The Heel

By Fred Johnson
Executive Vice President and General Manager

Fred Johnson 2015 When people contact me about this column, it means a lot to me. Unless, of course, they are critical. In that case I simply conclude they don’t know what they are talking about. Just kidding! Frankly, it is fascinating to see what kinds of columns elicit the most response. The current reigning champion is the column from May 2014, entitled “Lessons from a Shoeshine.” Therefore, in an effort to wring more juice from the proverbial turnip, I have decided to expand upon it a bit. Proper credit must go to a distinguished gentleman from Birmingham, Alabama, by the name of William Benton who delivered a speech I heard about 30 years ago. His topic centered around this example. It made an impression. I am quite sure he expected to pop up again in such a magazine as this. The fact he pointed out — a fact I alluded to in my previous article — and the key point today is simply this: Never stop short of finishing a project.

In a shoeshine context, it is easy to comprehend how unsatisfactory it would be to do a great job everywhere else on the shoe but then neglect to finish the heel. That doesn’t mean it is necessarily an easy task. After all, the heel takes a beating. In my case, a really bad one. Consequently, for me that is usually the part that takes the most time to finish. Many of you will relate. It is quite often the last few steps of any difficult task that are the hardest to finish. It’s a legendary theme. Coaches consistently admonish their athletes to “finish the game.” Phrases like, “We’ve got to finish what we started” ring clearly in countless settings. We must never let the triteness of these admonitions obscure the importance of understanding what we should all know. Anything worth doing is worth doing right and worth finishing well.

FTC is about to polish one of our heels. We will finally complete our optical fiber upgrade by the end of this year. We will succeed in extending these world-class facilities to about 88 percent of our traditional cooperative membership. As I’ve pointed out several times, that is an increase of about 16 percent from the original 2007 projections. Sure, it took longer than we wanted, but we succeeded in getting to that point with the same dollars we had to work with when we originally started out. The extra time was certainly worth it.
By the way, we haven’t forgotten the other 12 percent. There are plans to make sure they have world-class broadband, too. After all, that’s another task we do not intend to leave undone. I encourage you to check past issues of Connected and our Annual Report (all available online) for a more full discussion of those plans. In all of this there is a great sense of satisfaction in knowing we made the right call for our members and are finishing the task well.

And now, we return to the shoe. I am sure most of you will agree with the simple importance of finishing what we start. After all, you are intelligent readers. However, just in case you need a little added boost, I would like to appeal to your vanity. Imagine a brilliantly polished and shiny shoe … walking away from you. What is the last thing you are going to see? The heel, right? Wouldn’t it be sad to do a masterful job on a wonderful and worthy task only to have the last thing people remember seeing be a scuffed-up mess?
So, my friends, let us all go check out those heels!