There is an old saying; “You don’t know what you don’t know.” In recent months, I’ve been exposed to a different side of the concrete polishing industry. It was there all along, but I simply failed to see it due to my ignorance (dare I say “arrogance”) and poor assumptions.
I joined the team at HTC, Inc., a global manufacturer of floor grinding/polishing equipment and tooling, almost a year ago. During that time, I’ve made trips to Sweden, France, United Kingdom along with numerous locations within the U.S. This may sound exciting, and while all the trips have been full of business meetings and work, I must admit it has been very exciting as well as enlightening. I’ve been able to speak with contractors from many different locales and nationalities. The level of knowledge, expertise and experience available to our industry is astounding!
Throughout our industry, there are a number of self-proclaimed experts (if this statement is even slightly offensive, you’re probably one of them-sorry!). Some would not hesitate to put me into that category as well. I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with them except for the fact I’ve never proclaimed to be an expert on anything. However, in light of my new revelation, I must humble myself and admit that I’ve been a bit conceited regarding my abilities and knowledge.
I’ve just completed reading a book (“Start with Why”, by Simon Sinek) that brings into question common assumptions and how we as individuals view the world around us. I’ve come to realize that my world, although I thought it was rather large and expansive, was quite small and limited.
So what am I getting at with all of this rambling? I’ve come to realize that, because of assumptions I’ve made regarding our industry, I’ve greatly limited my ability to grow and learn more. I’ve been introduced to a number of individuals, companies and processes, and communications that have all been simply amazing!
One example would be HTC, Inc. I’ve worked with HTC for the past 8 years and regard many of the team members (both present and past) as friends. I assumed that I knew HTC, but after working for them I’ve come to realize that the company, and the individuals that comprise the company, are much, much more. HTC has over 350 patents and IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) pertaining to our industry. That’s a lot of innovation – much less for one company and specifically for one industry. Not to say that HTC is the only company contributing to the polishing industry, but I certainly view them in a different light.
I also thought, rather assumed, that I knew diamond tooling and how to properly identify and use the right tools to complete a project. I’ve realized that these assumptions have limited my willingness to research and learn more. Learning how HTC develops, and continues to innovate, diamond tooling for our industry has been fascinating. The new information has pushed me past my limits, creating new ideas and theories to be discussed, challenged and ultimately proven true or false.
I’ve had several discussions regarding standards for our industry (revolving around surface profiles and the various measurement methods of quantifying these values) that were so thought provoking that participants, confident in their own ideas and abilities, couldn’t help but to be humbled and walk away questioning their own beliefs. The take away will be continued discussions and further development for our industry on a level that was once, and to some probably still is, viewed as impossible.
While all of this has been an exciting journey, I must sadly admit that when speaking to contractors, I see that many are dealing with the same issues that has plagued our industry from the beginning. That is poor understanding of the polishing processes, diamond tooling, and basic business techniques that yield profitability. Contractors are still looking for the perfect grinder, that magical tooling, and that impervious chemistry that demands the customer to forfeit control of funding and retainage.
I see contractors not willing to simply stop the bleeding and invest a few hours of worthwhile education that would instantly yield thousands, in some cases tens of thousands, of dollars in almost instant savings in both time and materials. It’s been said before that if knowledge is expensive (viewed as either time or money), what is the cost of ignorance? And that brings me back to my opening statement, “you don’t know what you don’t know”! For many of us, admitting that we don’t know it all goes against our manly ego’s. I know we don’t even want to admit that we have an ego, but we do. I think we all agree, albeit behind closed doors, that this industry is chock full of inflated ego’s – mine included. But I challenge you to do as I have done and humble yourself. Take the time for some self-reflection. Look around you and identify the simple, yet common, assumptions that limit your growth and potential. When you sign up for that next class, seminar, trade show or simply enjoy a cup of coffee with a trusted colleague, do so with an open mind. If you can’t see or identify these barriers, change your surroundings. Seek out people, books / publications, or places that would push the limits of what you think you know and cause you to question what you really don’t know.