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Last Update: Thursday September 23, 2021

Key Idea: Ask Veteran Employees To Think in New Ways

Howard Kent believes in teaching employees about the business, providing opportunities for them to demonstrate their talents and sharing in the business success.

Key Question:


Howard has very low turn-over because employees feel involved in the decision-making processes. He knows their goals and helps them work toward them.

Why don't more business owners involve employees in the details of the business?

Howard says fear holds them back. Many are afraid if they teach employees how the business runs; they will start their own company or go off to the competition. This has not been the case with Howard and other businesses we have studied. If you want to build the business, you have to step back and let the employees do their job. Does this idea apply to everyone in every situation? We believe it does, and that it should be comforting thought. You don't have to double sales overnight. You double sales by increasing a little bit everyday.

The problem is, most of us don't try to improve everyday. We make New Year's resolutions then forget them, or we set goals then fail and give up. Howard says after 30 years in business that if we strive continuously, we'll build a growing business and extraordinary life. You think about it: What would be the effect on your business if each employee stretched an additional quarter of an inch?

Think about it

Should you be teaching your employees more about how business works rather than just how to do their job?  Is there someone on your payroll now who has the potential to move up?

Clip from: Ironbound Supply

Newark, New Jersey: Meet Howard Kent and his team at Ironbound Valve Actuation. Like most of us, he learned his lessons the hard way. He now says, "Plan your work. And, work your plan, so . . . when you do succeed, it's not by chance and it's not by luck; it's just that you followed your game plan."

As you can well imagine, to go global, Howard constantly streamlines his systems with a mixture of old technology and new.

Go to the key ideas of this episode...

Ironbound Valve Actuation

Howard Kent, Chairman, CEO, founder

146 Jackson Street
Newark, NJ 07105

Visit our web site:

Office: 9735895209

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1966

Ask Veteran Employees To Think in New Ways

Unidentified Man: I'll probably stop in tomorrow around 11 and...

HOWARD: You have to bring people in to help you make it grow because you can't do it all yourself. You've got to be able to back off now. You've got to be able to relinquish control so that the employee is intent on running the business. If not, your business always stays small because you've got to be the chief cook and bottle washer and have such a tight control you prevent other people from doing their thing and the business doesn't grow.

HATTIE: So why do you think people don't teach the employees that they hire what the employee needs to know to be successful?

HOWARD: I think it's because they fear if they teach them too much and they're too good a teacher, they'll leave and go down the street and start their own business or go to work for their competition who may be bigger and ends up putting them out of business. You've got to have a feel with that employee that you--well, you're living with someone, basically, all day long. You spend probably more time with them at work than you do with your family, at least awake hours, anyhow. And after a while, you know what their motivation and what their goals are.

HATTIE: You do?

HOWARD: Well, you hope to by communicating with them as far as where do they want to be five years from now? What would they like to do? If you make it, share it, because the more your employees working for you see you're successful, the business is successful, they want to be successful. But if you're successful, you're making the money, and they come to you ask for a raise and you say, `No way, I can't afford it,' when you can or you don't want to give it to them, you get resentment. I always say it's like the cogs on a wheel. Every one in a small business has to be pulling their own load and be happy in what you're doing, working together. You can't have one person pulling the oar in the opposite direction.

This is Scott Gross. He's our vice president for Ironbound Valve Actuation, our Actuation Division, and...

HATTIE: Howard is not resting on laurels. He has started a whole new company with an 18-year Ironbound veteran at the helm.

OK, Scott, can you explain what is an actuated valve?

SCOTT GROSS: An actuated valve--basically, what we're looking at is...

HOWARD: OK, when I hired Scott, Scott was 17, 18 at the time.

SCOTT: This is a valve with a pneumatic actuator on the top.

HATTIE: This is the valve?

SCOTT: This is the valve. This is the actuator.

HOWARD: His brother, Don, was working here, working at the counter, and I needed a driver, and he was the legal age, he came in and started driving. And from driving--he was aggressive--he came in and he started working the counter, and after working the counter for a couple years, we brought him on inside sales. And from inside sales, he started to learn about the computer system and started doing computer input and data entry. And then from there, he was working in the office as the office manager and then, finally, to the vice president. And a very, very competent, hard worker. He's in early in the morning, stays late at night, does work on the weekends, because he feels he has to do these things to make a good salary for his family and to help the business survive against the big corporations that are out there that's our competitors.

HATTIE: And Don's been with you...

HOWARD: Don was with us about a year before Scott. Don's our outside sales manager, and he's been calling on contractors, industrials, commercial accounts, hospitals and every type account in New Jersey and New York for the last 18 years.

SCOTT: (Voiceover) What this component does--with a supply of air pressure, turns a rotation of the pistons within the actuator, which opens and closes this valve.

HOWARD: We're just replacing the man with the pan wheel or the lever. We would say, `Open the valve because I want so much flow,' and he opens it and says, `Hold it, that's far enough, and now close the valve.' Well, we can do the exact same thing with an actuated valve much, much more accurately, cheaply. It works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year; very inexpensive and there's no hidden payroll costs for it. And hopefully, this will continue to grow as fast as it's been growing for us.

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