Central States Manufacturing employee-owner driver Johnny Johnson has had a very memorable career that is still going strong. From Cedar Hill, Texas to Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, Johnson – who is celebrating his 20th anniversary (January 10, 2003) with the company, has driven enough miles to go to the moon and back seven-times all while being a day-cab driver.
For the first two-weeks of his illustrious career, Johnson worked on the production floor learning all about the products that he would be delivering every day to Central States partners.
“I started working in trim and then purlin,” Johnson said as he was visiting the Lowell plant and Division Support offices for the first time. “We weren’t that big of a company then, but there were a group of people who were really nice. Everybody was friendly and the leadership team was easy to talk to and work with. We were only running one-shift then, so everyone helped me and made sure I knew everything I needed to (at least within two weeks) for me to talk to our customers. Eventually I got my truck, got loaded and they sent me on a journey.”
That journey has seen technology move at light speed, helping drivers to be Right. On Time. Every Time.
“When I started, all we had was a phone that half the time wouldn’t work,” the Army veteran laughed. “We didn’t have GPS. So, to get to a job site, you would actually get a map and you had to figure out where you were leaving from A to B and flip that map around and make sure you got to the right location. As time went along, we got GPS. We got cell phones, and now the new computers lead you where you want to go.”
Relationships are the key to great business. Central States drivers are the face of our business. They hear the good, bad and the ugly from our customers. For over 20-years, Johnson has seen and heard it all when talking with business partners and most of that has nothing to do with metal.
“Relationships are very important because those are the people that you’re going to see constantly,” Johnson said while celebrating his work anniversary. “They call you on your birthday. They call you at Christmas. They always tell you to tell your wife that I said hello. It’s been great. When their grandkids or kids were born or when they were celebrating an anniversary – you just treated it like a big family because when I first started, I would see them three times a week. So now some of them are two times a week. Even if I haven’t seen him for months, they still remember you and you have such a camaraderie because you’ve done everything that you could do for them.”
The phrase “it takes a village” applies more than to just raising a family. For Johnson, of course it does include his wife, daughter and soon-to-be second grandchild but it also includes those who get his truck ready at 3am every morning, the employee-owners who create what they are loading and everyone else who has helped and continues to help his career move down the road.
“A lot of the success I’ve had is because of my co-workers. They’ve been some really good guys and have always been easy to work with. They load your trucks; they work tirelessly to get the material done. If it weren’t for them, there probably wouldn’t be much of me. I couldn’t be where I am now without them.”
A large part of that “village” is at home. Being a driver’s wife isn’t always easy. They’ve got to be patient. They’ve got to be understanding. They’ve got to know and trust that you are going to be safe every day all day.
“They have sacrificed in a big way for me,” a reflecting Johnson said. “My wife and my daughter, they get up early, you get home late, you don’t really have a lot of time to spend with them until the weekend and then when you’re home on the weekend, you sometimes have things that you want to do for yourself. So, there’s a lot of sacrifice, but if you have a great family like I have, they give you the space to make sure that you can take care of them and then have time for yourself. Now that we have a granddaughter and having another one on the way, time of is of the essence and we really don’t take it for granted.”
When most reach the 20-year mark in any career, retirement is the topic of conversation. For Johnson, he believes he has seven or eight more years delivering Central States metal to his customer-friends.
“It’s been a blast. I wouldn’t trade this company for any other company. The knowledge that I’ve learned from working with all these people and just having a good time and doing something that you love; I love driving. My customers have made it easy for me to do this and continue to do this for 20 years running.”
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