What are some of the more difficult challenges you’ve encountered while working here?
It’s personnel – and not our current staff, but rather finding someone that can fill the void if a valued team member retires. I think it’s a function of America becoming a service-based economy now; there isn’t the same pride in manufacturing as there once was. Instead, we have a “I’m working in the factory so you don’t have to” sort of mentality. Horween is always thinking about needing personnel to move forward.
What sometimes happens is that an individual who’s been in the industry for awhile will move to Chicago or relocate from another tannery, and contact us for work. When these kinds of people come in for an interview and turn out to be good at what they do, we will always find a place for them no matter what. For instance, when Gutman from across the river went out of business, we hired a bunch of their guys – and they are still here to this day. It’s important.
You became a father this year. What kinds of adjustments have you made to the way you work?
Less travel, mostly. In the past I was traveling often, but now I want to be home more, because it’s so much fun hanging out with my son. Overall, I’m more strict with my schedule because I want to see him at the end of the day. My workload hasn’t decreased, but I’ve just had to work harder on my efficiency and planning. It takes discipline in this business, and especially at this tannery, because there is honestly an unlimited amount of work you can do. For instance, we have plenty of old leather stock sitting on the racks; we don’t know what’s there but we need to identify it, categorize it and then try and sell it. When I first started working here, I never knew where to start each morning. I had to learn over time to approach tasks to the best of my ability and to be willing to accept that I did my best that day, even if everything didn’t get completed. I still need to keep that in mind now.