ANDERSON — Failure is not often associated with success, but Bob Anders says his failures were invaluable.
“It’s something you can learn from,” he said.
This week Anders, 65, and other retired executives shared the secrets that helped them catapult their careers into success.
“I had some good bosses and some bad bosses and I learned a lot from the bad bosses,” he said.
Anders, who graduated with a mechanical engineering degree, ended his career as the chief operating officer of Guide Corp. He said his climb into the executive business world was not easy and he struggled with areas outside of his expertise like sales, marketing and financing.
But he never gave up.
“I became the COO in my 50s,” Anders said. "I think what you have to do is you have to exceed your boss's expectations,” he said. “I was the first guy in and the last guy out.”
One of those failures, Anders said, was to hire a friend for the wrong job.
“I hired a guy who I knew in my heart could not do the job,” he said. “He begged me to promote him and it was a really dumb move on my part.”
That mistake set the company back six months, Anders said, but 18 years later he says it is something he will never do again.
“I let my relationship with him cloud my judgment,” he said. “From then on I was more objective in my evaluation of people who applied for jobs.”
Other lessons Anders learned is there is no excuse for those who always have excuses.
“There are people who always try to minimize their time at work,” he said. “They were always late to work or they would leave early.
“If you don’t like coming to work, find another job.”
That is how Gene Yates said he became successful.
Yates, 92, retired as the president and chief executive officer for First Savings and Loan Association in Anderson.
“I was fortunate enough every time I took a job it was better,” he said. “I changed jobs every two to three years for the first 10 years.”
Yates, who graduated with a degree in accounting, said he was at the right place at the right time.
“Life has really been good to me,” he said. “I think the idea that I wanted to learn all about the particular job I was doing and learn as much as I could and do it well – over time proved to work.”
Success was made easier for Yates, he said, because he enjoys working with people.
“I think you have to work at it and you have to at least be in a position to work with people,” he said. “That was probably my ability rather than having any intellect. I’m not the sharpest tool in the box, as they say.”
Humor allowed Yates to be both liked and effective in the workforce.
When asked about failures in his career, Yates sighed heavily.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t look back and I don’t look at failures, I guess. Right now, one of my greatest adventures is getting out of bed in the morning.”
But that does not mean Yates was not firm with his employees.
“One of the most unusual incidences I had was with two ladies who would fuss with one another,” he said.
Yates called the women into his office and asked each one if they were happy with their job. They both said they were and, not knowing which woman was ultimately responsible for the problems, he said he made a decisive decision.
“Any more fuss and you are both fired,” Yates told the women. “They took me seriously because I was serous and they ended up living happily ever after.”
Yates said he “accidentally” landed in his corporate job, but there are other ways to be successful in a career.
“I know some people in the business that started from the very bottom and really worked hard to acquire knowledge and let it be known they were acquiring knowledge,” he said.
People like his friend, James Alexander.
Alexander, 82, was enjoying his retirement on the sunny sands in Naples, Fla., this week as another coating of snow fell in Madison County.
A former purchasing agent for General Motors, Alexander worked 37 years at the company before taking a general manager position with Steel Sledding in Elwood.
Hard work was the key to Alexander’s success.
“I did my job and I was always there,” he said. “I didn’t take time off to be sick or anything. I was always there. I was fortunate to work for people I liked and I just did my job.”
That is not to say Alexander always liked his job.
“I’ve had a couple of jobs I didn’t like when I was young.”
In one job, Alexander eventually decided to approach a superior boss and told him he needed a different position.
“He said that I did such a good job he didn’t know why I wanted to get out of my job,” Alexander said. “I told him I did such a good job trying to get out of that job.”
He suggested people should never settle when it comes to a job until they find a job they like.
“Early on, move around to see what you are suited for,” he said. “It took me 10 years to get up to some place in purchasing where I really liked it.”
And the golden rules Alexander lived by were to always work hard, corporate, be honest, be truthful, but most importantly – respect the people he supervised.
“My success was really a long gradual path,” he said.
Like Traci Moyer on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @moyyer, or call 648-4250.
Finding a mentor Are you a new business owner or a business owner who wants to grow your business in 2014? SCORE, a nonprofit for entrepreneurs, offers free mentoring services with experienced business professionals to start up or achieve new business goals. For information on SCORE programs or services, visit www.anderson.score.org. Or contact the agency, 1106 Meridian St., by calling 642-0264.