The day I was fired from my Group President’s role at Valmont, the Dow closed at 7,920. Less than a month before, it had dropped all the way to 6,547. While I’d done fairly well financially, with the stock market so low, and the future looking particularly gloomy, I felt I needed to have a job – retiring or radically changing direction wasn’t an option.
My family had moved only a year ago to a beautiful home on a lake well west of Omaha. It was idyllic, and the home was what we’d always wanted – but it wasn’t marketable, at least not in early 2009.
And I was only six weeks away from flying to Ethiopia with my wife to adopt twin girls. We didn’t know what to expect with them exactly, but I was pretty sure moving across country in the first year wouldn’t be a good idea. And my older kids were all in school here – college and high school. I wasn’t anxious to uproot them, either.
In short, we weren’t moving.
So here I was: needing a job, not being able to relocate, and having my expertise and experience centered in manufacturing businesses. How many substantial manufacturing companies are located in the Omaha or Lincoln metro areas? The answer to that is – not very many.
As luck would have it, I had an immediate lead on one position and it sounded interesting – Lindsay Corporation was looking for someone to manage their infrastructure businesses. Sure it would be about fifteen percent the size of the group I’d managed at Valmont, but like I said -- I needed a job. Yes, it was with a hated rival of Valmont’s, but it was a manufacturing business, and it was in Omaha. I was definitely interested.
I want to make it clear that taking the position at Lindsay was in no way a betrayal of my colleagues at Valmont. It was not a virtual "slap in the face" or a middle finger gesture. It was exactly what it looked like -- a new opportunity.
I worked in unrelated businesses – the only area of overlap was industrial tubing, a business I’d never had anything to do with at Valmont. I wasn’t part of the Lindsay Irrigation management team. Yes, I was occasionally asked for my opinion about some aspects of the Irrigation business, but I was never plumbed for Valmont secrets – which I wouldn’t have known anyway, it having been four years since I’d last worked in Valmont’s Irrigation division.
I even went so far as to check with Valmont before taking the position, verifying that there were no restriction preventing me from working at Lindsay. I only needed to respect my continuing obligation to maintain Valmont’s confidential information.So I took the job, and considered myself fortunate.