[Editor’s Note: In the true interest of baiting you, there is pretty huge personal news at the bottom of this post.]
Mike Bosley has signed his letters to me as Mike “the conservative white guy” Bosley.
I wrote to him while investigating businesses in Oklahoma that were interesting and different. Living in Portland has taught me to appreciate and seek out people and pursuits that stray outside of my norm, that is, things that don’t pertain to twenty-something, tattooed, foul-mouthed girls with a penchant for dirty jokes.
I’m not going to explain how I came to discover Beam’s Industries, Inc. I will place a link to the Seatbelt Color Chart, though. That is what got me to write to them in the first place.
Beam’s has been in the automotive accessories industry since the 1950s. They started out as an automotive seating cover manufacturer, but they eventually focused solely on safety shoulder straps. These days they outfit every vehicle, from Go-Karts to classic cars, school buses to military humvees. Located in a area of Oklahoma known for its rodeos, they couldn’t be more different than the only seatbelt-related thing I’ve been exposed to in Portland.
When I first wrote to Beam‘s, Mike Bosley wrote me back and informed me that Oregon was recently named one of the most effective and progressive states in terms of highway safety. He also asked, “Are you sure you want to write a story about a manufacturing company run by a bunch of conservative Republican, church-goin’, gun totin’ white guys?”
Yes, Mr. Bosley. Yes, I do.
Ainsley Drew: Did you grow up in the country?
Mike Bosley: I grew up on a small farm in southern Oklahoma and count it as one of the highlights of my life. We didn’t have cable TV, we had to burn our own trash because there was no trash service out where we lived, and we had to feed the cattle every single day in the winter no matter how brutally cold or icy or snowy it was. For much of my life we only had a small black-and-white TV, and even a party line phone where we, and many of our neighbors, shared the same phone line. We had our own unique ring when the call was for our house, and if you wanted to make a call you had to pick up the phone to see if someone was already using the line. I’m only 36, mind you!
AD: What did you want to be when you grew up?
MB: First I wanted to be a farmer. I was in it for the tractors. Then I was certain I wanted to be a truck driver, which I actually did when I was in the Army. Eventually my obvious path turned to mechanical engineering, which had been my major in college. About six years after graduating with that degree I returned to earn a Masters in business.
AD: What was your first job?
MB: My first job for pay was hauling hay for my uncle and cousins. I was an early teen at the time and made $0.05 per bale. Hauling hay is the penultimate grimy, sweaty, nasty manual labor job. There might be something else out there that’s worse, but this job can only be done in the hottest, driest part of the summer. Otherwise the hay gets wet and mildews in the barn. If the hay is not completely dry after being cut down in the field, it can get very hot in barn and spontaneously combust.
My first ‘real job’ (read: paid taxes out of my paycheck) was selling shoes at Kinney’s Shoes in the mall. It was called “Mountain View Mall” but I can assure you there were no mountains to be viewed in my hometown. In the summer, I would haul hay until about noon then put on a suit and tie and sell shoes. It wasn’t a bad job for $3.35 an hour. I got to see many of my friends, which was fun. The worst part by far were the skater dudes who wore tennis shoes but no socks all day then came in to try on new shoes. They stink, stank, and stunk.
AD: What’s your average day, and what are its best and worst parts?
MB: I go through various phases of lots of meetings, then not so much. I manage a lot more than I lead, unfortunately, but it’s getting better. This is a busy time of year, as we’re trying to finalize our business plans for 2009. The best part is always the I work with every day. My job is most fulfilling, as it is for anyone, when I’m getting things done and making a difference, when I’m working in my areas of greatest aptitude such as planning, encouraging, helping others get more out of themselves than they would on their own.
The toughest parts of the job generally have to do with the inevitable conflict, or when I see people treat each other poorly.
AD: Is this your dream job? If not, what is? What are your hobbies or non-work pursuits?
MB: At this point in my career, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than this job.
Additionally, I enjoy most being with my family and playing with my kids, or going to special events. I enjoy photography an awful lot, and like to buy-and-sell-and-barter-and-deal on just about anything. I am a Christian, and thus find my deepest meaning in serving God and, as a result, other people in need or not. I also enjoy financial counseling, and helping others manage their money more wisely, and getting the most out of their income. Most people are happiest when they live a relatively quiet, simple life while spending below their means and paying attention to the things that matter most, none of which comes from a store.
The best parts of my job include all the great things we do to create an amazing work culture. We genuinely value individuals and their families. We do something out-of-the-ordinary and fun at least once every month. We also have at least one big annual event. This past January we had a company-wide shopping spree where we gave everyone a $50 bill at a company meeting and the only stipulation was that you had to return a few hours later show off what you bought. It was a great time, and we do stuff like that a lot. We also pay 90% of insurance costs for employees and their families to help alleviate that additional stress in people’s lives.
Thanks to Mike and his work at Beam‘s, I now want a turquoise seatbelt for my bicycle.
For those of you who aren’t related to me by blood or affection, this will be my announcement that Simon and I are moving to Norman, Oklahoma before the end of this month. We made this decision because we can no longer afford to write and eat here in Portland. So yee-haw! Oklahoma here we come. Send any tips, well-wishes, or hate mail to AinsleyDrew at gmail dot calm. And thank you for everyone who donates! It will help to cover the cost of the trip cross-country.
I would like to thank Mike Bosley, not only for allowing a not-so-conservative, tattooed, big city runt to interview him, but also for being a really sweet, helpful guy. Proof that people with different opinions on so-called large issues can still completely get along.
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