The Man, The Myth, The Legend

A few weeks ago, my dad retired after 40 years of service to the state.  As I sat at his retirement party and listened to him, and the many others that spoke about him, it brought on so many thoughts and memories.  It made me realize that this is how Riddle Services came to be and where we are as a company today.

I think I need to start with a little background about myself. My upbringing was a little different than most. I was born and raised on Put-In-Bay, and island out in the middle of Lake Erie. The “locals” consisted of a very small number. There were only 3 other girls in my class at school. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that I had a unique childhood. My mom was a child herself when she had my brother, sister and I at ages 13, 15 and 18.  As you can imagine, that brought on its own challenges. Neither of my parents had High School degrees at the time–they later went back and got them. So, growing up, there was never much money available.

I started working when I was quite young–probably 9 or 10. My first job was peeling fat off the chickens at the Chicken Patio. I also started making their potato salad and famous home-made sauce for the chicken. Around that same time, I started to help my dad and step-mom clean the school every evening.  While my friends were out playing and doing their own thing, I spent my “free time” working.

From this young age, work ethic was instilled in me.  I used all my own money to pay for everything since my parents really didn’t have much money. I realized pretty quickly that if I worked hard, I had money to do the things that I wanted to do, and buy the things I wanted to buy.

As I grew up, I used to spend the weekends working with my dad.  We would wake up and go over to work at the State Park and the Fish Hatchery.  We would work from morning until night.  I remember asking my dad, “Hey, when’s lunch?” And his response was, “lunch is when the work is done, and done right.”

Throughout my youth, my dad would do different things to challenge me and to see if I was really understanding what he was doing and trying to teach me. When we were cleaning the schools, he would periodically leave things around to see if I was paying attention to the details.  I will never forget the time he told me in passing, “When I have two people come in for an interview, I set a piece of paper on the ground.  Both of those people may have exactly the same skill sets, but it’s the person that picks up that piece of paper that separates themselves from everyone else.”  I’ve never forgotten that. It’s instilled in my mind that attention to detail and working hard are some of the most important things on a job, and it has made me and Riddle Services what it is today.

With a childhood like mine, I could have had a lot of “excuses” to not excel at what I did. But, it never seemed to be an option in my mind.  As I grew up, I worked a lot of hours. I was given the opportunity to start in management when I was very young.  The opportunities grew from there, and here we are today. We are constantly working hard and trying to improve Riddle Services to be the best that it can be.  One of the things I try to instill in my workers on a daily basis is that hard work wins every time.

As I sat back at my dad’s retirement party, looking around a room filled with people there for him after he had served 40 years with the state, I just smiled and got a little teary-eyed. I was thinking this right here summarizes what hard work looks like—dedication, commitment and treating people right. My dad did it the right way. He worked hard. He took care of people. He always gave his best.

At the party, my dad took the microphone and went around and talked about each person in that room—who they are, what they did and how he appreciates them. My dad connected with each one of those people and understands it’s all a team effort. He made it clear that he is who he is, and has accomplished what he has, because each person in that room is a valuable part of the team. There is nothing my dad wouldn’t jump in and do that he asked his workers to do. It wasn’t about him. Listening to my dad and his commitment to all these people, and the state, was just one of those great moments in life. Yes, he was the state employee of the year. And, yes, he saved so much money by doing things himself vs. calling in people. But it wasn’t for his benefit, it was because he truly enjoyed what he was doing.

That’s why I’m dedicating this first post to him. To the man who taught me these important values in life. To the man I hope to be one day. To the man who gave me the drive to continue making Riddle Services better every day. My hope is that our customers feel the same way every time we work with them. That the relationships we build with them make the jobs more personal for us. That we will work hard and pay attention to the details. That it isn’t about us, but it is always a team effort.  And that we will continue striving to be better than we are today.