Lessons from the Middle

There’s nothing special about 36. I am at that stage of life that is past young adulthood. I don’t know if I identify with ‘middle-aged’, but I guess I’m there. Somewhere along the way, I must have grown up. Here are a few lessons that I learned.

1. Take initiative. I have been in the workforce for 21 years. Armed with a worker’s permit, my first job was at The Barn Nursery here in Dalton, which is now Fiddleheads Garden Center. I can remember my boss Carlene, teaching me to take initiative. Another employee was putting price stickers on garden gloves and she said, “Go ask them if you can help.” And then she followed with, “Then, find another employee or customer and ask if you can help.” Don’t wait for direction – find opportunities to be productive. Side note: I can probably beat you at name-that-plant trivia.

2. Be nice. Six years ago, while getting an MBA at Kennesaw State University, one professor shared a powerful lesson with the class: being smart and working hard might get you your first job, but being nice will get you the next level. During my career working in philanthropy and volunteerism, I can tell you that 99% of the impact of any non-profit is due to the grace of donors and volunteers, who have no obligation to continue to write checks or give up their time for your cause. And when you think about it, even paid staff are choosing to be there. Being nice leverages your resources and gives you the ability to have committed team members. 

3. Hire your weakness. My graduate program was a cohort, so picking group members was vitally important since the work was heavy on group projects. My background is in marketing, so I looked for team members with different skills to bring to the table. Dana Shaffer, Will McDaniel, Stephanie Holder, and Jennifer Tate have backgrounds in statistics, engineering, customer service, and accounting. I bet you can guess which group routinely came out on top.

A few weeks ago, Brianna Cheever, a senior in the social work program at Dalton State College, joined my team as an Outreach Intern. Imagine all the ways that her skill set is helping our organization grow.

4. Give others space. I was lucky enough to have smart parents who could help me with my homework. But my parents seldom did, and they certainly never did work for me. When you reach a point in your career that you are leading other staff, give them space to sink a little and be okay about things not being your version of perfect. Fear of failure is the biggest obstacle to innovation.

5. Give back. Over the past twenty years I have had the privilege to see people at their best when they are giving and volunteering. I have been at hundreds of community meetings, fundraisers, and volunteer projects. Often, I had the role of preparing opening remarks or introductions of keynote speakers, who were successful business leaders. The recurring variable in their journey was that they invested in their communities and improved lives through giving and service.

My organization, the Floor Covering Industry Foundation, was the beneficiary of the Alan Greenberg Memorial Golf Tournament that was held on Tuesday. Howard Brodsky, Rick Bennet, Charlie Dilks, and their team from CCA Global Partners, a large flooring co-op, joined us here in Northwest Georgia all the way from New Hampshire. Lisa Browning with the National Floorcovering Alliance came from Florida. Dana Teague, director of the trade show TISE/Surfaces, phoned in to our Executive Committee meeting from London, where it was 11:30 p.m.

Several of our local donors and board members took time out to attend: Juilan Saul - retired President of Shaw Industries, Randy Merritt - President of Shaw Industries, Paul Murfin – IVC/Mohawk, and Piet Dossche – US Floors/Shaw. It amazes me that our industry leadership time after time puts competition to the side and unites for a common cause.

In addition, this week we had several community initiatives of which we should all be proud: The groundbreaking of the new Peeples Cancer Center and a well-attended United Way Kick-off and CEO trike race. Tomorrow, the celebration of Dalton State College’s 50th anniversary is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on the campus quad.

Thank you to everyone who has guided me along the way. Onward!

This column appeared in the September 24, 2017 edition of the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Andrea Dobbins is the Executive Director of the Floor Covering Industry Foundation. Connect with her at 706.217.1183 or fcif.org.