Taking Responsibility and Learning from Mistakes: Terry Iverson

Taking Responsibility and Learning from Mistakes: Terry Iverson


Check out all episodes on the My Favorite Mistake main page.

My guest for Episode #74 of the My Favorite Mistake podcast is Terry Iverson, the President & CEO at Iverson & Company, a third-generation family-owned company that produces machine tooling.

Terry is the author of Finding America's Greatest Champion: Building Prosperity Through Manufacturing, Mentoring and the Awesome Responsibility of Parenting (2018).

He is also founder of the ChampionNow! Foundation, formed in 2012.

Questions and topics include:

  • What lesson did Terry learn about responsibility, in the realm of high school academics and sports eligibility?
  • Lesson about accountability, when others depend on you
  • As a father, can you teach that story or has to be lived?
  • Fessing up and telling the truth about a mistake in the business
  • You don’t make a decision KNOWING its the wrong decision — but learn something?
  • Episode #5 with Billy Taylor and his sports/accountabilty story

Scroll down to find:

  • Video of the Episode
  • Quotes
  • How to subscribe
  • Full transcript

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Watch the Episode:


"That was the first time I really understood that you could disappoint other people and you have to think beyond just yourself."
"So I had to fess up and tell the truth, and tell my dad that I screwed up."
"Don't try to cover up a mistake because then you're, you're making a mistake about a mistake."

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Automated Transcript (Likely Contains Mistakes)

Mark Graban (0s):

Episode 74, Terry Iverson, President and CEO at Iverson and Company

Terry Iverson (8s):

So that was the first time I really understood that you could disappoint other people and you have to think beyond just yourself.

Mark Graban (19s):

I'm Mark Graban. This is My Favorite Mistake. In this podcast, you'll hear business leaders and other really interesting people talking about their favorite mistakes because we all make mistakes, but what matters is learning from our mistakes instead of repeating them over and over again. So this is the place for honest reflection and conversation, personal growth and professional success. Visit our website at myfavoritemistake,podcast.com for show notes, links, and more. You can go to markgraban.com/mistakes74, please follow rate, and review, and please consider sharing this episode on social media, share it with a friend or colleague.

Mark Graban (1m 1s):

Thanks. Our guest today is Terry Iverson. He is the president and CEO at Iverson and Company. He's the author Of a book titled finding America's Greatest Champion: Building Prosperity Through Manufacturing, Mentoring, and the Awesome Responsibility of Parenting. And he's also the founder of the Champion Now foundation. Terry, how are you?

Terry Iverson (1m 22s):

I'm doing great, Mark. Thanks for having me on today.

Mark Graban (1m 25s):

Thanks for being here. So what is your favorite mistake?

Terry Iverson (1m 31s):

Well, this is a kind of an interesting topic. I'm going to come back and say that I have two that I learned early in life, quite a bit from, and so with your permission, I'll, I'll go into, to go right ahead. So the first mistake that I really, I even write about it in my book is that I was in my junior year of high school and I went to a very high level prep school and I was taking AP Physics at the time. And I was an athlete also, and I worked about 20 hours a week at the same time. So I was pretty busy and I had to have a little bit of spending money, right? And so I had to work the night before an AP physics test and I didn't study at all truth, be told.

Terry Iverson (2m 17s):

And my teacher came back and laid the paper on my desk and there was a 50 as in 50%. And although I'm not proud of the fact, it didn't surprise me. So I just kind of shrug my shoulders. So afterwards, my AP Physics teacher said, Terry, well, you know what this means? Right? And I said, well, I gotta do better. I know that he goes, no, this means that you will, you'll be academically ineligible. And I played football, but I also played soccer and I was a leading score on the soccer team in, in obviously your teammates and your family and your, you know, members of your company depend on you. And so that was the first time I really understood that you could disappoint other people and you have to think beyond just yourself.

Terry Iverson (3m 5s):

And so I said, well, my teacher was the, went by the nickname of booboo and it said, booboo, we have an AP test on Thursday. Right? He goes, yeah, you know that? And I said, okay. And I said, well, could you grade it for me Thursday night or Thursday afternoon? So that Friday, I would know if I was able to be eligible. He said, sure. He says, but Terry you'd have to make a 95 to be eligible. And I'm like, okay. So I couldn't work, you know, that Wednesday or Thursday for obvious reasons. And I did study and I understood it and I made a 97. So I was academically eligible and was never academically ineligible.

Terry Iverson (3m 48s):

And I learned a valuable lesson that day about people, depending on you, whether it's in your family or your team teammates or your company, and that resonated with me for years on it. Yeah.

Mark Graban (4m 2s):

So to, to, to delve into that a little bit, and thank you for, for sharing that story, I mean, how would you frame the lesson learned? I mean, you know, there's, there's the one level of you've got to study before a test, but it sounds like there was a deeper lesson about priorities. You mentioned working to want some spending money, which, you know, we all did as students personal priority versus commitment to others. Maybe if you could elaborate on that and how that lesson has maybe shaped the rest of your education and then into your career.

Terry Iverson (4m 36s):

Well, actually it shaped the rest of my life. You know, I was always taught Mark that, you know, accountability was, was paramount. And I was always taught by my parents and my mom and my dad that, you know, when people depend on you, you know, and that's, that's quite a, the gravity of it. You need to understand that. And so it did, it framed a lot of things. I knew going forward, friends when friends or teammates depended on me that I was there to be depended on. And then, you know, going into, you know, being a husband and being a father and now a grandfather that, you know, that has continued on my whole life.

Terry Iverson (5m 16s):

So, but in, in companies, people depend on you. And as the leader of a company or our company, I realized that, and I have to be there for my employees, for my customers. And, you know, it's a simple lesson that, you know, sometimes students don't, you know, get, or just don't learn. And for whatever reason, you know, when they said I couldn't play and I was going to disappoint my teammates that really resonated for the rest of my life. Sure.

Mark Graban (5m 45s):

And, you know, looking back to the, you know, the subtitle of your book, it includes the awesome responsibility of parenting. So I'm curious then as a parent, where do you find the balance? Like at what point can you sort of try to tell these lessons to your kids by telling them, versus they've got to live that on their own and, and perhaps make a mistake that's a more, is that a more powerful learning opportunity through experience?

Terry Iverson (6m 12s):

Well, I think experiences are always no matter what we're talking about, whether it be family or, or, you know, athletics and teams or companies and careers, learning firsthand experiences are always the best. You can tell people, and you can tell your children, you can tell your employees, but until they actually experience it, that's when they really learn it. Now, I was really fortunate in this regard, in that I didn't even have to pay the true price that I probably should have paid. Right. And because I had a mentor, my, my AP physics and calculus teacher, and he cared about me and he gave me the opportunity to do right. And not always do you get a chance to, to make right and, and, and learn a lesson at the same time.

Terry Iverson (6m 57s):

Yeah. I'm saying, give me another chance you got that, that chance that make up

Mark Graban (7m 2s):

Exam. And I know you heard the episode, Terry, but back in Episode 5, Billy Taylor told it wasn't his main favorite mistake, but along the lines of respecting standards and being taught about standards, he told the story, he was in middle school actually. And he did badly on an exam. And as he recounted, he was eligible by the school's standard, but it didn't live up to his mother's standard, which, you know, she, she pulled him out of a big game. And, you know, I guess it goes to show maybe kind of, you know, final follow up question here. You know, that that's sports. As, as a kid, I played on the tennis team in high school.

Mark Graban (7m 42s):

I was in marching band through high school and college. Those were probably my primary experiences with responsibility to others. So I was, I was curious if you have any other thoughts on, you know, the power of sports. It's not just about physical activity and keeping in shape.

Terry Iverson (7m 58s):

Oh no. Oh gosh. I was an athlete all growing up, even after I was in a grown adult and a father, I was an athlete as well, but there's so many lessons in, in hiring for the company. I long to hire athletes to interview and hire athletes because you learn discipline and you learn accountability and you learn, you know, that you have to practice your craft right. And to get good at it. So athletes, you know, I'm not saying that everyone has to be an athlete for every position, but you know what you're getting in terms of character, or at least you think you do interviewing so hard mark to really in a short period of time to really understand what people are made of from a character standpoint.

Terry Iverson (8m 49s):

That's just one insight that if they're a successful athlete and they stuck with it, that speaks volumes before you, even before they even opened your mouth, you at least know something about them. Yeah. Yeah. And so

Mark Graban (9m 2s):

What, Terry, what was the second story that you wanted to tell us? This was from more on the early part of your career in the working world?

Terry Iverson (9m 9s):

It was, it was speaking of standards that you had mentioned your previous guests to the previous episode about his mom. My dad has had, and has extremely high standards to the point that as a young man coming out of, out of college or in the middle of college, I wasn't sure that I could work for him to be honest with you. And so early in my career, I was working for my dad. And I think I was at an auction. I think, you know, in the very beginning of me learning the auction business and, you know, I stepped away, we didn't have cell phones. So I went to a payphone and actually missed a machine that I was supposed to bid on.

Terry Iverson (9m 50s):

And he had asked me to do it and I failed. So I was really distraught because I literally was about to disappoint my boss and my dad. And I don't know about you, but, you know, disappointment from your children to you or from you to your parents is probably the strongest motivating emotion you could have. So I, I was talking to one of my coworkers and I was just literally beside myself, I couldn't function. And it was a crossroads of me understanding that I was really limiting how I could grow.

Terry Iverson (10m 31s):

And I was limiting how I could help my, my business, my, my dad's business, and, and be a very, very productive employee. So my mentor at the time who retired and just passed away a giant comp rainy, he passed away just recently, unfortunately, but he was with us for 45 years. And he said, and he said these words, and I'll never forget these words. He said, Terry, you know, I've never made a decision that at the time I made it, I thought was wrong. And he said, he says, if you have all the information in and you make a decision, you're making the right decision, you don't make a decision thinking. It's the wrong decision.

Terry Iverson (11m 11s):

And that resonated with me. And it basically gave me the confidence to say, all right, you know, own up to your mistake and, you know, let it pass, but learn something by it. And so his words that were in somewhat regards to that situation, but much more so going forward that look, you're going to make the best decision possible and your dad or your boss, he may not have all those that information. And certainly won't at the time, but you made the best decision you could at that given time. And so those words of advice and of wisdom just literally was another turning point for me, turn the corner into a productive employee and a productive business and career, you know, member and, and, and I'll never forget those words.

Terry Iverson (12m 4s):

Yeah. So,

Mark Graban (12m 6s):

And what was it again that you said, you, you, you went away to make a phone call that that seemed like it was necessary, or that was,

Terry Iverson (12m 15s):

And it really, it wasn't, it was a poor decision. It was a poor decision on my part because, you know, it was very new to the business and it was, I was very new to the whole, you know, how does an auction work type thing? And so I just stepped away and I came back and they had gone right by the piece of equipment that I was supposed to look at. So I had to fess up and tell the truth, which that's a whole nother thing. I'll talk a little bit about. And I tell my dad that, you know, I, I screwed up and I thought I had time. And I thought, I thought I had to make this important phone call. And this is once again, before cell phones. And the reality is, you know, that could have waited.

Terry Iverson (12m 55s):

And, you know, I tried to, to think I knew all the facts that I needed to make that decision in and I was, I was wrong.

Mark Graban (13m 6s):

So, and that's one of the themes that comes across in a lot of the stories, you know, in the episodes here on my favorite mistake is, you know, fessing up to the mistake or creating a culture within an, within an organization we're where people don't hide or cover up mistakes, sort of to state it in the opposite. It can be a mistake to hide the mistake times, layers mistake on top of mistakes.

Terry Iverson (13m 34s):

The one, one of the things Mark that I'll say is that, you know, I talked to a lot of young people around the country and, and I, I give them very little advice and I say, look, if there's one thing that you listened to, that will help you in your career for the rest of your life, arrive early, leave late. And most of all tell the truth. And there's, there's simple, you know, simple concepts, but in a, in the manufacturing sector, mentors like myself and others. And my mentor, if you show a little bit of interest and if you show up early and are just a sponge for information, and then engrossed in the situation, you know, you stay late.

Terry Iverson (14m 17s):

So you make sure that you have everything that they're trying to, you know, put upon you and teach you, you know, you're gonna, you're gonna get the most out of that mentor and they're going to do go well beyond what they would otherwise. But most importantly, besides that is tell the truth. Don't try to cover up a mistake because then you're, you're making a mistake about a mistake

Mark Graban (14m 41s):

And that could be a different podcast, mistakes about mistakes. And

Terry Iverson (14m 45s):

That's a whole new series, new series. But, you

Mark Graban (14m 47s):

Know, like, as you were saying in the mistake, being a learning opportunity is really, you know, the theme here, it's the, you know, the podcast isn't called beat yourself up. But, you know, I want to talk more about mentoring in a minute and you know, that's part of the subtitle of your book, but, you know, to give it a little bit of context, you and I have talked before and the audience might not know the family company that you're now a part of Iverson and company might sound like a consulting firm or something, but it's not so right. Give a little context about what that business

Terry Iverson (15m 18s):

Is. Well, we, we're about 90 years in as a family business and this is my 40th year and we're a machine tool distributor and rebuilding and service company. So we sell machine tools. We service machine tools, we engineer solutions with machine tools, which is the machines themselves. Yeah. And so I'm the third generation president and owner and my grandfather started it in 1931. Wow.

Mark Graban (15m 49s):

And so that's some of the context of the machine that you were at auction to buy,

Terry Iverson (15m 54s):

Correct? Correct. And at the time we were just starting, you know, a different business component that is probably more of what we do now than we did then. So, you know, I was learning basically for the company. And so my dad at that time, hadn't done a lot of that. So I even felt the gravity of the weight on my shoulders a little bit more than I probably should have. Yeah. So

Mark Graban (16m 20s):

Then I wanted to talk a little bit more about what you learned from that mentor and what you've experienced as, as a mentor and someone who advocates for mentoring. Can, can you talk maybe a little bit more generally about the role of a mentor, a sounding board or an advisor or whatever you call it, like, you know, to, to help reflect in a way that you that's sometimes difficult to do individually?

Terry Iverson (16m 46s):

Well, this is a huge topic that I feel very passionate about in that when I was a young person, I had many, many mentors. I didn't grow up in the Chicago land area where I am now, where my dad resided. I was in Florida with my mom. So I had a lot of mentors that were coaches and teachers and et cetera, but this specific mentor in the company, John who I, I loved dearly, he would basically be a sounding board and he would see things with the long-term vision in mind. And basically like, you know what, you know how they say this, this too will pass. And they're in, in the heat of the moment when you're so wrapped up in you're so focused on in which I tend to get very focused on certain circumstances.

Terry Iverson (17m 31s):

He said, you know what, you know, in the big scheme of things, just think longterm make decisions based on that in, in the bumps along the way will, will smooth out. And I can't tell you how many things that John helped me with over the years over the decades before you retired, unfortunately paths. Yeah.

Mark Graban (17m 53s):

Well thank you for acknowledging and actually honoring him for, for, for being your mentor. So I'm sorry to hear about his

Terry Iverson (18m 1s):

Past. Thank you. Thank you. Isn't that great, man.

Mark Graban (18m 6s):

So I'm want to talk a little bit before we wrap up about your book and the foundation. So again, the title of the book is America's greatest champion building prosperity through manufacturing, mentoring, and the awesome responsibility of parenting. I always like to ask authors, you know, sort of, you know, why write a book and you know, what, what, what led to that it's, you know, it's such a big undertaking and, and who's the target audience for that?

Terry Iverson (18m 31s):

Okay. Well, why write a book? I never really, I always enjoyed writing. I don't enjoy reading. I'm more of an interactive person, a person type of individual. And I became very, very, very entrenched in technical education over the last. This is my 40th year. So probably the last 25 years and Harry Mosher from the restoring movement, if you know who he is, he's, he's a dear acquaintance and friend. And he inspired me to really make a difference with young people. I was already mentoring and coaching. So that was all already well, even before I became a parent part of my DNA, so to speak, because I really felt I had to give back as to honor all the, you know, people that have mentored me.

Terry Iverson (19m 20s):

But having said that I started getting involved in technical education and I got so involved that, you know, I'm like, I can only be at one school or I could only be in front of one student or, you know, at a time. So I was on a plane trip that was a 13 hour ride in one way. And fortunately I had a, a plug in a computer and I just started capturing it. And then, and then even then it wasn't really a book. It was like 50,000, you know, personal opinions and information. But then I realized I had a lot of really interesting people and friends and family members that could really add additional insight.

Terry Iverson (20m 4s):

And so I interviewed about 50 people and, and then I felt that I really had something that was value add, but the component about the mentoring and parenting, you know, if I just wrote a book about manufacturing, I didn't feel like it was going to have the attraction that it really needs or needs or needed. And so parenting and mentoring is so important to me. And I, I really think that there's kind of a crisis in our country in both too many parents want to be their children's best friend and maybe not hold them accountable. You know, like your previous guest and like myself, our, both of our parents hold this very, very accountable and we, you know, children need that.

Terry Iverson (20m 50s):

And then as far as mentoring, we need mentoring more than ever. Now, you know, we have this, this age gap where we have, you know, old guys like me, you know, with white hair or gray hair that are leaving the workforce, whether it be manufacturing or other, and we want to impart our knowledge to the next generation. And so we have to be open, open to mentoring and, and feel that it's the responsible thing to do, but the young person needs to be open to mentoring as well.

Mark Graban (21m 23s):

And what led to the Champion Now foundation? What, what's the purpose and the mission of the foundation?

Terry Iverson (21m 30s):

Well, the Champion Now, the, the book I self published in 2018. So that's just about two years from, from this point backwards. But in 2012, I was on my way. I was on the CTE Foundation board meeting in DC. I was on my way and I was trying to figure out some name of something to make a difference and champion. Now, ultimately on a napkin on the plane, I don't drink on planes and I wouldn't drink hard liquor, but on a napkin, not a cocktail. And I started doing initials in abbreviations. And so I was changed.

Terry Iverson (22m 11s):

Okay. Change, change, how, and then manufacturing. So then all of a sudden I had changed how manufacturing and then the perceptions, okay, well, champ, you know, kind of came to mind and then I'm like champion what? That would be a really cool word. And then I'm like incarnation. And so the point is, is there's so many for 40 years now, customers have told me that they're having a tough time getting young people into their careers because of the perceptions of manufacturing, careers, and anyone that's in manufacturing knows that yesterday's perception is not today's reality. So that was my intent was change how American manufacturing is perceived in our nation.

Terry Iverson (22m 55s):

So it's, it's the longest acronym you'll ever hear Mark, but, but, but it's a positive image which manufacturing needs and deserves a young people need a positive, you know, word and name associated with it. And then now is the call to action. So in 2012, I filed it as a 501(c)3. And it's a total intention is to educate, inform and inspire young people in the general public by changing their perceptions of what manufacturing is today.

Mark Graban (23m 27s):

That's great. And that's, that's what I applaud you for. That, that's a very important mission. I started my career in manufacturing, you know, as, as an engineer. And, you know, even to this day, you know, I see where there are technical education opportunities, different career pathways for kids who don't want to do college, or don't, don't want to do it right now. You know, there, there are opportunities and, you know, I think, gosh, you're right. We have to change that perception. That manufacturing is not Homer Simpson and other, you know, that was a nuclear plant, but you know, the, the perception, the negative perception where people look down upon manufacturing jobs, I, I agree, you know, that that's unfortunate and we can turn that around and help people see, you know, the types of education and the types of skills and, and challenging.

Mark Graban (24m 16s):

And, and so, you know, you know, opportunities that there are for kids who want to go down that path. And so you're, you're the expert on this though, more than may have saw, I'll give you the final word on that.

Terry Iverson (24m 29s):

Well, I think the only thing I'd want to add is that, you know, it's okay. If people look at manufacturing, they say, no, that's not for me. But so few people know anything about manufacturing in our culture. And so consequently, if you know, a hundred people, if only two people know about anything, about manufacturing and after end of a talk or, or a podcast or reading a book, you know, you know, 70 or 80 people of the a hundred truly understand, and maybe, you know, 45 or, or 35 or 45 decided it's for them, what's better than the 98 that didn't know anything about it before that.

Terry Iverson (25m 9s):

Right. So I tell people all the time, look, you know, young, I do a lot of, a lot with internship programs. And, and the one last thing that I want to point out is the cost of education in this country. You know, we're really preaching to the minority when it comes to, you know, when it comes to, you know, people going into four and five-year college degrees and, and, you know, there's so many parents and young people that are like, what am I going to do? I don't have the money for college or, or I, you know, I have this college loan I have to pay back. I mean, student debt, dilemma and in crisis in our country is huge. Right? And I don't think that there's necessarily a valid reason if you take into account, some of these other possibilities and manufacturing is just dying for people to yearning, I should say for people to take note, and they're very eager to pay for your education.

Terry Iverson (26m 5s):

They're very eager to, to mentor you and, and there's great careers just waiting. So the last thing that I would say that I didn't answer mark is my audience. I have four separate audiences. I have the students, the parents, the guidance counselors and educators, and the industry members. And ultimately what I hope to do in the next six or eight months is have four smaller versions of this, this particular book, one for each audience. And then it becomes a lot more streamlined for each audience. That's great.

Mark Graban (26m 41s):

Well, good luck with that next phase in your project and the continuation of your work through the Champion Now foundation. So our guest today has been Terry Iverson. Again, he's the author of the book Finding America's Greatest Champion: Building Prosperity Through Manufacturing, Mentoring, and the Awesome Responsibility of Parenting. So like you said, Terry, you know, manufacturing as a career is not for everybody, but it's a great option for some, this podcast might not be for everybody, but it's a great option for some. And I want to thank the people who are listening. It's not, you know, it comes up in the list underneath a wildly popular podcast called My Favorite Murder. That's not for me, but for somebody else.

Mark Graban (27m 24s):

So anyway, rambling into an end here, Terry, Terry Iverson has been our guest. Terry, thank you so much for, for being here on the show. Thank

Terry Iverson (27m 31s):

You so much, mark. I really appreciate your time and the opportunity

Mark Graban (27m 34s):

I want to thank you, Terry Iverson for being our guest today. For show notes and links to all of his projects and his book, you can go to MarkGraban.com/mistake74. And I hope this podcast inspires you to reflect on your own mistakes, how you can learn from them or turn them into a positive I've had listeners tell me they've started being more open and honest about mistakes in their work. And they're trying to create a workplace culture where it's safe to speak up about problems, cause that leads to more improvement and better business results. If you have feedback or a story to share, you can email me myfavoritemistakepodcast@gmail.com. And again, our website is myfavoritemistakepodcast.com.

Mark Graban (28m 17s):

Since every podcast asks you to do it, it would be a mistake. If I didn't ask you to please follow rate and review, but most importantly, thank you. Thank you for listening.

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. He is also a Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Marketing with the healthcare advisory firm, Value Capture.