I first came to work in Dickinson in 2011. I left to go work in Texas in 2012. Then I returned to Dickinson in 2013, and I have been working here since then. That is about five years that I have spent living in Dickinson.
Prior to coming to work in Dickinson, I had lived and worked in five different states. I had worked as a laborer, engineer, estimator, inspector, superintendent, project manager, and as a business owner. In my previous jobs, I had operated a backhoe, bobcat, compactor, crane, excavator, forklift, scissor lift, and snorkel lift.
The economy was bad in Idaho where I had been living, and I was coming over to North Dakota to work because of the oil boom. I didn’t know exactly what it would be like, but I had a vague idea. I wasn’t expecting to get my dream job, I was prepared to take what I could get.
I dropped my resume off at some of the oil field businesses on Hwy 22 in Dickinson. The people at Marathon Oil Company were not nice at all. The person at Key Energy Services was fairly nice. An engineering company manager was very interested in hiring me, but he said he had to get approval from the company owners. On the first or second day that I was in Dickinson, I got hired to work at an oil field service company, and this company would allow me to stay in my truck camper on the company property.
Looking back on it now, I was kind of timid when I first started working at this oil field service company in Dickinson, especially considering my previous employment and work experience. It was probably better that I was a little timid, rather than being assertive and confident.
I used my experience to not get hurt, not get other people hurt, to help, and to stay out of trouble. I was able to do everything that I was asked to do, and I was able to help make sure that projects turned out O.K. As time went by, everyone else was getting hurt, making mistakes, and having accidents, but I wasn’t. This caused resentment with my coworkers, and even my manager.
In time, I probably explained to my coworkers, that I had already worked as a superintendent and project manager on many large construction projects in the past. But even though I explained this to them, I don’t think that they comprehended or understood, they probably didn’t want to.
I began to see pretty clearly, that the people from Dickinson did not want to acknowledge that anyone could have relevant education and experience that was greater than what they had. Their way of dealing with someone who had relevant education and experience, was to make believe that it did not exist.
I wrote up above, that when I dropped my resume off at Marathon Oil company, the people there were not very nice to me. I later learned through the years of living and working in Dickinson, that about 85% of the people working at Marathon Oil in Dickinson do not have college degrees in engineering. Not only that, but with my work experience as an engineer, estimator, inspector, superintendent, and project manager on large commercial construction projects, I would have been one of the most senior and experienced people working for Marathon Oil in Dickinson. Because most of the people working for Marathon Oil in Dickinson do not have college degrees, when they look at my resume, they just make believe that my qualifications and work experience don’t exist, and therefore they are much more qualified than me.
The second oil field service company that I worked for in Dickinson, I did my job as a crew worker, then began to do more what a foreman would do, and then more what a superintendent would do, without any acknowledgment or thanks from the manager or company owner. Several times I identified and solved some big problems on projects, that the manager and company owner had not seen or known about. I never received any thanks or acknowledgement.
Working for other companies in Dickinson, it was the same thing. This is what they do in Dickinson. This is a learned behavior in Dickinson, that is standard practice. This is all about controlling people. It took me several years of living in Dickinson to really see what was going on, and then another couple of years to become certain that this is what is going on.
The people who settled western North Dakota in the late 1800s were German and Ukranian Catholics. Western North Dakota was very barren and harsh. The settlers had such a hard time surviving, that they really could not afford to be hospitable to their neighbors. There were so few resources in western North Dakota, that no one really got ahead. The only way that anyone did better than their neighbors, was when their neighbors failed. This is the origin of the belief of people in the Dickinson area, that they get ahead by other people failing.
It became prevalent in the Dickinson area, that people believed that they could be successful by other people failing. My coworkers, managers, and the company owners were not about to acknowledge that I had education and work experience that made me knowledgeable, capable, and useful in getting work done and managing projects. How could they be successful, if I was successful?
Another way of stating this, and explaining how this works in Dickinson, is that there is great effort put into keeping people down. There is this belief in Dickinson, that if you don’t keep people down and try to control them, then how are you ever going to be successful? How are you going to be successful, if you allow other people to become successful? You have got to control people, and keep them down.
Trying to keep people down, is kind of a primitive and outdated belief in my opinion. This is what kings, queens, lords, shieks, and slave holders used to try to do to people. They tried to keep people uneducated and uninformed so that they are easier to control, which is also something that they try to accomplish in Dickinson.
When I was working in Tampa, the company owner required that each of the employees must read books about success and leadership. This would never, never happen in Dickinson. One of the books that I bought was titled “The Power Principle, How To Influence With Honor”, by Blaine Lee. In that book, there were several chapters about getting out of other people’s way, letting them succeed, even if it meant that they would surpass you. I was only 27 years old at the time, and I wanted to get ahead, how could I just let people surpass me I wondered?
I tried doing the things that were described in the book “The Power Principle” and within a year I was a superintendent, with an new limited edition Toyota 4-Runner as my company vehicle, and I was making about 40% more money. Within another two years I was a project manager. Whenever somebody working for me had a good idea or plan, I listened to them, I let them do it, I let them take charge of it, and I gave them credit for it. Work got done better, faster, less expensively, innovatively, and with workers being happier, satisfied, and more motivated. Who do you think got the credit for that? Me, I got the credit. But it all began by me getting out of other people’s way and letting them be successful.
I had a degree in engineering, I wasn’t a business major, I hadn’t read books about success and leadership. Other books that I then began to read that had important information for me to consider were, “The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People”, “Gung Ho”, “The Power Of Positive Thinking”, “How To Win Friends And Influence People”, “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, “Winning Through Intimidation”, and many books on psychology. I realized that there was a lot that I did not know about being successful.
A common theme in many of these books about being successful in business, was the importance of how you treat people. For instance, believe it or not, a business expert explained that it was even more important to treat an employee fairly, than a customer. An employee, in most cases, has more opportunity to affect your business, than does a customer.
Other topics in these books were the necessity of taking a genuine interest in people, to seek first to understand others before expecting to be understood, to be aware of your emotional bank account with people, and the importance of always encouraging others.
The people in Dickinson are so determined to keep other people down, that education and learning is widely discouraged and belittled. In order to maintain control, the company owners and business owners try to hire and promote people with no education. This just perpetuates that lack of education and knowledge in Dickinson. The business owners now, and the business managers now, do not have any business education.
They do not know that you are supposed to treat your employees well, because employees have much more opportunity to affect a business than do customers. They do not know that you are supposed to encourage your employees. They do not know that by allowing employees to come up with good ideas, present them, implement them, and give them credit, increases the efficiency and productivity of their business, and makes the employees happier, more satisfied, and more motivated.
There is a final principle that I will mention called “synergy”. Synergy is the principle that people or businesses working together in a collaborative effort, can accomplish much greater things than they could accomplish working separately.
I will give an analogy to describe synergy. Imagine that you have water, sand, gravel, and cement. Could you make a wall only with water? Could you make a wall only with sand? Could you stack the sand on the water? When you mix the water, sand, gravel, and cement all together, you can make concrete walls, houses, and buildings.
Not only do businesses in Dickinson try to keep their own employees down, they do not cooperate with other businesses. There is no Synergy. For instance, I described in some previous blog posts, that I do self employed construction work in my own business. In the past couple of years, I purchased $1,200 worth of equipment from two locally owned businesses in Dickinson. In the month of April, I talked to these two local business owners about buying more equipment from them, and both of these business owners were very nasty to me.
Why don’t these local business owners in Dickinson see, that if I buy the equipment from them that I need, so that I can complete my projects, so that I make money, that I can then come back and buy more equipment from them?
The town of Dickinson and everyone in Dickinson would be so much more successful if there was Synergy, where everyone makes an effort work together, so that collectively everyone is better off.