Inspiration from 964 miles away

By Mike Novakoski – November 30, 2016

Construction workers confer at a West Michigan job site. Courtesy Elzinga & Volkers

On a recent business trip to Mobile, Alabama, I dined with some associates at a restaurant named Wintzell’s Oyster House.  

The most memorable part of this lunch wasn’t the food (although it was fantastic), it was the original décor of J. Oliver Wintzell’s witty sayings covering the walls from floor to ceiling. Though the Wintzell family sold the restaurant in the ‘80s, the hundreds of sayings remain wholly intact. I spent the lunch smiling and reading J. Oliver Wintzell’s words of wisdom, but it was the creed that I read on the outside wall as I was leaving that left the biggest impression.

This creed was labeled “My Town.” It was a masterfully created set of values that bound Mr. Wintzell and the town of Mobile together. I actually had an emotional response of civic pride after I read this and snapped a picture. It was obvious to me that Mr. Wintzell was a raving fan of Mobile, warts and all.

About a month after this trip, we had a mid year, strategic plan update meeting with about 15 leaders of our firm. I thought I’d share the story of my trip and my creed discovery to see if we could build our own creed that would express our employees’ feelings for our firm. I had no real expectations. We broke into groups of three, and each group was given a generic outline to follow that mirrored the flow and cadence of Wintzell’s “My Town” creed. There were a lot of blanks to be filled in. We asked them to dig deep and truly express how they felt about the company.

Each of the groups came back and shared what they had come up with. I was again moved, but this time not with civic pride, but company pride. As the CEO, I couldn’t force the words they used to express themselves, but as we took a look at all of the different worksheets and blended them together, I couldn’t help but stand back and smile as I read it for the first time:

My company is the place where my talents are allowed to shine, where my work family is located and where my vote has impact. It is where my life is enriched, where my children aspire to work and where my neighbors wish they could be. It is a second home for me.

My company has a right to my loyalty; and a right to my dedication.

My company supports me; and I support it.

My company wants my name, not my number; my creative ideas, not my blind obedience; my best efforts, not my minimum requirements; my safety, not just my productivity.

My company supplies me with a sense of pride, inspiration to advance my career, the flexibility to be there for my kids, empowerment to make change happen, continuous training and growth opportunities, security for my family and the challenge to be like no other.

My company has some things better than others; the best things I should seek to reinforce; the worse things I should help to rebuild.

Take it all in. It is my company, and it is Unmistakable E&V.

Inspiration can come from a book or from a 300-year-old town 964 miles away from home. Thank you Mr. Wintzell for your inspiration!

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