When I was a young HR Pup working at Dean Foods Co. we were in the process of rolling out the new 401(k) plan. To do this, we arranged a world tour where I traveled to each of 27 (or so) manufacturing plants with an EVP and gave presentations to all three shifts of employees to explain the changes, pitch the plan, sign them up and answer questions.
One of these meetings was at Gandy’s Dairy in Lubbock, TX. Gandy’s was a recent Dean acquisition – and the General Manager was a guy named Squirrel Williams. He had been leading this company for a long time, and was a genuine West Texas character. In fact he took us out to see his oil well (and a genuine roadhouse dinner) after the meeting.
Anyway, I finished up my presentation to the hourly employees (many of whom did not speak a lot of english) and were making about $10.00 per hour. I asked if anyone had any questions (rates of return, risk profiles, tax benefits, etc.) and after answering a few, Squirrel stood up to thank us for coming.
Before closing the meeting, Squirrel looked out at the employees and said in his Texas twang “well I didn’t understand half of what this nice young man was saying, but I’ll tell you one thing – it they woulda had this when I was a kid – I’d need a pickup truck to haul my money away”.
We had 100% participation at the maximum contribution rate from that group. Such is the power of support and leadership from a trusted source like Squirrel