Leading A Team To Success

Before I found myself in the gases and welding industry, I served as an officer in the U.S. Army, working my way up to the rank of captain. When I decided it was time to settle down, I turned to a recruiting firm that specializes in pairing military officers with companies in the private sector. They put me in touch with BOC Gases, who was looking for a branch manager in Anderson, IN.

When I went to BOC eight years ago, I knew next to nothing about gases and welding. My colleagues were highly experienced, and they were always more than willing to help me learn. I absorbed everything I could by watching and listening to what they had to say. I seized every opportunity to further my training. A few years later, I connected with the people here at Indiana Oxygen Company. I was offered the opportunity to study under the executive vice president, Dave Kaplan. It was a perfect fit for me, so I took the challenge. I’m coming up on five great years with Indiana Oxygen.

As operations manager, I oversee the production of gases and the distribution of all products. In addition to my daily duties at Indiana Oxygen Company, I help run our program for continuous improvement, our

“War on Waste.” As the facilitator of the program, I organize teams comprising employees from every department. We examine every aspect of the business to see how we can make it more efficient. For

example, our accounts receivable team has done work that led us to change our approach to customer credit, which has resulted in a reduction in our Day’s Sales Outstanding (DSO) rate. We’re measuring our performance in every aspect, from fill rates and missed or inaccurate deliveries to customer complaints.

No facet of the business is exempt from scrutiny and elimination of waste. One major philosophy that we have adopted is this: “A goal without measurement is hallucination.” Simply put, you have to measure your progress in order to achieve your goals; otherwise, you’ll simply be “spinning your wheels.”

In addition to my duties at our Indianapolis operations and our “War on Waste,” I am also responsible for the operations at our acetylene plant, located almost twenty miles away. With so many responsibilities vying for my time, it is vital to have an outstanding team made up of the “right” people, which I certainly do at Indiana Oxygen. To me, “right person” means someone who has a positive outlook, a good work ethic and a team-first attitude.

So there are three things I would convey to you: learn all you can from the experienced people in our industry, set goals and measure your progress and, finally, form a great team around you with the right people.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Meet the Author
Mike Gunnels is operations manager for Indiana Oxygen Company located in Anderson, Indiana, and on the Web at www.indianaoxygen.com