Teamwork, Leadership, Problem Solving, and History

A few weeks ago I participated in a series of three events that spanned the course of three days.  Each of these events was through a company called GORUCK which manufactures American made gear and conducts endurance events led by Special Forces Cadre that use some of the training methods they have experienced throughout their career in the armed forces. GORUCK also works alongside service projects that help to better and empower veterans as well as their communities. I believe this tag from their page says it best. “So, yes we build gear. Yes, we lead events, build teams, and strengthen communities. But only because if we didn’t, we’d have to find some other way to change the world, one day at a time.” (GORUCK,2020)

 

The events that weekend were to commemorate and tell the story of a battle from Vietnam, specifically the battles for A Shau Valley.  This is where the battle that became known as Hamburger Hill took place.  The valley was an unforgiving place that came with many disadvantages to try and overtake. For example, the elevation goes from 2,000 feet above sea level in the valley to 5,000 ft and anywhere in between thanks to the surrounding mountain ridges.

The valley is also a triple canopy jungle making air support and recon extremely difficult.  This valley was a supply chain during the war and there is still turmoil as to whether the battles were necessary as there were many lives lost and several other options that would have achieved a similar supply chain disruption.  In the end, there were 17 Americans involved in a battle with a constantly changing number of support forces.  100% of the soldiers became casualties, 5 paid the ultimate sacrifice during the battle and there were 2 Congressional Medals of Honor given due to actions during the battle for Hamburger Hill.

Taking roll call and getting the lay of the land for the event.

To learn all of this we started out Friday evening at 2100 hr. in a park here in Cincinnati, on a basketball court.  There were 23 of us total participating in the event as well as Cadre Steve our leader and then a great friend of mine who shadowed and photographed a great portion of the events. After some administration, we did a quick warmup where we quickly learned what it meant to be in sync and to move as a team.  When doing physical exercises, in the dark, with 23 people from all walks of life and varying physical ability it can get interesting. With a team leader assigned by the Cadre, we made around a 1-mile movement as a group carrying with us an American Flag, GORUCK flag, six empty sandbags, and a team weight that weighed in at 25 lbs.

The movement was to a public sand volleyball court where the sandbags quickly went from empty to filled.  Thus adding around 650 lbs of extra weight to the team.  Each movement, from the point we stepped off to filling the bags became a task as we had to stay within a certain distance of each other, everyone wanted to go different speeds and the urban terrain was an added obstacle. Adding in the weight and suddenly the team will quickly realize how important communication as well as cooperative work and supporting one another is.

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We then moved to a small secluded area where the Cadre had done some excellent recon to locate a downed communication device that needed relocation. This was a downed telephone pole that we are estimating weighed in at well over 300 lbs and was around 20′ long.  6 people were assigned from the team to carry that and continued our movement to another park within the city limits that had no easy way to reach other than up and over several of the hills our great city offers.  Around 5 miles later and 5 hours later we reached our destination to get some more history on the events that took place during the war.

Along the way, our tactics for the weight continued to vary and we eventually placed 9 people tripping over each other on the heavy communication device, then an additional six on the sandbags, two people on flags, one on the team weight, and the rest just falling in line. By the time we got to the park, everyone on the team had become exhausted, some believed they were carrying more of the load than others, people carrying sandbags would want to not carry weight and have to go under the log then back to a sandbag all because communications were breaking down and the team was beginning to fray at the seams.

At some point it is human nature to look outside rather than inside and begin to focus on what others aren’t doing rather than what you can personally do in order to improve the situation of everyone. The rhythm that the team had been keeping broke down with mental and physical fatigue.  Once we had received some more knowledge on the battles the Cadre asked how we were doing and what could be done better. We gave the team leader at each of these sessions three items they did well and three items to improve on then they are removed from their position and another is placed before the next movement.  This also helps those that were leaders to understand their importance when placed in a support role.

At this stop, we were able to pay out through exercises leaving the communications pole at a safe location and have a better understanding of how to better move as a team and be congruent even in the middle of the night.  We were able to move faster and get to the last stopping point for more education then off to where we started everything at to finish out the event.  From this point on we had constant communication, we were working fluidly as a team and everyone from the front to the back of the pack was in the know of what our goal was, our time, and what was needed to get there.

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During these events, every single person gets to fight their own minds and questions whether or not they are being an asset to the team or being a liability.  It is when you are feeling weak, have pain, see others not struggling, or just get tired that this simple question can become devastating.  That’s when everyone has to be willing to communicate and expose their weakness to their team in order for their team to support and help them overcome these internal hurdles.  Not everyone gets there and not everyone can overcome.  The team as a whole will grow closer and become far more effective if the members all experience this.

Experiencing this throughout the course of the night and seeing the kinds of opportunities that the team here at EXAIR has made possible for me to grow goes hand in hand.  When someone here has not experienced an application, or we are weak within a certain area of knowledge or ability, the rest of the team will support, strengthen and ensure everyone makes it through.  This is one reason that communication will always be one of the most important traits I can find in a team member.  It is also one reason EXAIR continues to progress and continue forward even through trying times.

We communicate from the front all the way to the back of the building fluently and concisely.  When something doesn’t happen then we know there is a problem and rather than focusing on blame or what went wrong the teams here all focus on the solution and then we can debrief once the issue is resolved.  This leads to on-time and shipping accuracy percentages that continue to improve over the past decade.  We place our team’s focus on being able to take care of our customers, give them a safe and efficient way to utilize compressed air and be easy to do business with throughout the entire process.

If you would like to discuss any compressed air application you may have or if you would like to discuss an interaction that you have had with us and share anything good or bad, please feel free to contact me directly.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer / GRT
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

 

Refocusing Life with Mud Pit Burpees

This past weekend I decided it was a great idea to sign up for another event through GoRuck.  In case you aren’t familiar with GoRuck they were founded by a retired Green Beret who wanted a way to test the gear he was making and selling.  These events have since expanded to a very extensive team building and fitness event.   The event this past weekend was located in Columbus, OH and was hosted by four Cadre, each from a different branch of military Special Ops.   It is truly amazing what each cadre brought to the table as they shared a sliver of their experiences and expertise.

The event was, so far, the hardest physical event I have done in my life.   The outcome and what I carried with me from the event was worth every bit of the pain.   While most that are on the outside looking in may think this is purely a physical exercise, it is much more than that.   These events not only help you to test yourself physically but mentally as well.  They are designed to get everyone out of their comfort zone and  teach each participant that while one person may be able to complete all the tasks, it only matters if everyone completes them together.  So they also teach an incredible amount of team building.

The event I took part in I only knew one other person there, I came away knowing roughly 32 people and having a better understanding of what it takes to make sure everyone has the same goal in their mind and that everyone knows what needs to be done to get to that goal.

The best part of all is this event was only the LIGHT version.  It was like the sampler of what their main events are.   The biggest reward of everything that happened that day is the fact that there were 72 people from all walks of life that got together in a park and everyone walked away a better person.  GoRuck prides itself in building better people and so far, I haven’t seen anything but 100% delivery on that.

Whether, you are doing a burpee in a mud pit.  (see below)

Mud Burpee
Nothing better than a mud pit Burpee – I wonder if I could convince my co-workers to join in?

Or trying to make it through a seemingly endless leg lift with a ruck on,  the only thing you have to worry about is making sure that you keep the person next to you going because they will in turn do the same.   You’ll be impressed with what you can do when you get rid of the “can’t and won’t” from your vocabulary and learn to ask for help, you can and will achieve the impossible.

ABSOC Light Columbus.jpg
I’m the guy the cadre is walking right behind.  I promise my feet are 6″ off the ground and my legs are straight.

As for me, an event like this allows me to refocus and makes me see the forest through the trees of day to day life.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer Manager / GoRuck “Weirdo”
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

 

The Best Lunch Is One Prepared For You

This past week was another celebration here at EXAIR, in case you didn’t notice, we like to do that here.  This wasn’t a birthday, anniversary or someone leaving the team, it was another record breaker for the EXAIR team.   I know we have talked about cookouts before and these only happen for special occasions.   Nonetheless when you have the EXAIR management team, including the owner and President, grilling everyone’s lunch –  it is a great day.

You can see our Production Manager doing some quality inspection here.
You can see our Production Manager doing some quality inspection here.

This builds so much camaraderie through the ranks of EXAIR that I don’t know any way to do it better.   The entire time we had the cookout there was still no hiccup in our standard operations either, that means if you called in, you still got to speak to a live person and not a recording.   That is the level of service that we provide every day, every week, every month, and every year.   That is what sets us apart from any of our competition and allows us to continue to reach higher goals than we have ever reached before.

MMMmmmmmmm!!!!!    Steak!
MMMmmmmmmm!!!!! Steak!

Now if you will excuse me,  I need to go take a jog and try to work myself out of this food coma from the steak.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer Manager
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

 

Cookouts Are Awesome

Here at EXAIR we truly are a team.  When everyone bands together and gets everything done right it shows.   Yesterday we had the luxury of getting lunch cooked for us by the President and owner.  Whenever good things happen around here they treat us with a belly filling cookout. Heck, even if it’s been a while since the last cookout they will come up with a reason to serve us.  We can order our choice of different style burgers and even have a few special orders which facilitate different diets.  They have been cooking out for us for so many years that the process is down to a science and we are always sitting down to lunch exactly at our normal lunch hours. The spread is deliciously nice and it’s always good to see everyone from all departments getting together for a nice sit down lunch.

20140729_115516 20140729_115520

 

(Pictures are of what is left after everyone made their way through.)
(They also don’t show the other half which was salad bar and of course deserts!)

In many ways the cookout process resembles the way we treat customers… We never need an excuse to treat you well, we can make custom products for your unique processes – if we don’t already make what you need, our products have been shipped 99.9% on time for a ridiculously long time (ever since we started tracking it 18 years ago), and we are confident you will be pleased with the products. I guess you could say EXAIR’s company culture serves both internal and external customers.

Times like this are when I know I am a part of the right company, one that not only is the leader of Intelligent Compressed Air Products, but also a company that is based on a solid foundation that takes care of its employees.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

The Patrol Method Still Works

Something doesn’t feel quite right about this past weekend. A few hundred Boy Scouts gathered along the bank of the East Fork of the Little Miami River from Friday to Sunday for our District’s Spring Camp-O-Ree…and it didn’t rain once. It totally went the wisdom of great American author, philosopher, and truth-teller Dave Barry:

Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds, for the opportunity to rain on a tent.

The beautiful weather, though, was just the icing on the cake of a glorious weekend. We set up a series of team-building/problem-solving exercises for the Scouts to perform. One of these was known as “The Hot Chocolate River” which consists of:

(2) lengths of rope, staked to the ground about 15 feet apart…these are the “banks” of the river.
(5) 2-foot wooden squares…these are the “marshmallows” that the team uses to cross the river.

Here’s the deal: each 8-Scout Patrol attempts to reach the opposite bank by placing the marshmallows in the river. At least one Scout has to be in physical contact with each marshmallow in the river, or the unattended marshmallow is removed from play, and they’re left to cross the river with just four marshmallows. Or three, when they find another way to leave one unattended. And some of them did, with alarming quickness. One Patrol (the one my youngest son belongs to) successfully crossed the river in 1:14 (min:sec). The next fastest was 1:44. Another Patrol lost three marshmallows almost immediately, but were able to get all eight members across in under seven minutes, using only two marshmallows. A couple of Patrols “timed out,” being left with only one or two marshmallows after ten minutes, with members still on the starting bank.

One thing I noticed…from the quickest (did I mention that was my son’s Patrol?) to the slowest, was that their success (or lack thereof) was tied to their teamwork and communication (or lack thereof.) These are key components of “The Patrol Method,” which I wrote about once. Well, twice.

That was a couple of years ago, and the Application Engineering team at EXAIR STILL practices The Patrol Method. It’s indispensable, whether we’re looking for a solution to a challenging application, training a new member of the team, or just getting everyone one the same page…no sense in just one of us learning something if we can ALL learn, right?

How are teamwork and communication contributing to your team’s success?  Something to think about.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
(513)671-3322 local
(800)923-9247 toll free
(513)671-3363 fax
Web: www.exair.com
Twitter: twitter.com/exair_rb
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/exair

Service Your Internal Customer to Build a Strong Team

A lot has been written on the importance of good customer service. Hands down it is the cornerstone of a viable business. Satisfying your customer’s wants and needs cheerfully and expeditiously leads to repeat business.  

But…have you ever considered your internal customer, the people who you work with? When they come to you for assistance  do you view this as a burden and an encroachment of your space? Or, do you respond as you would to your external customer going out of your way to see that their needs are met?

 Internal customer service is to building a strong efficient team as external customer service is to building sales. In sports, a team that works well together wins games.  A workforce that works together wins customers. In the end everyone wins. The customer’s needs are satisfied and the employees jobs are easier and more satisfying.

EXAIR is well-known for its customer service and ease of doing business with. That is because we have a strong internal team. While we all have job descriptions, they do not limit our activity but just describe the core of our activities. Serving the customer is everyone’s job description. How accurately and timely we each perform our core duties translates into serving our customers.

For example, we are proud of our 99.9% ontime deliveries. To accomplish that, our people will move from their jobs to help with any bottlenecks. There is no such thing as “that’s not my job” around here.

Much is touted about ISO 9000. We at EXAIR live it. We are all human and humans will make mistakes. The key is to correct them before they get too far. Everyone at EXAIR is on a constant vigilance for anything that does not seem copacetic. We have had shipping folks question why a customer is ordering a given component that does not match the function of other components they are ordering . A quick call to the customer to verify has saved them a lot of grief and delay.

EXAIR has introduced many new products. These were driven by customer inquiries not some scientist in the R&D department.  Our application engineers talk with hundreds of customers across all business sectors. Sometimes we do not have a product that will fulfill application needs. These are duly noted and put on a list for future consideration by our engineering staff.

 So you can see EXAIR’s success is centered in servicing both its internal and external customers. 

 Joe Panfalone
Application Engineer
joepanfalone@exair.com