The Journey to Finding America’s Greatest Champion
Terry Iverson shares his journey to self-publishing his book, Finding America’s Greatest Champion, in an effort to educate those outside of manufacturing about great opportunities in manufacturing, changing perceptions along the way.
This blog is a continuation of Terry Iverson’s story which was published as part of MoldMaking Technology’s series on workforce development in the March 2019 print edition. Readers can find the feature here, online.
For two years, Terry Iverson was giving presentations at schools, getting active in internships and promoting the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) to young people and he volunteered locally. “Through all these organizations I became involved with and through all this volunteer work I got to meet some really fascinating people that thought like I did,” he says. “They were passionate, though maybe not as passionate as me, but they really thought that what I was doing and what I was trying to do was noteworthy.”
Fast forward to about 2013. Iverson found himself on an airplane bound for Taiwan, thinking about his involvement on education boards and advisory committees at high schools, technical colleges and community colleges and more. “My mind was just literally bursting with ideas and passion and knowledge,” he says. “I just pulled out my laptop and started typing for probably 10 to 13 hours straight.” A friend who was traveling with Iverson noticed and asked him if he was writing a book.
Iverson says he realized that he probably was. “I told him I had all these ideas and all these stories, and all this information and I can't let it just bounce around in my head; it needs to come out on the paper. So, at the end of that trip I had written about 30,000 to 40,000 words.”
However, owning and running a company in addition to all the volunteer work he was involved in led Iverson to believe that it was not the right time to be writing a book. He felt that it was just too big of a project and began contemplating whether to defer it until retirement, or not write it at all. “Then the presidential administration changed,” he says. “It seemed that manufacturing was going to get a lot more attention and because timing is everything, I committed to writing the book. I forced myself to write on evenings and weekends—any time I could find outside of what I had to do to pay the bills. It was hard and took me about 18 months.
“The turning point was when I decided to interview all these fascinating people that either served on boards with me, were friends of mine or acquaintances,” he continues. “I ended up doing 40 interviews with people that were in manufacturing and some that weren't in manufacturing and as I said before, I was compelled to found CHAMPION Now! and write the book because of my passion for helping young people coupled with my affinity for my family legacy in manufacturing.” Iverson explains that to write a book about just manufacturing would not be adequate, hence the addition of interviews with people from varying backgrounds and his inclusion of personal stories about coaching, parenting and mentoring. “My coaching had focus on teaching soccer, but it was much more about teaching the importance of being a good young man or young lady and being accountable for everything you say and do. So, my book also has a component on mentoring young people and parenting as well.”
Sharing the Champion Message
Iverson’s book, Finding America’s Greatest Champion, is presented to readers in a particular fashion. “I tried to organize the interviews pertaining to either parenting or mentoring and then crossing o aver into finding whatever skill set or subject matter intrigues readers so that they can make a living at it and enjoy it. Of course, manufacturing is a part of that as well,” he says. He then blended in his family story to illustrate just how much of an influence his grandfather was, for instance, on him and his father and uncles. “The book is intentionally multifaceted, and for a lot of reasons. I feel that any solution to a significant problem is not an easy solution. But I also feel that family is critical to our success and to solving anything.”
The book contains a forward written by Greg D. Wasson, former CEO of Walgreens and now CEO of Wasson Enterprises, a family-owned angel investment company. Wasson’s youngest daughter also happens to be married to Iverson’s younger son, but that’s not why Wasson agreed to write the forward. “He agreed with the subject matter of the book,” Iverson says, “and he agreed with the stance I was taking.” In his forward, Wasson wrote, “The fact is, we need to steer more people—young people, into manufacturing. That's where the jobs are. That's where the needs are.”
Through the book, readers will find interviews with people known in manufacturing, including Harry Moser, founder of The Reshoring Initiative and retired CEO of GF AgieCharmilles; John Winzeler, president of Winzeler Gear; Lew Weiss, founder and co-host of Manufacturing Talk Radio; Jim Carr, president/CEO of Carr Machine and Tool, and Making Chips podcast host; and even Titan Gilroy, CEO of Titans of CNC (shop) and creator of the television series “Titans of CNC” and the Titans of CNC: Academy. There are many more who contributed to the book outside of manufacturing, like Tony Schumacher, eight-time NHRA Top Fuel Drag Racing champion; Don Dupree, four-time Emmy Award winning director of “A Piece of the Game;” and Wayne Larrivee, radio play-by-play voice of the Green Bay Packers. These individuals and more supported Iverson’s story about the importance of mentoring, parenting, and championing the cause that is manufacturing and the American Dream, by sharing their own stories and insights.
When the book became available in September 2018, Iverson made a point of sending a copy to every governor in the United States. “I also called every governor's office beforehand to ask them to keep an eye out for my book. I said it's coming, and this is the name of it, and my name is Terry Iverson,” he says. “I didn’t want to just make an impact locally, in Des Plaines, Wheeling, Palatine, and Illinois. I wanted to make an impact nationally. If sending those books doesn’t get attention, then I don’t know how to get attention. It’s a huge commitment. (After the recent mid-term elections, Iverson also sent the newly elected governors a book.)
“So, you have these contradictory priorities,” he continues. “You're trying to make your company successful and look out for your employees and customers. But then you must ratchet up to the 50,000-foot level and say nationally this is important. Fortunately, I have a very understanding wife, and fortunately, I'm able to hold my standards at a level where I can get things done to the level of complete thoroughness and quality that I have always been taught to do, which is not easy.”
Iverson says that while telling his story here or in other manufacturing-focused publications may be preaching to the choir, it is a start, because manufacturers need to get involved with this movement themselves. “If all I do is preach to the choir then this was a waste of my time,” he says. His main goal is to get beyond those who already understand the situation and go more mainstream, which is why he asked NFL announcers, racecar drivers, a television producer and others to contribute to his book. “Let’s get it into Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, People and The Wall Street Journal. That’s where we hope to achieve significant traction and, ultimately, where perceptions will be changed.”
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