Fritz Black is the owner of Cowboy Leaders and the Danglin’ B Ranch. Black spent more than 20 years of his life leading teams at Nestle Corp. His extensive experience in front line leadership makes him uniquely qualified to teach others how to get the most out of the people they lead as well as themselves. Coming from a small town ranch to one of the world’s most respected large companies, Fritz has led people from all walks of life. He
has put his heart and passion into changing the way people see their role as a leader. You can learn more about Fritz, his staff, and Cowboy Leaders at his website, http://www.cowboyleaders.com.
Describe yourself in 3 words:
Your thoughts become your choices – your choices become your actions – your actions become your habits – your habits shape your life and define your character.
When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful?
The direct answer would be seven years; however it is not that simple. Most of my life, I worked for a corporation or company where I received a bi-weekly pay check. (I spent 21 years with Nestle). I started a training company 7 years ago on a part-time basis but left Nestle just 3 years ago to pursue my dream full-time.
I have always been motivated to learn and perfect the skills required to perform at a high level. When I was welding, at the age of 19, I would watch the other welders and strive to do more work than they would. Most of them had been welding for years, so they had better skills than I did. So, I made sure that I simply worked harder than they did. I would skip breaks, take short lunches and try to never waste time. Soon I was out-producing all of them even though I was not the best or fastest welder. I just out-worked them.
That work ethic caught the eye of my managers through my working years and helped me to move up quickly where ever I worked. I found myself in leadership roles through most of my working days. So, I guess that you could say all of those years went into my training to teach others to lead more effectively. Thus, I have spent most of my life pursuing my career as a leader.
How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dream?
More than I should. I am still pursuing it. It is what drives me each and every day. I often wake up in the middle of the night with a thought on how to do something better so, I get up and start writing out my thoughts. I don’t remember the last time I let an hour go by without thinking about my business.
I say, “More than I should”, because I have a wonderful wife and family that I should serve and love more than I do. They are very understanding and supportive, but I am short changing myself by not being as dedicated to them as I could be.
Describe how difficult the business really is?
As difficult as I make it. Sometimes I find myself not using the people and resources around me. I believe in surrounding myself with people who have strengths where I have weakness. As an example; I am a very emotion driven person. I make decisions quickly based on my feelings. That serves me well most of the time, but has also caused some of the greatest failures I have experienced. So I lean on my partner, Max Reid. He is very analytical and always thinks things through. I sometimes feel frustration with the pace of our decision making process, but we always make better decisions together.
I honestly believe that the most difficult part of my business, and likely anyone’s business, is letting go enough to allow room for others. My grandmother always said, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself” – What was a horrible saying! It is used primarily by people who simply cannot communicate with and trust in others.
What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson?
Actually, it is a lesson I keep teaching myself. Never overlook the value of others. I sometimes forget the people around me that could help get the job done. I have found that people will work much harder for me if they know that I take their input seriously and that I trust them.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date?
About 25 years ago, Jay Weaver promoted me to the position of Shipping Supervisor with Nestle. When he did he told me, “You are no longer in the Shipping business. You are now in the people business. Work for your people. Give them your time, your care and your knowledge. Learn the people business from them and allow them to learn the shipping business from you.” I have been in the people business since that day.
What is the piece of advice that you weren’t?
Never start your own business. It will consume your life.
In your mind, is formal training essential?
It helps, but it is not needed. What is needed is passion.
What are some steps emerging talent can take to start/further their career?
Forget about the product and focus on the people. It is pretty hard to be passionate about cooking, but it is easy to be passionate about feeding and nourishing others. Find how what you do will make the lives of others better and you will find a reason to go to work every day. Lead by serving.
What kept you going when you felt like giving up?
A relationship with people who believe in me, support me and will not let me quit.
Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time?
Nope! I believe that it is about never thinking that you have ‘made it.’
Never settle – never quit learning – never quit serving.