With Veterans Day just around the corner, we sat down with Takl’s CEO, Willis Johnson, to learn more about how his time in the military shaped his business philosophy. Here's what he had to say about the lessons he brought home and applied to his businesses, Copart and Takl, Inc.
Order, timing, discipline, and teamwork are key.
“During basic training, I and the guys around me immediately bonded over the shock of going to war and the challenges of our training. There was this one sergeant that was meaner than anyone else I can across during basic, and he made sure we knew it. He made us remake our beds until they were absolutely perfect. But it was never really about the beds. The sergeant was giving us guys something to unite around. It didn’t matter where we came from or how we saw the world. We all agreed on how much we disliked that sergeant, and we worked together to make sure our barracks were spotless for every inspection so we could reach a common goal: to earn a weekend off.
“In business, to turn a goal into reality, you have to make sure you have what you need in place. You have to time it right so you maximize your opportunities. You have to have the discipline to stick with it and see the plan through from start to finish. And you have to work with your team to make sure there are no loose ends. You have to work together to reach the finish line.”
Your decisions impact those around you.
“The decisions you make as a soldier are critical not only to yourself, but everyone around you. When you run a business, you have to make decisions that will impact your employees, their plans, their goals, and their families. Making the right decisions requires understanding the responsibility that comes with that kind of leadership.”
Trust your gut and keep pressing forward.
“It takes bravery to start a business. It takes bravery to grow it. You have to be smart about the decisions you make, but you also have to trust your gut. Know from the outset that things will get tough. Every business, every goal, comes with its share of challenges. When those challenges come, you have to find the strength and determination to keep pressing forward. That’s how you get where you want to go.”
Life is precious. Make it count.
“If there’s one lesson above all others I brought back from my service, it’s this: Life is precious and you have to make it count. If you have a goal and you have the drive, you can get where you want to go. You have to put in the hard work, and when you do, you’re that much prouder of what you’ve accomplished because you know everything it took to get there. I still believe my military service provided the best education I could get. It gave me invaluable lessons that led me where I am today. If you really want to do something, go for it. Keep at it in business and in life. Hard work pays off. I truly believe that.”