What Would Andrew Carnegie Do?

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What Would Andrew Carnegie Do?

There’s an old curse that goes, “May you live in interesting times.” Well, we can put a check mark in that box because none of us have seen anything like the past few weeks. Malls are padlocked, churches are empty on Easter, people are doing Passover Seders with their family via Zoom. Everyone is wearing masks and gloves when they have to leave their home, and God forbid that you should share an elevator. 

And yet, we’re the lucky ones. Tens of millions of people have filed for unemployment compensation, but plumbers, drain cleaners and facility maintenance engineers and the industries that support them are considered essential workers. We hear that some of you have never been busier. But, despite our good fortune, a cloud of uncertainty hovers over our industry, breeding fear and stifling the normal levels of investment necessary to sustain consistent growth. What can we do?

Being from Pittsburgh I naturally wondered, what would Andrew Carnegie do in this situation? Carnegie is famous as the father of the U.S. steel industry as well as a generous philanthropist. If you’ve ever been in a Carnegie Free Library, you’ve benefited from his legacy. Since he’s been dead for a hundred years, we can’t ask him what he’d do in today’s crisis. However, he was known to follow a strict business philosophy throughout his career that allowed him to take advantage of whatever life was throwing at him and make the best of it. By examining this philosophy and adapting it to today's situation, I think we can answer the question of what Andrew Carnegie would do during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Carnegie built his steel empire during one of the most volatile periods in American economic history. From 1850 to the turn of the 20th century, the U.S. experienced 12 major recessions and panics. Imagine how hard it would be to build a business if every few years the banks failed and the financial markets collapsed. That was the world he lived in. During good times, Carnegie would do the obvious, and make and sell as much steel as he could. During the recessions and panics he would turn inward and devote a prudent amount of resources toward renovating his plants and doing preventive maintenance. When the good times rolled around again, which they always did, he was a step or two ahead of the competition. 

What lessons can we learn from Andrew Carnegie’s response to hard times? First, during this time of unparalleled uncertainty, why not look inward and see what you can do to prepare your business for the return of normalcy? For most people, it wouldn’t be prudent to make a large investment in the present environment, so perhaps the right strategy would be concentrating on repairing the tools that you already own. You could start with that old Speedrooter that’s been sitting in the back of the shop since the Obama administration. General is open for business, and we still have parts for all of our drain cleaning machines, even the ones that are officially classified as antiques. If you aren’t sure how to make the needed repairs, don’t worry — the Drain Brains are on the job with technical advice. Just call 800-245-6200 for advice on parts and repairs.

I think Andrew Carnegie would be prudently proactive during today’s crisis, because he knew that even in the most uncertain of times, there are ways to increase your chances for success. Let us know how we can help.

Check out the other Drain Brain blog posts that cover the most common routine maintenance tips for your drain cleaning tools; snakes and cable machines, jetters and cameras.

Thanks for all that you’re doing to keep the nation healthy, and please, stay healthy and well!

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