Life is Like a Movie Reel

December 16, 2013

OK, Trekkies and non Trekkies. I’m sure you’re familiar with this little piece of logic that Mr. Spock was so fond of quoting to Captain Kirk. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

As individuals and leaders, we are responsible for many people. Ultimately, the decisions we make affect not only those who work for us, but the people who depend on the products and services that our company provides. With this in mind, I thought I would share some insights on leadership that I have collected from others over the years that were “sayings” to which I could relate.

Leaders always find a way

Your colleagues, employees and customers look to your example. You don’t have the luxury of accepting defeat. So when you run into a crisis moment, say you lose a customer or lose a piece of business, you have to be even more on top of your game. I remember an instance when an important supplier ended its relationship with us. I was upset to say the least. A good friend who ran another distributor and had previously lost a product line himself said “Joe, even though you lost those products, your sales force still has 8-10 hours a day to find something to sell”. So, instead of just accepting the loss and letting it impact our company, I picked up the phone and called on another relationship which helped us secure an equally large amount of sales with even more potential with a new supplier. The day is 24 hours long. Use them all.

Only a Secure Person Can Help Others

If you have ever taken an airplane, then you have heard the pre-flight safety instructions. “If cabin pressure drops, put on your oxygen mask first and then help others.” One of our Board Members recently used this in a meeting. Most of us have never dealt with that particular situation, but the logic makes sense. You are more helpful to others when you are fully functioning, organized and able to make decisions without panicking. Another way to look at this is that you shouldn’t worry so much about what others do, focus on what you are going to do to turn the situation around.

Plan for Success

When we were at $30 million in sales, I mentioned to a friend who ran much larger companies that we would like Sea-Land to be at $80 million.  He said “If you want to be that number in the future, you have to start thinking like an $80 million company TODAY”. You don’t get to be an $80 million success overnight. It takes planning. You have to plan for the future you want tomorrow, today. In the same vein, if you want to affect a change within your company, you have to envision it, communicate that vision to your employees, suppliers and customers, and relentlessly drive it forward. It may take years. Sea-Land has more than tripled in sales over the last 10 years. It didn’t just happen. It took vision and a company-wide team effort.


The last one I have always enjoyed is “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.  A little pressure helps all of us to focus a little better and try a little harder.

We all collect wisdom over the years.  Do you have any to share? Email me at



Joe Clayton
Sea-Land Chemical Company