One thing that struck me during the Gear Expo was the large amount of grey hair on the heads of those in the exhibit hall. While it was great to see so many old friends in attendance and to see them still actively engaged in our trade, the industry needs to start bringing in some new faces to these events.
The economy has not been kind to gear makers in the years since I got pushed out of the nest at Falk in Milwaukee. Consolidations, takeovers, mergers, bankruptcies, and outright closures have taken a toll on the community. Perhaps some of us old-timers have hung on a bit too long; no one wants to retire when they feel they have more to learn and some knowledge to pass on.
Conditions haven’t always been great for bringing on an “extra” person and grooming them for a future position of importance. Those leaders who have done so rightly worry about their protégé getting “stolen” before the firm gets “repaid” for their investment. I have heard the same logic used to justify dismantling apprenticeship programs of very long standing.
It is important that every team member pull their share of the load on a daily basis. Good supervision and leadership are needed to keep accounts “current” with respect to training expenses and productivity. As much as I hate sports analogies being applied to business, championship teams can be built from the farm system or via free agency. The latter approach usually costs more money and is harder to keep going as highly paid mercenaries have little interest in staying put in the face of even more lucrative offers.
The dynasties of the sports world and the gear world benefit from developing talent in-house. Even when some well-treated prospects or journeymen leave “early” they usually carry fond memories of their time on the “mother ship” and do their best to help it when the opportunity arises.
We here at Gear Technology magazine want our readers and their organizations to be successful. You get the right people and we’ll continue to provide the best gear information available. Hopefully we’ll see some of those fledgling gear experts at the next Gear Expo, or as authors of technical papers.