FIXING LIVES AND LIVELIHOODS, ONE REPAIR AT A TIME: THE 2020 SOUTHEASTERN MVP AWARD
Like many technicians, Brian Miller’s interest in being a mechanic began at an early age.
“It started with my mother,” Brian recalls. “After my freshman year in high school, she didn’t want me lying around the house all summer. So she strongly suggested I take a summer mechanic’s program that was being offered.”
When he got to class, it wasn’t what he expected. “The first couple of days were hell. The teacher was tough and mean — basically a word that’s not suitable for print. Other people dropped out, but I decided I was going to stick it out with this guy just to irritate him,” he laughed.
Brian completed the class and signed up for the next two summers as well. “I’ve always been the kind of person who likes a challenge. I think he was just trying to weed out people who didn’t really want to be there.”
That sense of determination and his passion for learning have served Brian well throughout his career. In 1999, he graduated from Nashville Auto-Diesel College. Over the past two decades, he’s worked as a heavy equipment mechanic for the logging supply industry, an aggregate company, and a Case dealership. He joined Southeastern in 2017 as a Service Technician for the Gallipolis Branch.
Brian’s selection as this year’s Most Valuable Person confirms his commitment to teamwork and the values that define our company: Helpful, Thoughtful, Capable, and Loyal. We recently talked with our new MVP about what makes him tick and why he still enjoys turning a wrench after 22 years.
HOW DID YOU LAND AT SOUTHEASTERN?
That’s an interesting story. I was working at another company, and they put me in the shop. I’ve always been a road mechanic. I like interacting with the customers and the variety of jobs. So I wasn’t very happy. One day I got a call from Southeastern saying they had my resume and wanted to interview me. It was a total surprise because I’d never sent a resume, but I said I’d like to come in. Later I learned my wife had sent it. My life is just full of surprises, most of them good.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THE JOB?
I enjoy taking something useless and broken down and fixing it. As a mechanic, you’re usually the last person a customer wants to see. Their machine isn’t working. Their livelihood is at stake. And every minute you’re there is costing them time and money. You have to keep everyone out of panic mode while you’re troubleshooting. Sometimes the pressure of it makes my head hurt. But when I defeat the problem and get their machine back in the dirt, I’m happy.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU?
One time my boss told me I had a lot of patience for this kind of work. I said “James, trust me. It’s not about patience, because patience is not my thing. It’s more about stubbornness.” It’s always you against the machine. And you rarely win the first time.
MOST PEOPLE CALL YOU WEASEL. HOW DID YOU GET YOUR NICKNAME?
When I was in high school, I worked at an auto parts warehouse. There was another guy I worked with, and we liked to aggravate each other in a good way. One night when we were loading trucks, he stared at me and said I looked like a weasel. I asked him if he’d ever seen a weasel. He said, “No, but if I did, it would look like you.” It just stuck with me after that. There’s always another Brian wherever I work. I tell people they called me Weasel at my last job, so just call me that.
HOW DO YOU CONTINUE TO IMPROVE?
You have to constantly apply what you know and collaborate with other techs to learn what you don’t know. Everyone has seen something that you haven’t seen before, so their experience can give you a lead on your own problem. I read, study, and take all the classes I can. Our vendors are also a helpful source of information.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO BECOME A MECHANIC?
It takes a certain kind of person to be a mechanic. You have to be able to take being knocked down because you will have that piece of equipment that knocks you on your butt. And you have to get back up every time.