the leaders of our community who might even be referred to as titans of industry for Central New York.

I am much older now, and I don’t mean to diminish the success of those I saw twenty years ago, but there were profound statements made about this year’s inductees into MACNY’s Wall of Fame. Statements that helped us see why they were so successful and why they were able to live a life of significance in our community. Were you listening?

Were you listening when the late Ray Currier’s family and employees spoke about him? Two things struck me. The first was when his son John said: “I wondered what Dad would say if he were here, and then I remembered that Dad would never have allowed us to put him here.”  Ray was a man who lived his life for others. It was never about him. It was always about his people. Were you listening when John told us how he started the business? In 1982, when Auburn Plastics closed its doors, Ray at 59 years of age started Currier Plastics by hiring the two best employees he knew, a young engineer and an older toolmaker. Oh, and by the way, he bought two used injection molding machines. Did you catch that? Hired the two best employees he knew, and used machinery. Were you listening?

Arnie Rubenstein of United Radio was next. His children spoke about the lessons their dad had taught them over the years. Were you listening as they recalled Arnie saying something like “If a major storm comes through town and destroys our buildings, but we still have our great team, we will be fine. If we lose our team and have a wonderful facility, we are in trouble.” What did Phil and Mara hear from their Dad? It’s all about the people. Arnie even commented when accepting the award, “We hire for attitude and train for skill.”

Both men grew very successful businesses which today employ hundreds of people. But why were they successful? Why did these companies grow and add so much value to our community while others flounder or even fail? In my opinion, it was their focus on people and not assets. From Ray starting with the two best employees he knew, to Arnie stressing to the next generation the necessity of valuing your team, we were treated to an opportunity to learn from two of the best. The question is, were you listening?

I would love to hear your thoughts about leadership and valuing people.