Guest Post: William “Spanky” Gibson, USMC, Retired on Leadership

William “Spanky” Gibson is a retired U.S. Marine and the board president of the Oklahoma Veterans Project. Robroy hired Spanky Gibson to speak at, and emcee, several of our events over the years. I asked him to share a blog article about his experiences working with Robroy and his thoughts on leadership.

As Marines and leaders, we’re taught about the importance of troop welfare and taking care of our people. We’re taught that “leaders eat last,” which is a form of servant leadership, and the ultimate in taking care of your people.

It’s hard to find that kind of leadership out here in the civilian world, but I found it when I worked with David Marshall in speaking to and emceeing different events at Robroy, Stahlin, and their other subsidiaries.

William Spanky Gibson and his wife Nadine. Spanky is a prime example of leadership and taking care of his people.When I first meet David, I was still on active duty, working in the Pentagon, doing a lot of work with the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund (now called Semper Fi & America’s Fund) and the USO’s Wounded Warrior program.

When you talk about “Wounded Warriors,” many people think about the “official” Wounded Warrior Project. But there are a lot of different programs, such as veterans’ service programs, that have their own wounded warrior programs. There are hundreds of groups, from local communities all the way up to national registries.

As for Robroy and subordinate companies like Stahlin that I worked with for a couple of years on a monthly basis, their corporation specifically at one of the Christmas parties was to raise money for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.

Robroy and their companies were great supporters of the organizations I raised money for, and they gave me a lot of opportunities to speak to their different events over a 4 or 5 year period.

Early on in my relationship with the company, I was going to speak at a Christmas party for Stahlin in Belding, Michigan, not too far from Grand Rapids. I was standing at the bar to order a Scotch, not realizing I was standing next to David Marshall. He overrode my bar order and said, “Give him some of my 25-year-old Macallan.”

He introduced himself and already knew my name, which caught me off guard. I certainly wasn’t expecting that. He told me how he thought it was important that he knew who I was. And that’s how David and I met.

I later told my wife about David and his hospitality, and how he had earned my respect enough for me to help them in any way that I could see fit, which was great because he and his people treated me the same way.

David spread that sense of hospitality and graciousness across Stahlin and other organizations within Robroy’s purview, from the headquarters in Verona, PA, to the operations in Gilmer, Texas, all the way up to their Belding office. I worked with them for over a few years, several times a year, and their hospitality was always 120%, no matter where I went.

I was even able to bring my kids on some of my trips, which was great because I was a single parent at the time. (They even had a couple of people helping to babysit my kids while I was doing the events!)

I’ve done at least 30 events with Robroy and Stahlin over 4 or 5 years, and all of them were outstanding, because of David’s belief in practicing hospitality for all his guests, no matter who they were. One of the last Christmas parties I did with David at Stahlin in Grand Rapids, I got to see the respect they had for the man even 1,000 miles away from company headquarters.

And I saw that he earned that respect because he believed in extending hospitality to everyone, making sure he knew who his associates and his guests were and because he took care of his people. He was a civilian world example of “leaders eat last.”

I was always grateful for the chance to work for David Marshall and his companies because they treated me so well. That was a reflection of the leadership that he spread throughout the entire organization.

William “Spanky” Gibson was Master Gunnery Sergeant in the United States Marines. He was the first above-knee (AL) amputee to be returned to active duty, which changed the way the military viewed AK amputees. He was also the first enlisted Fellow to serve the U.S. House of Representatives, assigned to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. Spanky retired in August 2011 and continues to serve wounded and returning soldiers.

Author: David Marshall
I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.