From the Field: 40 Years of Lessons from Work and Life

After 19 years at Sceptre Management Solutions, the time has come for me to step aside. My wife and I sold the business last year to our oldest daughter, Jennifer Hicks, who has worked with us since 2001. She has an MBA and is incredibly smart and very talented. I stayed on during the past year to help during the ownership transition, but things have gone so smoothly it is evident the company is in great hands and has a bright future. It’s time for dad to move on.

Stepping aside from a long-time career brings a lot of reflection about the past. Following are a few of the most important things I learned.

The Priceless Value of Honesty and Integrity

I have worked full time for 40 years. Regardless of my position, I have tried to be honest with my clients and employees. I also try to live by the principles I profess regardless of whether anyone else is around. Based on my own experiences, I can attest that honesty and integrity breed trust, not only from others, but also in myself. Having trust in ourselves and in our relationships is priceless.

Listen to Both Sides Before Acting  

I like to act quickly to resolve issues and sometimes I acted after only hearing one side of a story. In every case, that was a huge mistake. I hurt others by doing this. I hurt myself. I have learned to listen to both sides before jumping to conclusions. This is why I listen to Fox News and MSNBC and listen to competing ideas before reaching a conclusion. It takes time and effort to listen to both sides, but it is worth it and allows me to make better decisions. Good decision-making is one of the most important values a person can develop.

Treat Others the Way I Want To Be Treated 

We all have opportunities to take advantage of others. In every case, we have to ask ourselves, “If I were the other person, is this how I would want to be treated?” If I answer, “no,” to that question, I think about a solution that would be fair to my customers, employer, spouse, children, friends—whomever it may be.  Following this pattern has helped me avoid decisions that would have hurt others and damaged my character.

Work will Always Be There, Family and Friends May Not 

I have often been surrounded by “fires” at work. I felt I had to be there to put out the fire and that I was the only one who could “fix” certain things. Sometimes that caused me to miss family events. Sometimes I stepped on or over others to get things done. As I look back, I don’t remember many of the fires that seemed so important at the time. However, I can remember the damage I caused to relationships—the friends I lost, the employees I lost—all because I felt that I, personally, had to take immediate action.

One of the biggest wake-up calls of being a parent of adult children is hearing what they remember about you and your interactions with them when they were growing up. Putting my work ahead of being there for my children was rarely the right call. Things I concluded were not that important at the time were sometimes of huge importance to my children. Had I dropped working on my “fires” for a minute, I could have been there. The fires at work never ended; however, my children grew up and those moments were gone. Truly, they were the “fires” that needed the most attention and my best efforts. Even though they are now adults, my children still need me at times. I have been there for them more than ever and I will continue to do that. Without question, my family is my most priceless gift and deserves my very best.

People Are More Important than Tasks 

At times I focused so intensely on tasks that I found myself barking orders and not treating others with appropriate respect. Without exception, I damaged relationships that were much more important than the tasks. Some people were understanding and patient with me, some were not. People are much more important than tasks.

The Future

While I am retiring from Sceptre, I will be focusing more attention on the dialysis-specific inventory software created a few years ago by my wife and our brilliant My Supply Tech IT crew. Sarah Tolson, the director of operations at Sceptre, will take over this column. Her depth of knowledge and amazing insight will be evident as you read the valuable information she has to share.

Thank You

I want to thank you for reading this column throughout the years. I am grateful for your feedback, your questions, and for those of you who have introduced yourselves to me at conferences. I am also forever grateful to my wife, our seven children, 21 grandchildren, and the wonderful people I have had the privilege of working with over the years. I thank God for all He has provided and continues to provide. May you all be blessed with peace and joy through the love and service you give to others.

Rick Collins is the vice president of My Supply Tech, a company that provides dialysis-specific inventory management software for dialysis programs throughout the world. He can be reached at