GRIT Matters: What the Vikings Teach Us About Gardening and Navigating

In my previous post, I talked about the values and culture at American Crane, and their importance to helping both our people and our customers thrive. Today, I want to share more about the foundation of our culture — GRIT Matters — the inspiration behind it, and how we live it every day.

It may surprise you to learn that American Crane’s culture is rooted in the Viking way of life. This originated with my Dad, Oddvar Norheim, who emigrated to the U.S. from Norway and ultimately took the helm at American Crane. His Nordic heritage is very important to him. It is also important to our company, and we apply many Viking lessons to navigating our business.

Lots of companies use the analogy of going to battle as they strive to grow their market share. So, you might think that the first Viking Lesson in our cultural foundation would be about how to be a better warrior.

But you’d be wrong.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.

In spite of their pillaging reputation, most Viking were not warriors but rather farmers who tended gardens planted in the poor soil and cold North Atlantic climate. The Vikings who sailed the seas were looking for more hospitable places to farm and build a better life.

To be a farmer is to live with hope and continuously try to mitigate risk. Crops are nurtured and tended to. Seeds are watered. Weeds are pulled. Prayers for good weather are repeated. To grow a garden takes long-term commitment for success. There’s a tremendous amount of work put into planting, growing, harvesting, and preserving a crop. Being a gardener takes perseverance, heart, and integrity. Indeed, it takes GRIT to be a gardener.

Therefore, the first Viking lesson we embrace at American Crane is…

TO BE A GARDENER – Preparing and cultivating ourselves, so we are ready for the battles of our business and life.

Within our business, that means our leadership team works to grow our people. It is our role to ensure that the environment — the culture — allows our people to thrive. The most important part of our business is our people. Leaders become great not because of their power, but their ability to empower others.

Navigate the seas of our business with the bounty of our garden at our back.

Navigation, of course, is at the heart of a seafaring life. The Vikings, as they ventured as far as the Middle East and North America, had no access to modern navigation instruments. The sextant wasn’t invented for another thousand years after they first took to the seas, nor the compass for another four hundred years. Instead, they used Icelandic spar crystals, called “Sunstones,” that helped them locate the sun in the sky — even when it was cloudy.

Today, we consider American Crane’s Vision, Mission and Values to be our Sunstone, the principles we check to verify that we’re on the right course, no matter the obstacle or uncertainty. Navigating uncharted territory takes perseverance, heart, and integrity. Indeed, it
takes GRIT to be a navigator.

Perhaps recognizing this, a set of Viking Laws evolved among these warriors to guide them as they sailed the oceans in search of new places to farm. As it turns out, these are in almost perfect alignment with both my and my father’s philosophy on life and business. They

  1. Be Brave and Aggressive – In the battles of your business and life, grab every opportunity, be versatile and agile, focus on attacking one target at a time.
  2. Be a Good Merchant – Learn what the market needs and have integrity in everything you do.
  3. Be Prepared – Keep your weapons (i.e., your mind and body, people and products) in peak condition.
  4. Keep the Camp in Order – Stay organized and ensure everybody does meaningful work with purpose.

Therefore, the second Viking lesson we embrace at American Crane is…

TO BE A VIKING – Using our sunstone, to be brave and enter uncharted waters, weather storms and find our way even when it’s cloudy.

The Vikings were relentlessly passionate about pursing their goals. They worked, not just with their hands, but also with their heads and hearts. Despite their barbaric reputation, the Vikings have left a legacy of achievements that have forever changed our world.

We cannot direct the wind, but we can raise our sails and adjust as needed.

The winds of change are always blowing. Life — and business — never go exactly as planned. But, then again, a calm sea never made a good sailor.

We are GRITTY at American Crane. What does that mean? That we put perseverance, heart and integrity into everything we do. Storms, disruptions, obstacles, challenges, are not feared here, because we are committed to continuously learning how to navigate to a better outcome. The focus on growing our people, empowering them to make decisions, to innovate, and to collaborate fearlessly is what nurtures our ability to be relentless no matter the odds.

GRIT is the raw endurance, perseverance and passion that keep us going despite obstacles. It is knowing who we are and where we are headed, moving determinedly forward with eyes fixed on the mark, rather than the obstacles that lie in wait.

GRIT is being a gardener. GRIT is being a Viking. GRIT is at the heart of our culture. And GRIT Matters.

Got GRIT? Bring it to work at American Crane.

Channel your inner Viking and learn more about our team and the values that make American Crane an industry leader by visiting us.

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