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The Football Shuffle

Wall cloc 78cdbBy Don Archer

"It's not that kind of business," I said, as I handed him the information.

Jessie wasn't happy that the call came in 20 minutes before he was scheduled to be off, but there was no one left to take it. It had been a particularly busy afternoon and we needed all hands on deck.

He'd gotten accustomed to getting off work at 5:30 every evening for a while. And even though it had been explained to him, before and after he was hired, that this wasn't that kind of a business, he came to expect to be off by that time.

"We're an emergency service," I stress to all new-hires. "My crystal ball won't let me in on when the accidents are going to happen."

The next day I took Jessie into my office and told him a story.

I started training for cross-country during the summer after my sophomore year in high school. One day while we distance runners were running a two-mile warmup, I noticed that we continually passed the football players as they were warming up. For every one lap they'd do, we'd run three.

It was while we were passing a seemingly struggling defensive lineman that I first heard it said. As he slowly dragged his 200-lbs. mass around the track, putting forth very little effort, we rounded the turn and got just out of earshot—that's when one of my compatriots mumbled, "the football shuffle".

"The football shuffle" was a phrase "real" runners used to describe the minimalist jog that football/track athletes engage in while warming up or warming down. "It's like he's conserving energy or something," we'd laugh.

While some may consider the phrase "football shuffle" an egocentric adolescent remark that really has no place, for us it was a way to affirm our commitment to our cause and our team.

All people in all walks of life use work- and sport-specific jargon to separate the proficient from the novice. In the automotive repair industry there's the "Shade-Tree Mechanic." We in the towing industry just say "One-Truck Chuck".


Besides being a quick way to distinguish ourselves from those less invested in our vocation, it shows the value we place on the discipline it takes to do what we do day-in and day-out.

We value discipline for the same reasons we did back in the old days: we want to be sure that the guys we depend on will be there when needed. In the towing business it means if you don't know your stuff and do your work, one of your co-workers will have to.

But more than anything, we value discipline because it means that you truly care about the outcome. Working with a self-disciplined partner, co-worker or employee is much more desirable than filling in the gaps that clock-watchers leave open.

As Jessie sat there, silently throughout the entire story, I wasn't sure I'd made my point.

I finished with this: I hired you to do a job. It's YOUR job, which means if you need time off from your regular schedule YOU'LL have to find someone to fill YOUR schedule. When there's work that needs to be done outside your schedule and you regularly refuse to help out, I can only conclude that you don't care about the outcome.

If left unchecked, over time your decision to not care about the outcome could become detrimental to the business affecting everyone else. If this is the case, your presence will become less and less necessary—and I'll be forced to search for someone who does care.

This article originally appeared in the September 24, 2014 edition of Tow Industry Week.

American Towman Field Editor-Midwest Don G. Archer is also a multi-published author, educator and speaker helping others to build and start successful towing businesses around the country at Don and his wife, Brenda, formerly owned and operated Broadway Wrecker in Jefferson City, Mo. E-mail him direct at
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