Straight Talk Radio

Straight Talk Radio interview with Will Knecht and Chuck Gallagher

By January 16, 2015 No Comments

Tired of traditional talk? People pontificating about this or that? The left or the right? Sometimes the truth is just off lost in the noise. Having learned life lessons the hard way, Chuck Gallagher, international speaker and author, cuts through the noise to share truth through transparency!

Straight Talk Radio - Chuck GallagherNationally-known guests talk about what’s important to you – your life, your concerns and your success. So tune in, turn on to Straight Talk with Chuck Gallagher.

Now, here’s your host, Chuck Gallagher.

Here’s  a link to the show –

CHUCK: Hi, this is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio on Transformation Talk Radio. Well, you know, it’s interesting, whenever you start the show and you sit back and you think about where is this going and what’s going to take place? So often people ask me questions about dealing with adversity. In fact, I had written a book called Second Chances: Transforming Adversity Into Opportunity and it was kind of funny, I have to admit. I was doing a presentation, probably three of four weeks ago, I guess four weeks ago now, and I had the book there and this lady came up to me and she started talking about the adversity that she had experienced in life, and seemed to really want to connect with the concept that you can take a bad situation, you can take adversity and depending upon your mindset transform it into an incredible opportunity. I think today, as you’re listening here to Straight Talk Radio, you’re going to find that in the stories that you’re going to hear. This is absolutely transforming adversity into opportunity.

Now, I have to say, sometimes it really sounds for those of us that are on the radio or a guest that like, “This is really easy.” Let me say to you: it’s not easy! It’s a challenge. Nothing that anybody is going to tell you, at least I hope this to be the case, that would give you some indication that life is easy and it’s all a matter of what’s in your head. It’s just going to be a bed of roses. That’s not always the case.

Will KnechtIt wasn’t the case in my case and I think you’ll find that it wasn’t a bed of roses for my guest, Will Knecht. K-N-E-C-H-T, but it’s pronounced /k’nekt/, like connect the dots. He is the president of August Forge, a Pittsburgh-based company, and Will and I, no pun intended, connected through an organization that Will is active with called All Things Speaking. In the connection we got to talking. I remember the phone conversation because I was in the mountains of North Carolina and had the phone on Bluetooth and Will and I are talking as we’re riding down the road, and the more he got into sharing what he does and why and how this took place and what’s bringing him here today to Straight Talk Radio, the more I said, “I have to pull off the road because the story is just that compelling.” So, Will, great to have you with us today.

WILL: Hey, Chuck. It’s great to be with you and can’t wait to chat and get to know each other a little bit better and share our story and hopefully impact at least one or two of your audience today.

CHUCK: Will, when we first started talking, before we get into the dramatic change that occurred back in 2010, before we started talking that day as I was riding through, as I said, the mountains of North Carolina, what are the comments that you made, and I think it relates to a presentation that you have done the groups all across the country is, and I may not say this quite right so correct me, but when you’re sitting there at work, functioning at whatever your job may be, how do you today, if you’ve been there five years, ten years, twenty years, have the same thought process that you did on day one? I’d like you to share a little bit about that concept with us so that we can kind of think about that, because it was really a powerful beginning to a wonderful conversation.

WILL: Yeah, I think it’s such an important discussion because any time that you and I or one of our colleagues starts a new job, they come into that first day with that first-day mindset. Everything is awesome, they are smiling ear to ear, everything is exciting, they’re passionate, and they are going to change the world, right? You and I both can relate to that.

The challenge for leaders is how do you keep that excitement and passion firing in all cylinders each and every day after that first day? And it’s a challenge, whether it be in marriage, whether it be with your kids as they go through the schooling process, that first day of school and that excitement, or the new employee.

I’ve been president at Wendell August on and off now for about 20 years and have worked with some amazing people over the years and at the end of the day always I get challenged with how do I make this place? How does this environment reverberate with passion and excitement each and every day? Regardless of what’s going on around us, regardless if there’s a market crash and economic downturn like in 2008, regardless if we lose a big order or even the high notes. How do we celebrate the high notes properly?

As I really thought about that, it’s truly incumbent upon you and I as leaders. Again, whether we’re husbands, fathers, leaders in business, and you don’t have to be the president of a company to be a leader in business. You can lead through your example every day regardless of what you do, right? So, it’s how do you and I create a culture, create a mindset? How do we share ourselves in such a way that keeps people fired up? And that’s really something that I’ve been studying and I’ve been ruling out as I talked to people across the country about how to keep that first-day mindset. I’m sorry, go ahead.

CHUCK: No, no. You know, Will, the thing I would say to you is the question is awesome and it kind of comes home to me today because like you I’m associated outside of my speaking business, I’m associated with a company. I sat down in a meeting today and the head of IT in the particular company, we just went through an acquisition, where we were acquired, but the head of IT has lost some of that fire. I have to say, this is [07:37], I was frustrated. It was like, “What in the world?!” I mean, where did the passion go? But as I hear you speak, the reality is that’s not the question. The question really is, more to me, what is it that I am doing or not doing that allows for that passion to go? That, to me, I think is what you’re bringing to the table whenever you talk to folks because it’s a reality check on a personal level, not on what’s wrong with the other person, but what have I lost or am not doing that makes it different today for an employee than it may whenever they first came to work?

WILL: There’s no question about that and again, the first time that I really started to dig into this thought process was, you remember the University of Colorado? They won the national title in college football, maybe in the late eighties, early nineties.

CHUCK: Right.

WILL: They had a football coach Bill McCartney. He was absolutely professionally at a pinnacle, right? He was at the highest level he could ever be in coaching.

CHUCK: Right.

WILL: But he would go home and he would look into the eyes of his wife and he would see just a vacant stare. McCartney at that time recognized that he had given his entire self to self-aggrandizement, what he was chasing at the expense of his wife. McCartney, at that point, made the bold choice to resign as coach of the Colorado Buffalos, because he recognized his wife had lost that passion, that excitement for life. When they were betrothed and when they were married and that first year of marriage, that just brought so much of excitement. He was willing to pay the price of leaving all the fame behind to speak to and minister to the needs of his wife. Now, you and I and many of your listeners aren’t called to that drastic of a step, but to me that was a slap in the face to say, “Wake up, buddy! You are responsible as a leader in your home or your business or in your community for other people before yourself.” To me, that’s where it starts as a leader. I have got to look at the needs of the people that God has entrusted me with, their needs as more important than mine.

CHUCK: You know, I hear you say that and I agree 100%. It’s hard! It’s hard because the ego would say, “Well, I have risen to this occasion or to this place and therefore people should be giving to me,” when the reality is to whom much is given, we are responsible to give back what we have and more and sometimes I think, “Oh, my goodness, what a great story,” the challenge on that giving back is, “But, who are we giving it to? And for what purpose?” In his case he chose           his wife because he knew he had given it to the people who he was responsible for in the school, but at the expense of potentially his marriage.

WILL: Absolutely.

CHUCK: It’s a bold move.

WILL: Unbelievable move and it shocked the college football world, it shocked America, and then when you find out why, it’s unbelievable. As you said, as leaders, so many leaders do look at it as exactly as you said. It’s all about me. Now that I am at the pinnacle, you serve me. Chuck, I think you and I have the same mindset; that’s backwards.

When we’re given an opportunity to lead, that is a stewardship opportunity that is a gift, that we are entrusted with, that we are challenged to make the most of it, not only for ourselves and not for ourselves but to rise and raise other people up to the pinnacle of what they can become. And again, you don’t have to be the president of a large company, the President of the United States. You can be a husband, you can be a father and look at your wife.

CHUCK: You know, with saying that, now I hear the music that says we’ve finished the first segment, which I’m blown away by. It goes so fast. This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. We will be right back after this message. Stick with us.

[Commercial break]

CHUCK: This   is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio and my guest is Will Knecht. He is the president of August Forge, a Pittsburgh-based company that makes some incredibly cool products. I mean, there’s some really neat stuff and if we have a chance, we’re going to show some of them. Maybe we’ll be able to throw a slide or two in somewhere in this process. Of course, if you’re listening on the radio, sorry, I can’t show you, but you can join us and look at it on YouTube if you like.

Will and I have had an ongoing kind of conversation back and forth and in part of that conversation, of course this past segment, we were talking about leadership and the responsibility that leaders have. You ended with a comment and I think maybe we can go back to it, at least just to kind of connect it and keep it going, and that is that leaders are not always presidents of companies or highly paid people in all cases or politicians, although in many cases maybe it would do good for politicians to hear the show. But leaders come in all walks of life.

WILL: I think you’re absolutely right. I think we’re all asked to lead somewhere somehow. First we have to recognize that stewardship opportunity of the leader and look at the other people that we serve as the true focus of our time and energy. I’d ask our listeners today to think of their own lives and think of positions in the home, in their extended family, in their community, in their church, synagogue or business where they have an opportunity to impact just one life, just one life if they have a chance to impact, and recognize they have been given an opportunity to lead in that impact role. How can they look at that other person is more important than themselves and building their lives over the short and long haul of that relationship to make that person better, more fulfilled and raising what they’re all about in their life. That is the call of leadership; it’s to raise people to the level of their God-given ability that they can achieve all that they were designed and created to be. To me that’s leadership and as you said, we can each look at our own lives and see people that we have been designated to impact in a leadership role whatever the scope of life is. Others more important than ourselves, lifting others before ourselves is the key point in that first-day mindset that we talk about. So, leadership, in my mind, is about serving others, allowing them to raise themselves toward they’re called to be.

CHUCK: Will, it’s interesting. As I listen to you, there’s two things that really cross my mind. One thing that crosses my mind is the fact that in some cases because of our position, I call it position power, because of position power it is clear that there are people that we serve. They work in a role for us in some form or fashion and so therefore we’re called to serve them, but there are so many people that we’ve experienced it, personally I know, but there are so many people out there that we can impact and we don’t even know that we’re in the way. It’s the person at the grocery store who might be having a bad day, and I’ve seen this happened where someone is just as wicked as they can be and you come from behind and you’re the next person in line to get your groceries checked out and you say something kind to them knowing that they just got ripped a new one and it impacts them. They’re like, “Really?”

In fact, I have to tell you, I was at a semi fast food restaurant and I’m standing in line and the lady in front of me goes to pay and she hands them, the person, her debit card while the card was declined. She’s like, “I just got paid. I know the money is in the account. Can you swipe it again?” Declined. You could tell this lady was embarrassed and she wasn’t really sure what to do and, of course, her food was prepared and I just handed her my card and I said, “Take care of it. Don’t worry about it,” and the lady was like, “Are you serious?” I said, “It’s no problem.” It wasn’t the person whose lunch I bought. That was not significant. I mean, it had an impact. It was lady taking the money that was reduced to tears because she’d never seen anybody do that, and it’s like, “You know what? We’re going to pass,” and she’ll never see me again likely or won’t remember me, which is perfect, but she’ll remember the experience and that there are kind people and there are ways to be able to show that.

WILL: Absolutely. You know, those moments have been called “moments of truth”.

CHUCK: Right.

WILL: And as you said, it’s so important. There might not be recognition tied to that moment of truth, but I guarantee, Chuck, that that women at the checkout register has thought about that moment of truth and what you did multiple times since that interaction and we can only hope that your action, that leadership that you took to step in and support and help that person has made a difference in both of their lives where they have chosen to step up and help the lives of somebody else. You are absolutely right; every single day we are put into those moments of truth. How do we respond? How do we respond? Even if it’s inconvenient, even if it hits our wallet as it did for you. How do we respond?

CHUCK: Right.

WILL: Again, we can lead our own little sphere of influence by making a difference, making an impact, making an impression on somebody for the good that can change thier destiny. Even for that moment or even longer term, we might never know. I think you’re hitting on something extremely important there. The moment of truth.

CHUCK: Well, the moment of truth and that is a perfect segue into maybe a history for, we’ll call it, a six-year period-ish. But let’s go back. You are, as you’ve said, the president off and on, I thought that was kind of cool, but the president off and on of August Forge, which is a company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Now, you live in Wilmington, North Carolina, God’s country.

[Will chuckles]

CHUCK: But not that Pittsburgh is bad, it’s just a little colder. It used to be a whole lot colder than maybe it is today, but let’s go back to the almost 90-year old, or maybe a little more than a 90-year old, history of your company and carry us back to 2008, early ’09 when the recession hit. Tell me about the company and what happened.

WILL: It’s an amazing story, Chuck. It brings out the greatness of the American spirit and the amazing people that I’m blessed to work with every day. 2008, we are a manufacture and a retailer and when Lehman Brothers went out in September 2008, we absolutely got hammered.

CHUCK: Right.

WILL: No pun intended. We hand-hammer our product, but we got crushed to the point where the Wednesday before Thanksgiving my family, the owners of the company, my family and I are sitting with our advisors and we get the proverbial 2 by 4 to the face. They say, “Knechts, it’s time to shut it down. Salve the assets, take what’s left. There’s nothing there. Begin a new chapter of life,” and for my family, I give all the credit to my wife who really stood up and said, “No way.”

This company we make things by hand in America today, Chuck, which in and of itself is unique. We’ve been around, as you said, at that time for about what, 85 years or 86 years. My wife said, “No way.” What we’re doing is too important. We’re not huge, but making something in America is important. And she said, “The people that worked with us for so many years deserve better.” So we made the tough decision at that point to stay the course. I had to make some tough decisions in early ’09. We had to restructure, let some people go, but just by the grace of God we were able to make it in 2009 and that was really our benchmark of success.

CHUCK: Oh, yeah.

WILL: At the end of the year, did we make it? We were still around.

CHUCK: Absolutely.

WILL: And as we ended 2009, we began to get some mojo. We felt like we were getting back. Not only did we make it, we were getting back on our feet, things were beginning to turn around. We got into 2010, early March of 2010 we get the largest order in our company’s history: 20,000 commemorative tickets to be made for the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team, national hockey league team, to commemorate the closing of their arena. Biggest order in our history and we make things by hand. Twenty thousand is a lot and we had one month to do it.

We go back to the office the next day and announce to the team we’re back. We got this order, we’re high fiving. My grin at that time was ear to ear and everybody was so excited. It was a validation.

CHUCK: Right.

WILL: The hard work, sweat, the tears that we’ve been through the last year had been validated, we’re going to go on. We start the work on March 5 that next day, going, March 6, going. About lunchtime March 6, a devastating event occurs. A fire breaks out at our historic workshop, flagship store and corporate headquarters that literally burns the place to the ground. Burns it to the ground. And this is two days after our largest order, sixteen months after the financial calamity and it’s just like, wow.

CHUCK: Whoa, whoa, whoa. So you survive ’08, you survive ’09, you get the largest order in your company’s history and two days later burns to the ground?!

WILL: Amazing, absolutely. It was absolutely incredible, and as you can imagine, we’re a small town north of Pittsburgh and hundreds and hundreds of people come onto the site as the fire was going. A number of my fellow employees in tears. What are we going to do? I can’t lose my job, I need to feed my family.

At that moment, Chuck, I had this weird sense of peace that, I just would give the glory to God that my faith in Christ game me this peace. We called everybody around in a prayer circle and we prayed. Very simply. We said, “God, we don’t know what’s happening. We know that you do. We trust you. Show us what’s next.” It was amazing. At that moment the lights went back on and the tears turned to, “Let’s get back to work.” My fellow employees began guiding the firefighters to save whatever could be salvaged and that day we began a reclamation process.

The next day I’m told, “Will, because of this devastation, you should expect to be out of business for at least nine months while you find a new facility, etc, etc.” Here’s what happened: five days later our workshop back up and running. Five days. Less than two weeks later our offices back up totally functioning. Four weeks later our flagship store back up and open. All in rented facilities.

CHUCK: So, I’m hearing the music in the background which says it is time for a commercial break. We’re going to come back after this break. Thanks.

[Commercial break]

CHUCK: This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio and we’re back from our commercial break. Man, this has been a great show. What a great show! I’m having a blast. My guest is Will Knecht and we just heard, Will, you tell one of the most incredible stories that I think I’ve ever heard. I mean, all of, well, I say all of, if you were a baby, you wouldn’t know the difference, but most of us adults lived through this great recession and yes, I remember when Lehman Brothers went down and I remember when all of a sudden money dried up. It didn’t make any difference what business you were in and it is a testament to your family’s commitment and the commitment of the employees to weather the storm. You say, “Wow! We just got our biggest order in history!” 20,000 items or pieces that you guys would manufacture. What a great deal, and two days later, you’re on the scene seeing your facility destroyed. Then in four weeks you’re back up and running and producing? There’s got to be somewhere in this process outside of the initial tears and the prayer circle, there’s got to be some really interesting, unique twists to how do you get from, “Well, I’m the insurance company. It’s going to take you a while,” to pulling off the impossible?

WILL: Yeah, it’s a great question and I really attribute it to two things; a providential God working through amazing people. Again, I think it goes back to that earlier discussion that we had and I am by no means a good leader, but I try to look at other folks more importantly than myself, make mistakes all the time. But I think in the time of need, that was given back to me a thousand-fold. Really, God gave us strength to do amazing things. Literally, the people I work with, Chuck, were working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week for weeks on in to reconstitute what had been destroyed, so to speak.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, that organization, we fully expected the day after the fire, because this fire was international news, surprisingly.


WILL: Really amazing. It’s was international news because this little company, this iconic American company, Wendell August, burned to the ground. But the Pittsburgh Penguins, national hockey league, we expected a call to say, “Hey, thanks so much, Will. We were looking forward to working with you, but because of the fire we’re going to go in a different direction.” Here’s the quality of that organization. We got the call that next day, that Sunday, and instead of saying, “We’re going to go elsewhere,” they said, “Will, what can we do to help you? What we’d like to do, first off, is bring a check down for full payment of the total amount of your order and deliver that to you to offer our support to get you back on your feet. Will that help with cash flow?”

CHUCK: Oh, my goodness! That’s amazing!

WILL: It is. It’s the quality of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I tell you we’ve been interacting with them and then they got behind us in such a way that they promoted us every which way possible to help us work through this, and that’s just one aspect.

The folks I work with, literally days after the fire, master craftsmen, I mean, these guys are some of the best artisans in America, do you know what they were doing days after the fire? These guys were spending hours digging through the rubble and the wreckage of this fire trying to take anything out they possibly could to help us reconstitute. They’d come back to our temporary set up and our workshop after being down in our old facility just black, dirty, smoked, but they were willing to do whatever it took to help us get back because you know what? We were a team prior to that fire, Chuck, but through that fire we became a family. Just forget the success we’ve had since that time, the fact that we as a group pulled together to, again, through providential God, accomplish the miraculous is a testament to what can be done when you and I or your listeners face difficult situations. There are two responses people can have and I know you get this. I’ve read your story as well and heard your story. There are two ways people can look at a devastating event like a fire, like a divorce, like failing a class, or a test even in school. We could get the hang of, “Whoa is me, I’m the victim” mentality, right?

CHUCK: Right.

WILL: Or we can say, “You know something? I’m in control of my response and I’m going to be positive and I’m going to do what it takes to take this bad situation and make it good. I take responsibility for my own actions. I’m not going to wait for the government to act. I’m not going to wait for someone to give me a million dollars. I’m not going to wait for some attorney to help me in my divorce. I’m going to take responsibility,” and I think that’s what I saw happen. My fellow employees took responsibility to get back up and going and to deliver that order for the Pittsburgh Penguins and I saw again the exceptionalism that is America. Demonstrated day in, day out after that fire. Not only my fellow employees unbelievable, not only were the Pittsburgh Penguins something for the ages, this community in all of western Pennsylvania, Chuck, stepped up in ways–

I had lost my apartment, by the way. You mentioned I lived in Wilmington, I was working in the north of Pittsburgh in Grove City. My apartment happened to be in that building. I lost all of my clothing. I had a guy who I’d never met before, I was at the laundromat because I had one set of clothing. I was rewashing my coat two days after the fire and that guy said, “Hey, I’ve seen you all over TV. You were wearing that same coat. Did you lose everything?” I said, “Yeah. Actually, I did.” He took the sweatshirt off of his back and gave it to me and said, “Hey, I hope this can help.” One of my fellow employees who had a son of about my size brought in clothing for me.


WILL: Where but America does that happen? And again, I think our story embodies the greatness of America. Again, what I would challenge our listeners to is, we’re all going to face tough things. This life on Earth isn’t a bowl of cherries, nor are we promised easy street every single day.

CHUCK: Right.

WILL: But when you and I look in the mirror, when we’re faced with these difficult challenges, do we choose to react as a victim or respond as an American and say, “What can I do to make my life better?” That’s what I saw. That’s what I saw.

CHUCK: You know, it’s interesting as I hear you tell that because I see this a lot and you know, Will, one of the things that makes you an incredibly successful speaker, and again, your connected with All Things Speaking, so for anybody listening to this show or if you want to connect with Will online, go to Marcia can connect you up and Will will be delighted to come and speak with you, but, Will, the thing that you and I both get, whenever we’re on the platform and have the opportunity to talk to people and it’s fascinating, and I’m going to tell you, I’m not the smartest the guy in the world. I feel like Forrest Gump sometimes, but people either choose to be victims or victors and it’s really a function of your mindset.

The thing that just blows my mind, and it’s probably tacky for people to hear this, but something bad happens, what are you going to do? You’re going to get on the whambulance and go, “Wham, wham, wham,” and it’s like, you know? There’s not a lot of good that happens on the whambulance. You just wallow in this, “Oh, my Gosh, we’ve lost our…” I could see it now. Some people would be, “We’ve lost our building. This is crazy. I was told by the financial advisors in 2008, get out. And look, it’s 2010 and now the building’s gone, thank goodness we’ve got insurance. This is God must be telling us to get out.” That would be the victim.

Or the victor says, “We had an obstacle placed before, so now we can rise up to who we are capable of being and by example show what’s possible,” because your story blasted everywhere, continues four years later to inspire and help people understand the potential that we have as human beings. I applaud you for being willing to continue to take that out.

WILL: I appreciate that, Chuck, and again you’re right. Just as you know from your speaking career and your success you’ve seen. I can’t tell you after speaking or just being interviewed for what we’ve done as a company how many hundreds of people have reached out either via the phone or email and said, “Thank you.” I needed to hear that. I’m going through something in my life that I allowed to overcome me, to take over me versus me rising above the circumstance and saying, “You know what? I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. It is what it is. What do I need to do to, again, to be the victor, not the victim?” And I love how you said that. You’re absolutely right. Each and every day you and I have an opportunity to make that choice and that’s one of the key parts of my message is what choice would you choose to make when that tough thing happens? It will happen.

CHUCK: Oh, no question.

WILL: Again, in our families it happens every day, in our schools it happens every day, in our work places it happens every day, on athletic fields it happens every day. What do we choose to make of it? Again, I think the American spirit is such and our history as a country is about overcoming, right? It’s about overcoming and I’m listening to 1776 by David McCullough on CD right now ,as I read the book before, and I am inspired by Washington and our forefathers who were willing to risk everything when circumstances looked bleak to make America what it is today and they became victors rather than the victims. That’s the tradition that you and I carry today. That’s where you and I need to look at ourselves every day in the mirror. Victor, victim. Will I respond or will I react as that victim? I think it’s one of the cores of our story and one of the cores of my messages as I speak throughout the country. Victor or victim.

CHUCK: Victor or victim. When you’re sitting here listening on the radio, to me the question that really kind of it’s personal. Stick with us, this is something that literally touches everyone that is likely listening to this show in some form or fashion. This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. We’ll be back in a moment.

[Commercial break]

CHUCK: Wow, this show seems to really be moving at the light speed, so to speak. This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. My guest, president of Wendell August and I am sitting here with Will Knecht or talking with Will Knecht. I actually get to see him on video as we prepare and record the show that’s taking place today.

Will, this has been inspiring. It’s really touched me at a deep level because the story of Wendell August, which is the business you’re president of, by the way, that is Wendell August they make some really, really, really cool stuff. If you’re into sports or you’re interested in jewelry or you’re looking for something unique for Christmas, I really, really encourage you to go there. It is the master craftsmanship of what you guys manufacture is just amazing. I know that, I guess I want to go here, you guys have an interesting experience. Now, for those who are just joining us on the radio, you went through the recession in the early part of it. It was tough, it was challenging. You were advised to quit. You didn’t and then by unfortunate providence your entire place burns to the ground. Two days after you got the largest order in your history.

As you said, I guess, before, you’ve got a 90-year-ish history and then all of a sudden you’re destroyed, which as a I think you are coining makes you America’s oldest startup because you had a blank slate so talk about that.

WILL: It’s unbelievable, Chuck. We got through 2010 after the fire and 2010 was about hitting that big order and then just reconstituting business, getting our C-legs back under us. It was interesting. In 2011 we found ourselves looking around and saying, “We’ve got this great history, but we’re not stuck in this history anymore. We’ve got this blank canvas to paint on,” and we began to see the possibilities of what the future could hold. We challenged assumptions, challenged status quo. And again, as you said, we became America’s oldest startup. We ventured into new channels that we have dreamed about but had never pursued. Right now as you and I talk, we’re in 500 retailers nation-wide. We couldn’t spell 500 retailers before the fire.

[Chuck laughs]

WILL: To think that 500 retailers that crossed the country think we’re worthy to carry our product is amazing to me, but that birth through the circumstance of devastation. Unbelievable. Also, as you and I sit here today, we sit with distributers nation-wide taking our product to businesses and organizations all over the country for wars and commemoratives and things like that. A dream of ours that never was fulfilled until after the fire.

So, really, we are the America’s oldest startup. We had to think of everything different and unique because we literally had nothing but rented facilities. This facility that I’m sitting in today is a new facility that we built after the fire. That is amazing. Never could have thought we’d be possibly in a facility this beautiful. We built it and we moved into it this past October 2013. Unreal.

So, again, when life throws bad things at us, how do we make the best we possibly can out of it? That’s part of the Wendell August story. We’re doing things today we could have only imagined just a few short years ago. We were forced to because of a fire, but there are fires in each of our lives that force us to think, hopefully, differently and that’s really what I would challenge you and I and our listeners with. When things are difficult, how can we think differently? As America’s oldest startup, we’re poised for greatness. Listen to these goals that we have as a company. Our 100th anniversary is 2023.

CHUCK: Okay.

WILL: We want to be known as one of the 100 best places in America to work by 2023.


WILL: We want to be known as one of the 100 best brands in America by 2023 for small businesses and mid-sized businesses, and we want to march on our way to a hundred million dollars in revenue by 2023.

All far cries from where we are today. All bold, audacious goals, but my fellow employees and I have this spirit now that has been developed through the crucible of pain, through the crucible of devastation that by God’s grace we can accomplish the miraculous. And you know what? God has given us each the ability to accomplish the miraculous in our own sphere of life.

CHUCK: Will, you in the process of our interview, and I know we don’t have a lot of time left, but in the process of our interview it is incredibly clear to me that faith is a critically important part of your life and maybe the cement or what weaves this story together so powerfully so share with our audience where you come from with respect to that and how did that interplay with this?

WILL: It is absolutely critical to this whole story. My relationship with Christ is personal, it’s deep, and again, I’m imperfect as anybody. I make mistakes, I do crazy things all the time, but at the end of the day I have the anchor of Jesus Christ to hang on to. Through all this craziness over the last six years, Chuck, He has been the reason that I’ve been able to work through this. I’ve been away from my family, living in Wilmington, working in Pennsylvania. I’m in Pennsylvania way more than I’m in Wilmington. My wife is unbelievable. God has created a bond between the two of us that my wife has allowed me to go and do what I’ve been called to do. Through it all there’s no way that I could have gotten through this craziness of what we’ve dealt with without that baseline of Christ knowing that He loves me, that He’s in control, that internally He has my best in mind regardless of what the world is throwing at us.

I had that rock, that foundation to sit on and to bask in as the economic calamity hit, as the fire hit, as we’re recovering. To me, Chuck, the peace that I carry through, and I think that’s one of the most important things in my leadership in Wendell August was called upon. It was to inspire others by a calm presence but by a forward-thinking presence that I can only attribute with relationship with Christ. Period.

CHUCK: You know, it’s incredible how you have shared that, but also to know that there is a foundation that you can call upon, that inner piece, so to speak, that knowing that everything will be all right, in the face of some incredibly difficult challenges. I think, Will, I think you will agree with this, as human beings we all are going to be faced with challenges. They’re going to be different. You had a devastating fire and you had a leadership role that could have gone in one of many directions, neither of which would have been bad or wrong, but each of which would have brought about a different outcome. So, I have to say, and I know this has been said to you so many times, the story is incredible, but the outcome is the testament or testimony of that foundation of faith that you live.

WILL: It’s, again, a providential God. He loves us more than you and I can ever imagine and He’s with us all the time, even through the devastation. Again, whether it be a divorce, or a death in the family, or a fire, or a prison sentence, right?

CHUCK: Right.

WILL: God is with us all the time. He loves us more than you and I can fathom. To me, Chuck, that peace that I can carry knowing that with confidence has made all the difference in my life.

CHUCK: Will, I’m sure people have said this to you, they certainly ask me. They say, “Chuck, you’ve been to prison. Would you do it again?” Well, no! I don’t want to experience that again. It wasn’t fun. But I also have to say it was the best thing that ever happened in my life and a lot of people look at me like I am just Looney Tunes, but the fact is that was a defining moment. I had the opportunity to transform adversity into opportunity, the same as you did, and because of that, it gives us the opportunity to share with other people.

This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. We want to bring you the best in Talk Radio to make a difference in your life. I leave every show with the statement, “Every choice has a consequence.” So keep in mind, let’s make some great choices in life. This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio. Join us next week for another wonderful show.

You’ve been listening to Straight Talk with Chuck Gallagher. Tune in each week on, each Monday at 2 p.m. Pacific, 5 p.m. Eastern, as Chuck Gallagher, international speaker and author, cuts through the noise to share truth through transparency. Nationally-known guests talk about what’s important to you – your life, your concerns, and your success. Visit for more information and turn on to Straight Talk with Chuck Gallagher.

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