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IMA Executive News & Views Blog

Capitalism: The True Humanitarianism ‘A Saulsbury Story’


by Don McNeeley, PHCP Pros (originally published in The Wholesaler magazine)

Don McNeeley is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Chicago Tube and Iron Company, an IMA member.

Wealth for an individual, enterprise, or a nation, is essential.

Individuals need such to provide housing, transportation, healthcare, education or, at the least, their very survival.  It is certainly essential to a quality of life.

Enterprises need such to reinvest in an effort to create even more employment, for without such, the economy stalls and social unrest in our cities increases.

Nations need wealth for power, protection and the ability to care for those in need!  In the latter, a nation’s wealth is measured by a variety of metrics.  Of the more important is the infant mortality rate: There is a correlation between a nation’s wealth and its ability to fund not only charity, but also medical research.  Wealthy nations have more money, thus, do more charity, thus, fund more medical research, and, in the end, more babies survive.  America is wealthy, and in turn, enjoys one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.  Without money it wouldn’t be! In addition, a correlation understandably exists between a nation’s wealth and the life expectancy of its population.

Looking specifically at capitalistic industries, can there be any better legacy to leave the next generation than that of a high-paying industrial job? Thus, when media and academic institutions want to cast capitalism as the anti-Christ of humanitarianism, I cry foul!

A case in particular: Seven years ago, I had the great fortune to join the board of Saulsbury Industries, Odessa, Texas. This geography is the center of the Permian Basin with rich oil and gas reserves now made accessible due to the technological advancements that brought us fracking.

This board opportunity appealed to me for a variety of reasons.  Primarily, as I am on an engineering faculty at a major university, I was intrigued.  This fracking revolution will be written about in history books 100 years from now.  This board role gave me a front row seat to history in the making.

In addition, I like Texas, its people, its pride, and its legislature.  As the legislature is only part time, the politicians must return to civilian life to live with the laws that they, themselves, create.

Further, Saulsbury is a very successful company that was seeking guidance of a G1 to G2 transition with the founder preparing four wonderful offspring for successorship.

I like those types of opportunities which are made all the better when the company is inclined to not only generate profits, but use them to create more jobs, as well as, fund charities.  As my granddaughter would say, “easy-peasy.” This generational transition led to a professional outside board and shareholder talent supplemented with outside executive management that not only provides experience, but also the mentoring of future leadership.

From the humblest beginnings in Arkansas, Dick Saulsbury, and his pickup truck, worked long hours, often in harsh conditions.  Along with his wife, Amelia, they provided for a growing family of four.  The oil fields of West Texas eventually provided an opportunity to learn the electrical trade and Dick responded.  In this day and age of the redundant rhetoric of work, life and balance, when Dick was asked how he did it, his response was an efficient.  “We worked like the dickens.”

Saulsbury is a company that is a poster child for everything right with capitalism.  Initially, beginning with a couple of guys, and now a half-century later, they employ 2,600 and with beneficiaries, support the livelihoods of more than 5,000 individuals.  This energy sector, along with its demand for talent, renders these high-paying jobs.  Is not a job created and then left for the next generation more valuable than proceeds left in a trust fund for only a few? We all recall the biblical axiom; give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day (trust fund).  Teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime (employment).

In addition to the job creation, this generous organization with ethics, integrity, and faith as its foundation has funded significant charities.  They assist those in need within their own communities, and supported hundreds of charities throughout the nation and world over – from food banks, youth and elderly support, to community colleges and universities, and military on to medical research and on and on.

Saulsbury just celebrated its 50th anniversary and elected to do so in its community and in its style.  I, along with my fellow board members, had the great fortune of experiencing the celebration of this great milestone.  Yes, of course there was the appropriate celebration, and numerous accolades.  However, founders Dick and Amelia along with daughter Dianne and sons Mark, Bubba and Matt, went to great efforts to divert attention and all credit away from themselves.

Their secret plan to commemorate was shall I say … “so them.” You see, central to the celebration was when the Saulsbury family members, along with CEO Rick Graves went on stage and elected to commemorate its 50th anniversary by giving away six houses to disabled military veterans! This makes one think? When overpaid athletes deem it appropriate to kneel down during the national anthem, I wonder if they ever walked the halls of Walter Reed Hospital.  Likewise, I wonder if a journalist or an academic would be so inclined to denounce capitalism had they been in attendance at this noteworthy event.  Our America needs more families just like this that build companies just like this that celebrate milestones just like this, in a manner, just like this!

I, along with the Saulsburys, would be the first to punctuate that they are certainly not alone in embracing generosity and philanthropy.  I know, many in our wonderful industry who are quick to volunteer their talent, and even quicker with their checkbooks.  They do this religiously and routinely.  Recognition for such is secondary.

Kudos to the Saulsbury family and its leadership for so generously demonstrating the blessings of capitalism and the good it can do.  Hopefully, it encourages others to engage as well.  Thank you Saulsbury, for who you are.  As Jon Donne wrote “ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

“Giving is not just about making a donation.  It is about making a difference.”


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