This morning, I got a text message from Levi, my Vice President of Operations, telling me that he had to go pick up one of our Problem Solvers who had lost the key to his truck. (And as much as I’d like to pretend this is unusual, it isn’t.) After a few messages back and forth about how dumb someone has to be to lose not just one, but both keys to their brand-new truck and why that person’s wife couldn’t just drop them off at work, I had to laugh. Levi to rescue again.
A few weeks ago at lunch, my assistant, Andi, told me she’d like to pay Levi to be her big brother. You see, not only is Levi the VP here (internal title: Number Two) and the person responsible for keeping this ship afloat if Tony and I are out, but he’s also my older brother. He’s been rescuing me from situations, helping me out, and generally being reliable for as long as I’ve been alive. So Andi and I had a good laugh when I told her that Levi being on payroll at Legion is basically him being paid to be EVERYONE’S big brother. In addition to, you know, doing his ACTUAL job.
This month is Levi’s sixth anniversary of working at the Legion. I’m not sure of the actual date, because the details around his hiring are, like most things in our family, a little fuzzy. Levi was supposed to deploy with his Ohio National Guard unit in July of 2010. He gave up his job and his apartment and put all his stuff in storage in preparation for spending a year providing support for Hungarian Special Forces in Afghanistan. However, when he arrived at the in-processing center in Columbus, they informed him, and his unit, that the deployment had been cancelled.
Rather than have him couch-surf with friends, Tony and I told him just to come to our house, stay in the guest room and wait for the Army to find him another deployment. They never did. After about a month of waiting, we handed him a phone and a computer and told him to get selling. The rest is history. For the past six years, Levi has been holding down the fort, keeping everyone calm, answering his phone at all hours of the day and night and generally being awesome. How awesome? Let me give you some examples:
For the first year or so he was with Legion, Levi basically worked for free. We paid him commission on his sales, but in the early days, none of our sales were enough to sustain someone.
When I was in the hospital to have Catherine, he was the entire office. We had our biggest single day of freight to that point that day, and he handled all of it, alone. And since Catherine was born, he’s helped us with babysitting whenever our regular child care is gone and Tony and I both have to be present for a meeting.
Levi is always the on-call person. Always. Any time of day or night, no matter what you need, he’s the one you call. For my entire life, Levi has been MY first call when I need something – home repairs, car breakdowns, designated driver – but now, he’s that for the entire office. Problem with a carrier? Call Levi. Can’t log into the system? Call Levi. Flat tire? Call Levi. Car won’t drive in the snow? Call Levi. He drives a Ford Raptor and we jokingly refer to him as “Raptor Retrieval.”
The big joke around the office is that Levi has approximately 25,000 hours of PTO banked. He never takes sick days, and only occasionally vacation time. At the end of every year, he loses more PTO than the rest of us roll over. He’s only been late once, and we were convinced he was dead, because it was so out-of-character. And even when he is on vacation, he’s always on call.
Perhaps the best expression of how the company views him came through in a meeting I was having with my marketing staff last month. I said something about Tony or I getting hit by a bus and what that would do to the company. They were unmoved. Then I mentioned if Levi got hit by a bus. Immediately, they were in total disarray, convinced that the company could not operate without him. And the same thing happens anytime Levi takes an actual vacation day. People wander around, lost, not knowing whom to ask for help.
And at the end of the day, I’m not sure how Legion would operate without him. A lot of people (myself included) would have to do a lot more in order to make this company work. So, no matter how many times I’ve fired him (it’s at least three times a week), I tell him he has to keep coming to work. And no matter how many times he threatens to take all his PTO at once, he doesn’t. Because he knows how much we need him, and how much we appreciate all that he does.
by Lacy Starling, President & Fearless Leader