A Conversation with Clay Spencer, Simmons Plating and Grinding
L. Clay Spencer IV always planned to join his family’s business, Simmons Plating and Grinding in New Orleans, but after graduating from Tulane with an engineering degree, he served in Iraq as a Marine Corps officer before joining Simmons in 2010.
The lead shop engineer has helped lead the company, which repairs and refurbishes rotating and reciprocating equipment critical to industries located along the central Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi River.
PF: Was joining the family business something you always wanted to do?
CS: It was always something I wanted to do. Not many people have the opportunity to work with their family, and I feel blessed to have that chance.
PF: How did serving in Iraq affect you?
CS: My experience as a Marine and my time in Iraq gave me a wider perspective on life. It certainly changes the way you define a “difficult job” or “bad day.”
PF: What type of person do you look for to hire for your shop?
CS: I look for a good attitude, good aptitude, self motivation, good character and professional demeanor.
PF: What’s the best piece of advice you were given?
CS: My company commander at The Basic School in Quantico told us at our graduation: “Make peace with your God, and fight with a happy heart.” I believe those words apply to all aspects of life. Certainly, you can substitute the word “fight” with “live” or “work” or anything else. Once you make that peace, you can go all out, every day and not fret about the outcome.
PF: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
CS: Tour guide in Alaska. I learned that cultivating relationships with customers can make all the difference.
PF: If you had $100,000 to give to a charity, which one would it be?
CS: Wounded Warriors.
PF: What was your first car, and what is your dream car?
CS: My first car was a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. It still is my favorite vehicle.
PF: What leadership traits have helped you along the way?
CS: Consistency, lead from the front and always set the example. I have found that most dirty or difficult jobs get done safely, correctly and quickly if I lead the charge and stay involved. I always liked the expression “You can’t push a rope.”
PF: What did you want to be when you grew up?
CS: I wanted to be a professional fisherman. It’s been a lifelong passion.
PF: Night owl or early bird?
CS: I was a night owl when I was young, but have graduated to early bird.
PF: Favorite place you’ve ever lived?
CS: Lake Whales, Florida. It’s hard to beat being 12 years old, living on a lake and having your own skiff.
PF: What organization or company aside from your own do you most admire?
CS: The Marine Corps. It’s hard to top that.
PF: If you could trade jobs with anyone for a day, who would it be?
CS: Donald Trump. Just for a day, I would like to tell the political establishment how a father, husband, Marine, businessman and responsible American citizen sees them.
PF: Where would we find you on a typical Saturday?
CS: At the shop, more than likely.
PF: Best way to keep competitive edge?
CS: Stay healthy; mentally, physically and spiritually.
PF: Personal heroes?
CS: My platoon commander from The Basic School, George Flynn. He was the most intense, straight shooting and decisive person I have ever known.
PF: How do you motivate people?
CS: I always try to make people understand the “why.” When they see how a task is in their best interest too, they become more self-motivated.
PF: How do you motivate yourself?
CS: I remind myself of my own ‘whys.’
PF: Three greatest passions?
CS: Family, fishing and always helping others have a good time.
PF: Most unique office décor?
CS: An eagle, globe and Marine Corps anchor emblem that belonged to my grandfather who was a Marine in World War II.
PF: Best business decision?
CS: To expand our facility.
PF: Worst business decision?
CS: Missed opportunities to take advantage of new technology.
PF: Biggest management myth?
CS: Fear is effective.
PF: What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?
CS: Buckle up.
PF: Word that best describes you?
Get to Know Clay
Family: Wife Courtney and son, L. Clay V; brother Jared, sister Ginger, mother Stephanie and father Clay.
Favorite hobby: Fishing
Favorite movie: “Band of Brothers”
Favorite book: Once an Eagle
What’s playing in your car CD/radio: Classical; most everything else is just noise.
Originally published in the August 2017 issue.