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24 min read

CWJJ Episode 136: John Olshefski

Thursday, October 6- The Colonel, John Olshefski joins the podcast and dives deep into leadership, the APGA, and his work within the industry.

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James Cross on Linkedin
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John Olshefski on Linkedin

Episode Transcript

 [0:00] [music]

Jim Schauer:  [0:24] Top O the morning. It is a beautiful morning. We have the Colonel with us. Before we get into the Colonel, James and the Colonel…

James Cross:  [0:32] It’s been a while since you told one of these stories, so, please.

Jim:  [0:36] This one is in my head for years. It goes back to 2017, the Colonel and I were in Clearwater, Florida for…might have been the APGA conference may have been, something like that. We’re a bunch of us are outside. It’s at the end of the day, 6:30 at night and there’s 16 of us outside. We all want to go to dinner. Nobody can figure it out, nobody.

Jim:  [0:58] All of a sudden, out of the door. I feel this wind because this like 6’9″ gentlemen comes walking out, and it’s breezes blowing. It’s a Colonel. Colonel walks up and goes, “Jimmy, what’s the situation here?” I said, “We have 16 people that need to go to dinner. We don’t know how to get there.”

[1:15] He goes, “Sounds like a logistics issue.” I said, “Colonel, it is.” He’s like, “How much cash you have on you?” I’m like, “I don’t know, $14.” I gave him money and he went away. I said, “Well, you know, that’s it.”

Jim:  [1:27] All of a sudden a few minutes later, we’re all standing there, still hemming and hawing, can’t figure out how to get to dinner. This shuttle bus pulls up. All of a sudden, the door opens up, the Colonel says, “Climb aboard, folks. We’re going to dinner.”

James:  [1:42] I loved that.

Jim:  [1:44] John, remember that?

James:  [1:46] Supposedly.

Jim:  [1:48] I might have embellished part of that, but the Colonel was instrumental in getting that shuttle bus and got us for dinner.

Colonel Olshefski:  [1:56] Yes, the 6’9″, it’s 6’3″, but that’s OK. Everything else is probably close to accurate.

James:  [2:03] Well, I was not on that bus just for full disclosure. This case any of my HR friends are listening. John, it’s been a long time coming. We’ve been trying to get you on the show. I don’t know. You know what? All the odds against us. We finally did it. Here we are. Welcome to the show, sir.

Colonel Olshefski:  [2:24] It’s great to be here, and I’m excited to be here because you guys are…this podcast, things new to me.

James:  [2:31] Same.

Colonel Olshefski:  [2:33] When I got to do your show, it was in Irving Texas, for your guys’ conference, which by the way, is…

James:  [2:42] Arlington.

Colonel Olshefski:  [2:43] Arlington, one of my favorites ever, because we got to hang out in a party suite at the baseball game. Now everything I do is, “Can I equal that?”

James:  [2:58] We set the bar high on that one. It really will skew baseball from this point forward to, be sitting in your normal seat one day, just sad from…

Colonel Olshefski:  [3:09] Well, said.

Jim:  [3:10] It was a great.

James:  [3:12] It’ll never be the same. No, John, We were joking in the pre‑show, It’s the truth I hear that you’ve been on the podcast circuit. We were joking with the UPSCO guys in an email chain earlier today, but you’re fresh off being on their show, “Connections for Life.”

Colonel Olshefski:  [3:35] That one, we’ve probably talked for an hour and 15 minutes. I think we’re on the computer side of it where we were getting taped for, I don’t know, an hour of it. I thought to myself, if that’s how podcasts will be for me, then I want to do this for life.

James:  [3:53] Hey, man, right? Careful, careful.

Colonel Olshefski:  [3:57] I had a lot of fun with them, I certainly did. It was energized, I just like energy it’s in this group we got. There’s energy.

James:  [4:05] Absolutely. I’ll tell you, if we start recording the pre‑shows, that’s where it’s at.

James:  [4:14] They’ll have to be a few disclaimers on it, that’s for sure.

Jim:  [4:17] A few edits.

James:  [4:19] John, I have a question for you before we get started, because and I’m just going to be honest because I want…I’m an emotional intelligence guy. I take as much data in as possible and there’s a question I have for you because I want, out of respect, everybody calls you the Colonel.

[4:36] I’ve heard that I’m a civilian, I didn’t grow up in a military family. Am I allowed to call you the Colonel? Look, what’s the rules? Spoken or unspoken? What rules do I need to follow, John?

Colonel Olshefski:  [4:49] I’m a retired Army Colonel, and I have no issues with that you call me Colonel. None, you can call me John, and you call me whatever. I like Colonel, I will tell you once upon a time, I do know you know my first name, that’s always good. One time my chaplain, I called my chaplain.

“[5:07] Chaplain” He said, “Sir, do you know my first name?” I said, “Nope.” I will tell you that I’ve met a few US congressmen and US senators in my time, and they don’t know my first name, but they know I’m the Colonel.

Colonel Olshefski:  [5:21] I’m fine with that.

James:  [5:23] For a while, I didn’t know any different, because that’s what everybody calls you. I did not know your name either.

Jim:  [5:31] I think it’s a term of love and respect too, when we see each other over the years, and I say, “Hey, Colonel.” It’s like immediately we look, and we’re like, “Yeah, there is a long‑term friend.” Somebody that knows me and such like that. I say it that way.

Colonel Olshefski:  [5:48] Real quick on that, I have worked for many generals. Those generals I worked for were all old now. They’re 70, I’m 60. They keep saying, “Call me by my first name.” I can’t do it.

James:  [5:58] It’s tough.

Colonel Olshefski:  [6:00] I can’t do it. I’ll leave it at that. It’s what it is.

James:  [6:03] I’m glad I asked that question. I’ve always wanted to know.

James:  [6:07] No, no. I just want to follow the rules where I can. It’s respect for me is what it’s about. John and Jim, I’m running on this part. I’m really intrigued because I heard recently from a friend of ours, Steve Allen, who might be undercover, I don’t know, he’s everywhere, but he said, “You better watch out. The colonels don’t beat competition.”

[6:37] He sent a report over and I heard that you might be a competitor in the podcast game. I want to know a little bit more about that.

Colonel Olshefski:  [6:46] It’s real simple. It’s your fault because you guys had me on your show at the EWN conference. The first I walked up, you asked me to do it. I walked up, and you asked me, blah‑blah‑blah, about Colonel, a little bit about me. Then…

James:  [7:04] Whatever about you. [laughs]

Colonel Olshefski:  [7:06] Then, all of a sudden, you said, “What do you think about being brave?” I went, “Holy crap.” Then, I told you on that show that I had spent the last two hours with Ted P. That’s being brave.

[7:19] That dude’s a combat veteran. That man has been shot at. He’s done some crazy stuff. I said to myself…I’m getting goosebumps talking about it right now. If that’s what we get to do on podcasts, and then we’re in such a business of energy, and energy is what makes our country run and go.

[7:39] The importance of natural gas blocking and all that kind of stuff. I said, “Man, I got to do that.” I’m getting ready to go in at that time to be the chairman of the Board of American Public Gas. Oh, by the way, I actually work in Huntsville Utilities.

James:  [7:52] That’s what I was about to say. I don’t even know if we even asked you to give a flyover, so thank you. See, you’re going to do fine at this job?

Colonel Olshefski:  [8:00] Flyover is simple, I work in Huntsville Utilities, I’m the Senior Vice President for customer care, which is taking care of folks. My old boss, Jay Stowe, who’s now at JEA, Jacksonville Energy as its CEO.

[8:17] When I took over my job, he said, “Hey, I do all the electric stuff. I need somebody to do the gas.” I got involved in APGA through that process. Then, somehow, magically, after six years, I’m chairman now.

[8:31] I said, “I have a wonderful communication shop that works for me, a wonderful team. I’ve set them up. They have their own studio. They have their own stuff. I’m blessed with that.”

[8:45] I called Todd and I said, “Hey, Todd. You want to do this podcast?” They jumped on it. Then, we did our first one and that is coming out live tomorrow, my first one. Your competition is coming out live, well, not live but take tomorrow. We’re all excited about it.

James:  [9:05] No matter when this airs, just to clear it up, because I don’t know when this necessarily will air, but this is August 5, we’re going to be rolling that out, is what it sounds like. How’s that been, John?

Colonel Olshefski:  [9:16] It’s been…I’ll tell you what. I used your approach on how you did it at EWN. Today’s a different approach. You got me on the show for whatever minutes, but there we were moving. You are getting people in and out. I now love that so much. I plan on doing this in October at the Operation’s conference.

Jim:  [9:38] In Savannah?

Colonel Olshefski:  [9:38] I plan on doing it again here in Huntsville. I’m planning on doing very similar, how I did there. I’ve taken my team. They come back here and then close it out when I do my ears up. All I have to say is, I got it from you guys.

Jim:  [9:55] James, Savannah, we’re going to be there.

James:  [9:56] You know what’s happening? John, we’re going to be there. We’re bringing the show there as well.

Colonel Olshefski:  [10:01] Oh my…Dueling shows.

James:  [10:04] Well, I was going to say, we need to collaborate on that with your team over at Huntsville, and really make it to where we can…I don’t want to say merge it together, but why not. Anything we can do, we have the setup. We have a bunch of stuff too. We’ll talk about that. I like it.

Colonel Olshefski:  [10:23] I like. My flyover is, that’s where we are. We’re trying to determine how many? Are we going to do it once a week, once every couple weeks? I’m almost at the point now. I want to do it every day, but I know that can’t happen.

Jim:  [10:36] It gets exhausting.

Colonel Olshefski:  [10:39] Well, I can appreciate that now.

Jim:  [10:43] In a good way.

Colonel Olshefski:  [10:44] Yeah, because I’m only talking to my friends.

James:  [10:47] I’ll tell you what. I only have a few friends. You’ll run out of content no time, John. I’ll tell you what. [laughs] Our first year we were having our friends on four, five times. No, I’m just kidding. It’s been an experience.

[11:03] We’ve really managed the sounds like it’s not an awesome personal product, passion project. We really put some structure around, manage it like a project and put it on rails, and made it where we could sustain it once we start traveling again.

[11:19] Honestly, just like what you said, we love the in‑person stuff so much. We had 30 people on at LGA a few weeks ago, and we are couples full. As you can imagine, we have enjoyed that part. There’s a lot of work in it, but these types of conversation. John, you would not talk to me if I have a podcast. Let’s be honest. No, I’m just kidding.

Colonel Olshefski:  [11:45] [laughs] Well, I’ll say this. When you do the kind like we do at show, where we’re bringing them all in. It was an hour and a half for the reception. I did it at the reception up in Minneapolis. It was an hour and a half. I ended up doing it for two hours, and of course I’m going to get one every 10 minutes. Heck I didn’t get anywhere close to that. Three hours I got 10 people, I think.

Jim:  [12:15] That’s great though, that’s perfect.

James:  [12:17] Right, everybody got 10.

Jim:  [12:19] I bet it was so organic, people just wanted to come up and chat. Just like we are doing now.

Colonel Olshefski:  [12:23] Well, I had to got and grab a few. [laughs]

James:  [12:25] Sometimes you just got to force people to get on. It’s funny you say that, because you’ll…That’s another part. You are not new to having conversations, but there’s something about putting a mic in front of somebody, and it changes it, right? Not up for you, but your guests and learning.

[12:42] I tell you what, there’s nothing like it and we joked about it without school a few times. Nothing like getting a guest on, and you’re like, “So tell me, how do you love this industry? Oh, I love it. Tell me about that. Yeah, I just a love it.” All of a sudden you’ve got to lean on some skills and go to work. It’s been fun.

[13:06] You don’t always get people like Steve Allen or Jeff Weiss or the Colonel on here that you just throw a mic to and they leave and walk around. Tell you all about it, right? Love it.

Colonel Olshefski:  [13:17] Steve was one of the ones I interviewed while I did the podcast with him up there.

James:  [13:21] He’s a professional too at this point. I think he’s been on more podcast than Jim and I. I like it.

Jim:  [13:29] He’s a professional with that. John, I want to continue on with the journey, going from your career in the military then hopping over into the natural gas and being a natural gas champion that you are. You are viewed as that. How did you make that leap?

[13:45] Again everything that you’ve been involved in the leadership roles, especially now with APGA. Which again, we thank you APGA. I’m sure thanks you are, we all do. Unpack that a little bit for us.

Colonel Olshefski:  [13:56] Well, I got out of the Army in ’08, and I went to work and did contractor business development stuff here in Huntsville, which is not hard. It’s easy to do here because we have so much, the city has grown tremendously. Redstone Arsenal has 42,000 people drive on and every day to go to work. I’ll leave it at that. If you bless me enough to come to the Huntsville in 8th May next year for the supply conference.

[14:28] My plan is to get a tour of the Arsenal and you guys could get a whole tour of the…I’ll give a tour of the whole Arsenal drive around stuff. Anyway, one of my themes that I talk to people out as you’re always at an interview, because you might be in the greatest job in the world, but you might not.

[14:45] I spoke in front of, I don’t know, four or five hundred people in ’08. I came into a very boring environment. Everybody was sleepy hollow, and I came in and I’ve been blessed with a gift, and I got them all fired up. One of the gentlemen in that room that day was the COO of Huntsville Utilities.

[15:07] Five years later he invites me out to lunch, and we’re talking and he goes, “Would you be interested in applying for the job of being a customer care.” We talked about it, and he said, “Well.” That was his mantra always in an interview.

[15:23] Well, I came to work for Huntsville Utilities, but before that I also did City Council for four years. I had three years of City Council when I took the job. I didn’t run again. I’ve been here nine years. Electricity is our number one revenue driver at our company.

[15:44] It’s about 500 million in revenue, where two hundred and some thousand electric customers then water and gas. We do a tri‑service. Water and gas as well. He needed somebody in the gas world and one of our old guys, Jimmy Butler was on the APGA board, but he’s was retiring. The boss wanted some movement and he got me in there. Then I’m just intrigued by it. I just love the people in this case.

James:  [16:12] The people.

Colonel Olshefski:  [16:14] We’re 62,000. We’re the 16th largest municipality out of the thousand that are out there and we know 500,000 is Philly. San Antonio is about the same. In Cincinnati now just came in. They just came on the team. Got in the game. They are pretty big too. All that to say, that’s how it all started. I was one of those…

[16:41] They asked me three years ago if I wanted to be a chairman, I said, “What?” All these guys are normally engineers. That’s where we are and I actually do love it. I love Laden. I love helping people is really what I like doing.

James:  [17:05] Being somebody who is newer to the industry myself, my eyes are wide open, and I’ve been really impressed with the APGA. For those that maybe aren’t as familiar with APGA, what are some of the things John that you’re working on to bring more focus to? Or what are some of the initiatives that are your focus issue? Or this…

Colonel Olshefski:  [17:36] The common things like the furnace rule in optic. Dave Shriver did a pitch on that on my podcast is going to come out someday. He can do it…

James:  [17:43] He’s already stealing our thunder on our podcast.

Colonel Olshefski:  [17:48] No, he can kill it on that. There’s so much going and it’s so wrong what the world’s trying to do to us and we’ve got to combat that. We need to sell more natural gas. We need to be doing more things with natural gas vehicles.

[18:05] We need to be looking at landfills. We need to be looking at where our sewage goes, and taking that methane and turn it into natural gas. There’s credits world out there. We got a new team member at Ingevity, that is a silver sponsor at APGA, that’s playing in that game, pushing it and it’s helping.

[18:30] We’re making a big push this year on RNG, trying to get more sponsors and play in that space so that we can keep our dues low. Keep having the guys at APGA fight the fight on the hill to make sure that everything keeps going.

[18:48] It lines up with my theme, which is “Freedom To Fuel” and I’m not leading into it. I’ll answer that question when it comes, but I’m all about options. I don’t want anybody tell me, “I got it. All I can do is electrification.” That doesn’t work, and it’s not what I fought for. I didn’t fight for that.

[19:05] That’s why Freedom To Fuel is perfect for me this year and I’ll show it right now. That’s our magazine. This year…

James:  [19:13] Look at that, “The Source.”

Colonel Olshefski:  [19:18] I wish I could say it was my idea. It was talking to APGA, Audrey. I was telling her my wishes. When I was up there, and she said, “I know what you did.” She said, “Army Colonel, fought for freedom.” Then all of a sudden I showed up at the show and there’s that bad boy and that is so.

James:  [19:37] That’s slick.

Colonel Olshefski:  [19:38] I almost want to make a logo out of that and…

James:  [19:40] I tell you why, you need that picture in the background there. I’m not telling you. If you’re going to be a podcaster, this part of the gig, John.

Colonel Olshefski:  [19:49] You will see that Todd, my guy, has a neat one in the background on ours. What’s cool about that and I’ll say it now when you see it, it’s a flame with a flag in it that his son, who’s in college actually drew for him, and he’s a summer hire. We’re keeping it in the family.

James:  [20:09] Love it. Love it. John, you mentioned earlier a little bit about being out at EWNCON with us and fellowshipping, but also, you came to work. Also we put you to work, stuck you on a panel. It was an awesome panel. In fact, I get to see all the survey results, I know a guy.

[20:36] That was one of the sessions that we had that people really raved about, which was our leaders in pipeline safety. John, why? It really spurred into leadership as a whole, which was one of the greatest dialogues the whole day, I think.

[20:56] Why is leadership so important, John? Where did that feel come from? Was it your time in military? Was it someone before that? I’d love to know that.

Colonel Olshefski:  [21:06] Well, this environment is all about, we want to do natural gas but you want to do it safely and you want it secured. Well, everything we do in the military or in the world, we should be doing, you should be thinking about safety and security.

[21:20] I would say security wasn’t such a big deal back in the day but now you got security going every which way and not. I mean, you got it, a cybersecurity, you got security in your buildings and security, are they getting into your computer or the hardware, or whatever?

[21:35] Then from a leadership, you got to walk the walk and talk the talk and you never pass up a mistake. That’s something that we have to teach. You don’t learn that, just learn it, it actually comes ‑‑ I made this comment ‑‑ I think I made this comment, another somewhere else, but I know I can say it here.

James:  [21:56] Oh, yeah, another podcast.

Colonel Olshefski:  [21:58] The Army believes in training and they train their leadership. So, I was in the Army 27 years. If you add up offshore base course, advanced course, Command General Staff College, war college, all the other stuff, it added up to four years. So, out of 27, 4 are school, that’s significant.

[22:23] I could be off on my numbers right now, but back in my day 10 percent of the Army at one time was 450,000 and 45,000 were in school somewhere, every day. We have bought into it.

[22:36] Now in the civilian world, all of a sudden one day they make you leader and you go, “Holy crap, where’s the skill set? Is there such a program as leadership by walking around? Do you really care about your people to the point where…?”

[22:58] When you work for me my goal is, I know how many kids you got, I know where your kids go to school. I know their ages. I know what makes you tick. I can look in your eyes and see you’re having a crappy day. All of that. It all leads to when we were talking at your conference, what are some general things to do?

[23:17] You got to get out first of all. How about this, you guys are out there digging a ditch, putting in gas line, gas main. When’s the last time you went out as a leader and checked on them? In 100 degrees, where it’s freaking hot and all hell. Do they got their water with them? Do they got their helmets on? Do they got appropriate tools? Are they wearing their gloves? The beat goes on.

Jim:  [23:44] Is leader checking their assets to make sure everything is… [laughs] See what I just did there?

James:  [23:50] Little tracer plug. He does it once or so.

Colonel Olshefski:  [23:53] That’s a good plug because yesterday my guy Todd Gentle, who’s our director for natural gas at our place. He was on that [inaudible] …

Jim:  [24:04] On the webinar?

Colonel Olshefski:  [24:06] He was on the webinar. I said, “Hey, what’d you think of the webinar? He said, “It was a great webinar. In fact, that’s not old news. I found that out yesterday.” Then he said, “We need to be looking at tracers, a possibility of using some of their stuff.” We do do stuff with EWN right now.

James:  [24:25] Sure.

Colonel Olshefski:  [24:25] There was another example that he got inspected on something and knows that your product would probably help.

Jim:  [24:31] That’s what we’re doing. Its awareness right now. It’s almost like what you talked about leadership. We walk the talk, and we bring people along on a journey.

James:  [24:46] For a long time we’ve been about physical safety. Safety, security, you were talking about that. Then we kind of moved into information security. The data side up where we have to protect it.

[24:58] Then there’s this third element, that’s kind of bundled up now the more we look at it and honestly it kind of falls into psychological safety. That’s what leaders are winning with right now. You can tell pretty clearly especially over the last couple of years, the ones that weren’t that close to folks and it showed in a heartbeat.

[25:18] We’re kind of forced our hand a little bit, but really digging into that realizing people are not going to do their best work if they don’t feel safe to do it and that’s mentally as well.

Colonel Olshefski:  [25:30] Absolutely. It’s an entire package. It’s a walk and it takes a long time. I’m obviously much better at it today than I was in 1982, when I graduated.

[25:49] I was given a skill set, when I went to military schools. I went to Citadel and I felt when I left there, I was given the tools that…Because I’m a big believer in this, you learn as much from going to school from your contemporary sitting there with you, than you ever do it in the classroom, in my opinion.

[26:13] We joke about it but I’m serious. We go out after, have dinner and a couple drinks. There’s as much gain from that camaraderie, talk and, “Hey, what are you doing over their house? What’s your thoughts on this?” You get it opened up and it’s pretty powerful.

[26:30] It’s something that I’d live by. Like today, this morning, it’s not uncommon. I don’t mean everybody needs to do it. I just saw we promoted somebody down in the gas department this morning and I picked up the phone and called him.

[26:42] He about flipped out, “The senior VP called down to say congratulations on it.” [inaudible] . That’s important. My commentary to that is something I always say, “We didn’t promote you on what you did, we promote you on what you think you’re going to do.”

Jim:  [27:00] That’s a good point.

Colonel Olshefski:  [27:03] You might have been the greatest truck driver but if we don’t think you have potential to be more than a truck driver and lead truck drivers, why do we promote you? You get what I’m saying?

Jim:  [27:14] That’s really exemplifies everything I know about you Colonel, because I know last week we had a…we were running around some logistics and all of a sudden my phone started ringing within like two seconds of an email.

[27:27] It was the Colonel called me. We just caught up, and I learned about the Freedom to Feel, which I think is wonderful, absolutely wonderful. I want to ask you a question Colonel.

[27:36] Being a leader of everything that you’ve experienced over the last decades of your life, the last two years, not to belabor that but just that time period where we had to start doing things differently, what’s been some of the biggest takeaways that you’ve learned and how has that transformed into maybe different or enhanced leadership skills or abilities?

Colonel Olshefski:  [28:00] I would say, no way in heck would I ever thought we could work from home. It was not in my cards. Now, I say that. Now I change gears on you. I have a phone center that work for me. We had developed pre‑COVID five, six years ago, five folks that could work from home and run their systems from home.

[28:24] It was given to the ones that performed the best because everything in the phone center is gradable. We have every call listened to. When you have measurable things, I don’t have a problem with you working from home now.

[28:43] Total trust. I can measure you. I can look at your numbers today and see what you did. I can listen in on your call. I will say, I like the hybrid approach but if you’d asked me hybrid approach two years ago, not happening.

James:  [29:02] I think it’s worth noting too that what we’re realizing a little bit more is if we’re going by data, who’s to say that person doesn’t do their best work remote, so it’s hard to be amongst other people, whatever the situation is.

[29:18] Our data is really based on them not being in that right environment. With that change, what does the data look like? It’s been an interesting thing.

Colonel Olshefski:  [29:28] It’s like protocol. I’ll give you this one. Pre‑COVID, we didn’t let anybody work from home that had little ones. It didn’t happen. If you heard a dog barking in the background, you got graded against.

[29:45] If your little kid walked up and sat in your lap, while you’re doing something, you got graded against. We still don’t like that but now we just go, “Oh well, let’s go baby.” It is what it is.

James:  [29:57] Address it, move on.

Jim:  [29:58] If I heard two dogs over here a few minutes ago, two years ago, I would have panicked. I would have been like, “OK, we have to restart or whatever, the dogs are…” Now people are like, “Well, I have dogs too.”

James:  [30:15] Just for the record, John, I do grade against him on those though. I’m fair, I may do it to even our guests. John, we’re getting closer to our end point but sometimes this question goes off on a tangent. We may still have 10 more minutes in us.

[30:39] Before we wrap up we always give the floor to our guests. Sometimes for people that’s a chance for them to educate people on a product, a thing, an idea or an innovation but for some it’s a platform just to give it all away as what we say, we can’t take it with us. Is there anything the Colonel, out of respect, the Colonel would like to give it all away?

Colonel Olshefski:  [31:07] First of all, I absolutely enjoy this. If you hadn’t figured out, I actually do enjoy it.

James:  [31:12] I hope so.

Colonel Olshefski:  [31:12] When I saw that call 10 minutes ago, “Hell, I got time. I can do this,” because I love it.

[31:20] Here’s the deal. I am retiring after my time as chairman. I’m going to do something else. I don’t know what that something else is, but I’m going to do something else.

[31:37] I can’t find a better way to retire than as chairman of American Public Gas, something that I’m intrigued by, something that I believe in, something that I know our country is the best at. Something I think we should do even more, find other ways to do it, and combat the naysayers.

[32:00] Naysayer community is not that big, but it’s a loud naysayer community. We need to combat, take it head on, got guys like us that can take it head on. Guys like Dave Schreiber can take it head on. Aaron Cardella, Stuart Salters. They’ll write things up for you. They’ll give you what you need. If you go somewhere and you need something, they’ll have it for you.

[32:23] I’m so comfortable with that but it’s relationship driven. There it is, everything is about relationships. I know now I’m calling EWN. I’m calling our boys up there with Upscope. I can call them Upscope. I can call them. I called Dave Schreiber this morning about something. I called Ed Young, who’s retired, about something.

Colonel Olshefski:  [32:51] It’s about relationships. Then I’ll say this, all these guys, these municipalities, you want their business, and that’s what you want.

[33:02] I want you to have a fair shot at our business. We had a thing in the Army that used to get me upset every once in a while. We learned, “I won this battle when it’s all said and done.” Pre‑9/11, we were not very welcoming in the Army to contractors.

[33:23] We called them “Slimy a Contractors” because it was all about the money and it got under our nerves. When we went to war during 9/11 until today, we could have never done it without the contractor on the battlefield. Never done it.

[33:44] My point to APGA, my point to my municipal brothers and sisters who are out there, we can’t do it without EWNs. We can’t do it without your Tracer capability. We can’t do it without Ed Youngs and his outfit. We can’t do it without Upscope. We can’t get there from here.

[34:03] I just sent this email, I’m getting ready to send it. My company right now has the requirement for 600 transformers in the electric space. Homes are ready to be built that I don’t have them.

[34:21] That’s the world we’re in now, but it’s about relationships, and I know my team over Huntsville Utilities is working their butt off to call all their brothers and sisters that play in that space and doing everything they can do to get those transformers so we can continue to build.

[34:36] I’ll leave it at that. It’s all about relationships. This podcast is relationship driving.

[34:42] The one I’m going to have you on when we do dual piano at Savannah, we will figure that out. I’m excited about that. I hope that didn’t take you to a killer tangent.

James:  [34:56] I love it.

Colonel Olshefski:  [34:58] I didn’t have relationships on my thing but then I thought to myself, it’s all about relationships. Every dad‑burned thing of it. I’ll close with this, on my arm, if you allow me one more minute.

Jim:  [35:10] Please.

Colonel Olshefski:  [35:11] I had a program called “Training with Industry” in the Army. They sent some of us guys that were doing very well off to work for a corporation, spend a year wearing civilian clothes. I went with a company called FMC Corporation out in San Jose, California that built Bradley Fighting vehicles.

[35:31] My background is that my guys made fix Bradley Fighting vehicles. I say this to you. I’m sitting at Fort Stewart, Georgia, after we did Desert Storm/Desert Shield. Two years later, we thought we were going to war again.

[35:45] We looked at our Bradley Fighting Vehicle Fleet, which is 116 of those bad boys. Every one of them has two tank pump units, and two fuel tanks, and they had little tank pump unit things that pump the make it go around. You can run the vehicle off one, but you really need two.

[36:10] I had 116 of them and I only had one and every one of them that worked. We’re trying to go to war, we’ve exhausted, at that time, the entire supply system up the depot level. I was able to pick up the phone and call as we now have the hard wire phone back in those days, 1993 to be exact, and call FMC Corporation.

[36:34] Those gentlemen took 24 of those offline and sent them to me in a FedEx package. By the time I got them, we didn’t go. I allowed the system to work and I allowed them to put them in the system. One of my buddies said, “Well, you still paid for them.” I don’t know if I ever paid for them or not. It doesn’t matter.

[36:55] That relationship that I built, and that’s what the Army was trying to do, that relationship I built at San Jose, California FMC allowed them, I called and said, “Hey, I need help.” I’m in a powerful job. I was a material officer for an entire division as a major and they sent those suckers overnight. It don’t get any better than that.

Jim:  [37:14] It does not and I’ll tell you Colonel, you talk about relationships, you exemplify that. I’ll say one trait that you have that I’ve always noticed and I admire you for, it is your ability and wanting to listen. You ask a question. Over the years you’ve asked me something, I give you an answer and you just don’t gloss off, you actually listen to me, understand it.

James:  [37:37] That’s wild. What a talent you have John.

Jim:  [37:40] You know, it was probably three minutes every time where he’s like, all right, I got three minutes. I’ll listen to it, but it’s seriously. You do that so well, I’m proud to call you, we’re all proud to call you our great friend. Thank you so much.

Colonel Olshefski:  [37:51] Feeling’s mutual guys, and I’m here to help you in any way I can.

James:  [37:54] Absolutely. Well, John, I want to go back to something you said right at the beginning and kind of the start of your podcast aspirations but, again, thank you for being brave, doing all those things that we talked about, all the stories that came up today, but also continuing to be brave, stepping out, and bringing more people, more connections, like you said, relationship building with your own podcast. So anything we can do.

[38:23] Man, I need one of those little pins. Is that a Huntsville Utilities one?

Colonel Olshefski:  [38:27] I’ll tell you what [inaudible] .

James:  [38:28] Honorary members.

Colonel Olshefski:  [38:32] You will have these pins when you come to the conference, how’s that?

James:  [38:35] All right. We’re going to hook up on that one, Jimmy. Man, one of my favorite shows. I tell you what.

Colonel Olshefski:  [38:41] Yeah.

James:  [38:41] Better watch out for the Colonel.

Colonel Olshefski:  [38:44] Yeah.

Colonel Olshefski:  [38:45] What out for the Colonel or whatever he [inaudible] ? I just hope he has a song.

Jim:  [38:49] He will. Well, I’ll slip them $14, again. We’ll get on, James.

Colonel Olshefski:  [38:54] Thank you, guys.

Jim:  [38:56] Until next time, on Coffee with Jim and James. Follow the Colonel and go check out the city. We’ll see you next time. Take care everybody.

Colonel Olshefski:  [39:02] Appreciate you guys.

Jim:  [39:04] Appreciate you, Colonel.

[39:05] [music]

 Transcription by WatchingWords