Missile Launch Control

A recent report came out of Minot AFB in North Dakota about 17 ICBM launch control officers being placed on Stand Down. –


Background: I was on the R &D side of the Minuteman. Though I do have some insight into the launch control process.

The squadron commander (Lt. Col.) wrote a strong report. The launch control officers are  junior officers (lst Lts. & Captains). I would suspect that all this would take is for the wing commander to step in and have a heart-to-heart talk with these officers. Don’t embarrass the squadron….wing….command….Air Force or yourself. During the Strategic Air Command period….Operational Readiness Inspections (ORI) were conducted to insure SAC maintained its readiness and standards….if not command changes were made on the spot.

From a leadership aspect….the very fact that the squadron commander sent an email is somewhat questionable. Respect from junior officers is earned….not sought via email.

The command will resovle this issue quickly. The Minutmen force has an upmost responsibilty…..profesionally and operationally. 


“Built like a Skyscraper”

shaw walker desk

Muskegon was (and still is for the most part) an industrial town from the end of WW I to the 1970’s. Many of the industries were transport related….Sealed Power (piston rings) CWC (cast iron engine blocks) Lakey Foundry (cast iron) Continental Motors (aircraft & tank engines) Fitzjohn Motors (buses). And others like Norge (refrigerators)….Anaconda (wire) and Shaw-Box Crane (hoists).

One company that was prominent in the local economy for many years was Shaw-Walker.

At one time, the Shaw-Walker Company was the largest manufacturer of office products….from file folders to steel desks and filing cabinets. Shaw-Walker was a mainstay of  local manufacturing….with life-time jobs for many folks.

Founded in 1899 – Arch W. Shaw and L.C. Walker revolutionized office work with “The Complete Office System” – tabbed 3-by-5-inch index cards in a 9-inch oak box. Until then, roll-top desks with pigeonholes were used to organize business paperwork.  The initial capital investment: $450. The “office system” cost $1.95 each.

Shaw Waker BuildingShaw-Walker introduced the steel file in 1913….with the logo “Built like a skyscraper”….which replaced wooden file cabinets. The company was located on a 21 acre site with 1,000,000 sq.ft of manufacturing space. Shaw-Walker prospered thru the 50’s….60’s….70’s, eventually being sold to Westinghouse.

Today the main building remains….converted into lofts….meeting….event space.

Shaw-Walker and other companies were not our primary concern….only that they remained viable. Growing our business was our major focus. These businesses were a vital part of the local economy….while most no longer exist….none-the-less there was (and is) much to learn on how they developed and how they were, for the most part, unable to adapt to a 20 & 21st century world.

Shaw-Walker 2013: http://www.watermarkcenter.com/920conferencecenter/


Willing to Adapt

Lake Express

From M-Live: Ten Years and Growing Strong –


The Lake Express ferry has been a significant boost to Muskegon tourism’s economy as the article points out. The ferry operates between Muskegon and Milwaukee….takes about 2 1/2 hours to cross Lake Michigan and saves driving through Chicago. Another ferry (S.S.Badger)makes it across Lake Michigan between Ludington, MI and Manitowoc, WI. The Badger is coal-fired (an issue) and takes about four hours for the trip.

There is intense competition between the Lake Express and the Badger….both economically and politically. Both ferries seem to do well despite the economic challenges….fuel prices.,..local economies.

The take-a-way from the article is this:

“That’s business….it is what you do to adapt or die.”

Note: The video in the article is a nice picture of the ferry trip across the “Big Lake”.

Grand Rapids Chair Company

Past Tradition

GR Chair Co

Grand Rapids in the early part of the 20th century was the center of the fine furniture industry (eg Baker, Widdicomb)….partly because it was close to a major raw material source….hardwoods….and skilled craftsman . Later on that industry moved to North Carolina….again close to plentiful hardwood supply.

Many of our suppliers still came from Grand Rapids….though North Carolina/Virginia/Mississippi manufacturers became more prominent in the 70’s.

It’s nice to see a company like Grand Rapids Chair again in Grand Rapids….though in a somewhat different industry segment. Established in 1997 by Dave Miller, a former executive with John Widdicomb, Inc….Grand Rapids Chair is a provider of chairs and tables to institutional and commercial customers. Their products are nicely designed and manufactured in their Grand Rapids factory.

The lesson: Find the correct market….create appealing designs….make good products….deliver when promised.


Step Aside

Leadership Challenge

Step aside

One of the more difficult aspects of leadership is knowing when to step aside. Often leaders in businesses/organizations tend to not want to give up their leadership/executive roles. In many cases they do have the experience….so they give value to the organization.

At times, when leadership changes hands….experinece gained is sometimes lost….mistakes made….yet an organization learns from mistakes.

The military in some ways does it right….leaders continually move upwards….experienced leaders step aside after a 2 or 3 year assignment for the next generation of leaders. After a long career…..the senior leaders retire. Younger officers know that if they do well….they will always (for the most part) be moving forward.

The challenge than is to know when to step aside.

News RoundUp

April 2013


+ Excellence = Quality + Endurance + Integrity + Wow. – Tom Peters

+ On the path from awareness to a sale, the marketer has to create a vacuum. – Seth Godin

+ Where are they Now? From March/April 2008 posts:

  • Cosi Deli currently 144 locations in the U.S. Stock price $.68 (very low!)
  • Alterra Coffee leading coffee/cafe chain in Milwaukee
  • Dick & Annie – welcomers at Kroger store #357 for the past five years.

+ Ineffective design – Non-profit annual report….almost unreadable light background and white 8 pt.type. Also web sites with black background and small white type.

+ Merely giving the people what they want is a shortcut to mediocrity and invisibility. – Seth Godin