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GUEST EDITOR'S MEMO: There Ain't No Education in the Second Kick of a Mule

March 1, 2008
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Lex Reynolds, president of The Reynolds Co., provides this month's Editor's Memo.

Lex Reynolds

My late father had a wonderful sense of humor and an uncanny ability to get straight to the heart of any issue, regardless of the amount of accompanying “fluff.” He could read people like a book and was full of one-liners, for any situation. One of his favorites was, “There ain’t no education in the second kick of a mule.” It was often used whenever we were talking about something that we were experiencing for a second (or third) time.

As I think of this saying, I am reminded of our industry. I wonder how many times we have to be “kicked” before we finally take the bull by the horns and “do the right thing.” Let me explain.

First, we have a number of larger companies who historically have been industry leaders. In years past, whenever the industry needed to “move” or address an issue, they were the first to lead. Typically, once they made any kind of announcement, the rest of the industry followed. Sure, there were always exceptions, but for the most part everyone understood their role and how important it was to follow suit.

Now, for whatever reason, these “leaders” are nowhere to be seen. It’s no wonder that our industry lacks any kind of discipline in dealing with the threats we all face these days. The justification I’ve heard is that these “leaders” don’t want to run the risk of losing market share, so they simply do nothing, which only exacerbates the challenges.

The big guys are not the only problem. There are plenty of smaller regional players who just don’t get it either. Rather than doing what they need to do, they think now is the time to grow market share; as a result, they go out and muddy the market more than it already is. It makes no sense whatsoever, and the whole industry will continue to suffer the consequences until these people begin to act responsibly.

Because I don’t want to leave anyone out, please allow me to address the suppliers to the industry. You sense our pain and bemoan our lack of discipline, yet at the same time I think you share in some of the blame for our demise.

Think about it. You know who the culprits are, yet you continue to support these same customers because you don’t want to lose market share either, right? No one wants to lose market share, but consider the harm you are causing by giving advantages to the people who are causing this industry the most grief. Changing your ways is certainly easier said than done, but the industry won’t improve until you change.

Our costs are sure to continue to rise and our businesses will continue to be threatened in the coming months and years unless we take our challenges seriously and begin to act in a responsible, common-sense manner. Stupidity and irresponsibility cannot be tolerated any longer. We owe it to each other to get it right now, before it is too late.

I can just hear Dad now. “Son, this is a no-brainer.”

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