Cutting Tool Engineering
January 2010 / Volume 62 / Issue 1

A change in plans

By Keith Jennings

A few weeks ago, Chuck, my dad—or, more officially, stepdad since 1974—and the owner of our shop, returned from a 3-week international trip. His lengthy return trip was more arduous than expected because he was sick and bedridden the last couple of days and was traveling alone. Needless to say, I was glad he got back home and was able to recuperate.

Once he was better and able to get out, he called and asked me to meet him at his favorite lunch spot so we could catch up on the previous 3 weeks of life and work. He enjoys shop talk over lunch, so this request was nothing out of the ordinary. However, that 30-minute lunch discussion altered my plans for this year—and for years to come. It wasn’t anything shocking or bad, just, “I’ve realized I need to get out of the rat race of shop operations and give you the same opportunity given to me 30 years ago. I’ve decided to retire.”

I assumed this day would come at some point, but it wasn’t something I expected to hear at that moment. He further explained his decision and how he’d still be available to consult and provide his expertise where needed. His demeanor was calm, and he seemed completely comfortable with making such an important decision. As the second in command, I was already involved in most management activities, but my entire plan for 2010 and beyond was instantly changed and suddenly became more interesting.

I started brainstorming about a lot of the activities “Mr. Shop Operations Extraordinaire” previously handled. Even though we employ experienced shop managers and supervisors, my dad’s shop has been his life and a reflection of his personality for many years. That isn’t going to change overnight.

I immediately informed the employees and let them know why he wouldn’t be around much. Overcoming their skeptical looks would be step No. 1, but that skepticism began to change over time. While we have a long way to go and will continue to make adjustments, it doesn’t mean abandoning the principles my dad stood for.

Do we have differences in personality and how to manage a shop? Of course, but he expects me to make changes and even prefers me to take action in areas that need attention. This confession was a big step for him because he realized there were a few things that weren’t working well and needed a fresh approach. I appreciated that realization. After 30-plus years, it becomes increasingly difficult to address what doesn’t work well and maintain enough stamina to correct it week after week. That’s where I enter the picture.

All in all, I have much to be thankful for and look forward to the challenges that lie ahead. Now when we have our shop-talk discussions, what used to be his commands are now “recommendations.”

As I embark upon the next phase of my career in the top square of our company flowchart, a renewed excitement has enveloped my psyche. Even though I thought Dad was completely out of his mind at times, my kids think the same about me, so I guess it’s all in the family. His recommendations will be valued for years to come and everyone appreciates his zest for life and work. Dad, drink an afternoon glass of wine for me and enjoy what you deserve. As for me, I’ve got a lot of work to do, so I’ll be home late. CTE

About the Author: Keith Jennings is president of Crow Corp., Tomball, Texas, a family-owned company focusing on machining, laser cutting, metal fabrication and metal stamping. He can be e-mailed at

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