All entities need dedicated and committed people to become great. In his bestselling book Good to Great, author Jim Collins denotes a key principle “Right people on the bus”. And as I wrestled one day with a strategic issue facing the company, my mind wandered and I thought “Do wrestlers make great employees?”
My knowledge of the sport is woefully inadequate. I recall the mugginess and stench of my high school gym following a wrestling practice as I prepared for basketball. I knew I could learn more by grabbing Andesa’s Chief Implementation Officer, Chris Shalbert, and Software Development Supervisor, Tim Swiezak, for lunch and some conversation. What I learned surprised and impressed me.
Chris and Tim were introduced to wrestling by older brothers at a very young age. Both wrestled through high school in Eastern Pennsylvania’s District 11, recognized as one of the nation’s most competitive areas for wrestling excellence. Chris proceeded to compete in college, and recently returned to involvement in the sport as his son began his wrestling adventure. Tim transitioned from high school and started coaching middle school programs while in college, an interest he has pursued for over 30 years now.
The congruence between wrestling and a sound business environment intrigued me as our conversation progressed. I misunderstood wrestling to be an individual sport, but discovered an individual competition within a team sport. Strategy, results and success are defined at the team level, similar to a business structure. Responsibility, expectations, accountability, personal growth and improvement are a feature at the individual level, again similar to a business structure.
Chris and Tim shared stories about accepting an intense commitment of improving themselves to better the team. Anecdotes of personal dedication, hardship, sacrifice and perseverance dominated our discussion. Yet each wrestler expressed establishing high personal expectations, and then accepting accountability for their results. They both understood how their individual contributions benefited the team.
One of Andesa’s core values focuses on Ends and Means: We believe that ends never justify the means. To the contrary, we believe all we do indelibly imprints our final products. This is a challenging value to uphold, as expectations often drive the approach to achievement. In Andesa’s culture, we would rather be measured and recognized for how we conduct ourselves, as compared solely to the results we achieve.
Chris and Tim spoke with reverence about the mat. Each match was a six-to-ten minute intense display of physical prowess, technique and tenacity in front of teammates and a crowd. You were the product. You were responsible for the results, for setting higher and higher personal standards. You were accountable for offering the best you had to offer, understanding to do less was disappointing the team.
While in Philadelphia attending college, Chris trained by running after midnight to avoid city traffic. Tim ran during snowstorms. Both did whatever it took to stay in shape, make weight, and not let down the team. They spoke about work ethic, discipline, and mental toughness. Their personal improvement led to success for others and to success for team. “We never put winning ahead of discipline – discipline is non-negotiable – winning is the byproduct of discipline.” To me it appears the guys have their ends and means in proper alignment.
I so appreciate not having to run in blizzards or after midnight to succeed in business. But I am also grateful to have Chris and Tim on the Andesa bus.
There is no secret sauce or magic formula for Andesa’s thirty-plus years of business success. Our results stem from our culture: putting employees first, doing what’s right–day in, day out–working hard, doing whatever it takes, partnering with our clients; with each employee contributing, striving to get better and pursuing a personal growth expectation to improve the whole over the long-term. My career at Andesa is filled with anecdotes of staff members taking initiative to ensure a client’s satisfaction, of developers sitting up through the night to ensure a move to production was effective, of sacrifice and problem-solving without management intervention.
I have a newfound appreciation for the discipline and commitment occurring behind the scenes, outside the six-to ten-minutes in the spotlight of the mat. Following our lunch, Tim sent me an article written by Robbie Waller in which I read, “Medals and trophies don’t define your success. Experiences do. Everyone takes their own individual and unique path toward their goals. And whatever those goals are, it’s going to take a tremendous amount of motivation to get there.” The same can be said about business; but somehow, grappling with a business problem seems trivial in comparison to the mental and physical discipline involved in the sport of wrestling.