Dan Ryder is an area supervisor overseeing work in Northern Virginia and Maryland. He is nearing his 14th anniversary with Flagger Force and has worked his way up from crew member to his current leadership role. Dan’s commitment to the job and innate ability to forge strong relationships with clients and employees alike are part of his secret to success. Read on to learn more about Dan, winner of the Employee Spotlight award.
Flagger Force: Hi Dan, congratulations on being recognized as our employee spotlight! We’d like to take this opportunity to help others at the company learn more about you and why you are receiving this honor.
Dan Ryder: Thank you; it was a surprise! I just feel like I’m doing the job that I was asked to do. It’s nice to know that my co-workers hold me in high regard.
Flagger Force: You’ve been here since 2010. What brought you here?
Dan: Before I got to Flagger Force I worked at a junkyard six days a week, about 12 hours a day, for a boss that was very unappreciative. After five years, I’d had enough. I saw a Flagger Force ad in a newspaper and applied. At the time, I thought standing there holding a paddle all day sounded like an easy job until I did it. I didn’t realize how tough the job could be.
Flagger Force: What about Flagger Force appeals to you?
Dan: I’ve always liked to work outdoors, and flagging keeps me outside where I want to be.
Flagger Force: Can you think back to your first week on the job and what that was like?
Dan: One of my first jobs was with a Verizon client. I loaded my car with the equipment and drove to the job site. We used to have to carry all our equipment, stop paddle included. Now the leads carry them in their trucks. Back then, if you had a small car, it was inconvenient. I worked with Flim Smith—
Flagger Force: —Flim was one of Flagger Force’s very first employees!
Dan: He was a very nice guy, thankfully, because I was very nervous. My radio communication was horrible. I’d never used two-way radios for work. Then there was the reality of standing for up to eight hours a day. Breaks don’t always happen at every job. More than one time I came to work with the wrong clothing for the weather. I didn’t realize how taxing the weather conditions would be.
Flagger Force: What did you do?
Dan: I kept coming to work, asking questions, and learning. As long as I can work, I’m going to keep working.
Flagger Force: Where do you think you developed your work ethic?
Dan: My dad. He worked long, hard hours, but always made time for his kids. He taught me, “If you want something, you got to work for it.”
Flagger Force: A good lesson. Speaking of lessons, what are some of the biggest changes at Flagger Force you’ve witnessed since you started in 2010?
Dan: The company is leaps and bounds different. Back then the training classes were shorter. Getting trained for the truck was a one-day class. Now it’s four days and much more effective at preparing crew leaders. We had to keep paper receipts for fuel, mileage logs, and paper timesheets. Every Friday employees had to drop off their paper receipts and logs at the branch office they were based out of, or no one got paid! At that time, it was Glen Burnie for me and an hour and 40-minute drive every Friday. I love the fact that we went electronic. It makes life a lot easier.
Flagger Force: Incredible! You have a wealth of experience. What are other positive changes that have been made at Flagger Force?
Dan: I think one of the most positive changes is literally my job—the role of the area supervisor.
Flagger Force: How so?
Dan: When I started with the company, if you had a job site issue, you had to call the branch office. A person in an office that’s 100 miles away is going to have a hard time assisting you with a setup if you’re unsure about how to do it. The branch office staff always did their best to help, but it could be challenging for those of us who were “boots on the ground.” The company recognized the need for in-field support and created the field leadership structure.
Flagger Force: Yes, a significant improvement! You’ve been promoted from crew member all the way to area supervisor. Can you tell us about your journey?
Dan: Initially, I worked my way up to advanced crew leader and got the MOT certification required in Maryland to work on state roads. For my next promotions, I had been encouraged to apply by my supervisors. However, I wasn’t too sure as I was comfortable where I was at. I love working in the field and doing the setups every day.
Flagger Force: What did it take for you to step out of your comfort zone?
Dan: It took the support of the great people in my life. In the past, sometimes I’d have trouble believing that I could accomplish things because I have a learning disability—I’m dyslexic. Taking tests is difficult for me. But then people at work would encourage me or my wife would tell me to give it a chance and that “if you think you can do it, you can do it.” So far, she and everyone else have been right. I’ve done well on every test!
Flagger Force: You’ve already accomplished a lot, including earning this award. What’s your favorite part of your job?
Dan: The best part of my day is interacting with employees and clients. Over the past 14 years, I’ve gotten to know people and these relationships have taken a long time to build. When I was promoted to area supervisor, they were thrilled because they knew me. I’ve made some pretty good friendships with fellow employees and clients. I think the best part of the job is the people we meet.
Flagger Force: You have a great track record with Flagger Force’s clients. What’s your top tip for building successful client relationships?
Dan: Clients in my area know me. I’ve worked with many of them since I was a crew member. When they call me with an issue, they know they will get a response. If they have a problem, I will get back to them, and do what is within my power to address the issue. I’m proud of the relationships I have with my clients.
Flagger Force: You should be. Many employees also speak highly of you.
Dan: For employees, it’s the same thing. They know that if they call me, no matter what the situation is, I’m going to help.
Flagger Force: You have experience and trust. What advice do you share with new crew members?
Dan: Be prepared. I can’t stress that enough because our jobs change from day to day. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. One of the things I tell people is that a quiet mouth doesn’t get fed. If you have a problem, you need to speak up and let me know. I’ll help you fix the issue, but if you don’t tell me, I can’t help you.
Flagger Force: Great advice! Do you think back to any of the more challenging days that you have had on the job?
Dan: We had a job scheduled in Hagerstown, Maryland, that had never been attempted in the state. It was a mobile flagging operation. The client used steel pellets and shot them at the road to coarse the surface to improve stopping distance in the rain. The job was challenging because the client was covering 10-plus miles of roadway a day. It was not an easy job.
We got stuck at one of the intersections. We couldn’t move, couldn’t go back because we had to wait for the client to move up. A state inspector working the job lost his temper and threw his hard hat at me and told me that if we couldn’t get the crew working correctly, I would never work in Hagerstown again. This moment is the closest I’ve ever come to losing my temper on a job.
I was very upset. But after speaking with the inspector about an hour later, he explained that his boss was pushing to get that section of road done and it stressed him out. He apologized. After that day, we had a good working relationship until he retired.
Flagger Force: Good story and a great reminder about the importance of communication with our clients and partners! Speaking of job sites, what would you want a motorist to know about your job?
Dan: I wish drivers would understand it’s not personal what we do. We get angry drivers all the time, and I understand that we’re slowing you down, but there’s a reason. In 14 years, I’ve had some close calls with drivers…I just want them to remember that we’re people too.
Flagger Force: We hope motorists read this and heed your advice. How would you best describe yourself in a few words?
Dan: I’m humble and committed. I’ll never leave anything half-finished.
Flagger Force: We appreciate your commitment, including everything you’ve done for us.
Dan: As long as I’m able to do it, I’m going to keep doing it. I love my job.
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