Thirty-three years ago, on April Fool’s Day, Earl Heard, created a publication — BIC Magazine — to bring together businesses and community within the petrochemical/refining industry. His vision took off and now, 33 years later, the publication has grown into a following of like-minded individuals.
Many people often ask Heard about his story and how his business became prosperous and in this month’s April issue, he discusses the details and his story:
After going to rock bottom in my first entrepreneurial venture (or adventure) with VideoScan, an energy training and video production company, I returned to the energy sector as the training manager for Hill Petroleum (now Alon) in Krotz Springs, Louisiana, in July 1982. My job was to help train operators, lab technicians and product-handling personnel for a cat-cracker expansion. There was a special emphasis by Andy Hill, our CEO, and John Bender, our plant manager, to hire locally, but we also had some highly qualified folks from across America joining us, since this was one of the few large expansions taking place during the energy downturn of the early 1980s.
As part of my job as the training manager at Hill Petroleum — and long before when I was coming up the ranks from a trainee to a general foreman and training coordinator — we had been taught that among the best ways to learn a job was through the sharing of stories and lessons learned by others who had more experience. As I moved from an operator into a first-line foreman and began training others in operations, safety and firefighting, the sharing of stories from our mentors and, in some cases, legends in industry like Bill Koen of Exxon and firefighter Red Adair sticks with me and others more than just facts and figures. In fact, one of my favorite plant managers, Merlin Koenecke, made a lasting impression on me and others when he shared a story about his management-by-walking-around approach and how he had learned it from his own mentor. As a trainee in plant operations and later in supervision — and especially when I became an entrepreneur — I learned if I wanted to learn more and retain information longer to encourage our trainers, managers and other entrepreneurs to share their most memorable stories and lessons learned, I needed to listen closely, ask questions and, equally important, take notes.
When I wanted to go back into business after losing everything, half of my loved ones and mentors I talked with told me I was foolish, while the other half told me just the opposite: At my age, I would be foolish not to go back, because that was the only way I would be able to rebound at the level I needed to. Sometimes you just have to go with your own instincts and gut feelings. Seek advice, and then go with what you feel your heart is calling you to do.
Recently, I attended two separate memorial services for legends and mentors in the industrial sector, both of whom are recognized far and wide for the stories they told and the lessons learned they were kind enough to share. One was for my friend and benefactor Sonny Anderson, founder and CEO of Anco and Basic Industries, whom I have known and admired as a mentor for over 35 years. The other, who died in February, is Jerry Strickland, founder and CEO of AltairStrickland, who has not only been a longtime supporter of BIC Magazine but also — along with his son Whitney — agreed to share his story and lessons learned about life and going from desperation to inspiration in our latest book and film, “Rock Bottom and Back™,” to help give others greater faith, hope and peace. When I attended Jerry’s memorial March 4 at the Houstonian Hotel, it was an occasion I will always remember because of the stories of love and compassion Jerry and his wife had for others. One speaker said Jerry loved hearing and sharing stories and that he was the kind of guy who left footprints on our hearts. Another speaker talked about how our lives are like a pebble cast into the water. The pebble may sink, but our stories create ripples from our lives as we share them with others. He suggested we continue to tell meaningful stories about Jerry. I suggest you also do this with your stories and the stories of others who have also impacted your life.
As we continue to talk about sharing stories and lessons learned, I feel like the most blessed person in the world because, as fate — or perhaps divine intervention — would have it, our primary purpose for BIC Magazine and our BIC Media Solutions books, films and speakers bureau is to share stories, interviews, case histories and especially lessons learned by who’s who in business, industry and community for the betterment of all.