On the Job with Ralph Jackson

Ralph Jackson is the owner of Ralph Jackson Hearing Aid Service in Albany.

Ralph Jackson is the owner of Ralph Jackson Hearing Aid Service in Albany.

“On the Job With ...” is a regular feature of Sunday Inc. Today’s Q&A session conducted by Jim West is with Ralph Jackson of Ralph Jackson Hearing Aid Service Inc.

Ralph Jackson knew early on he wanted to own his own business and not depend on anyone else for his successes or failures.

He fulfilled that dream by owning and operating Ralph Jackson Hearing Aid Service, Inc.

Jackson says he spends much of his off duty time with his wife, Catherine, and his nieces and nephews. He also counts four cats among his “family.”

While he may like new technology like the iPad, Jackson said he has to turn back the clock when picking his favorite music. For example, he remembers buying a Led Zeppelin album with his first paycheck and still prefers the old music.

Jackson recently shared his On the Job answers with reporter Jim West.

Q. What was your first job?

A. My first real job was working with Bobby’s Nursery on Broad Avenue at the age of 16. So that would be my first real job where I got a true paycheck. This was many years ago.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. Probably the first thing I was spending money on, I bought an album, a vinyl album, not a CD. A Led Zeppelin album and a Grand Funk album.

Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. I think in order to keep employees motivated you set the example by what you do, so you have be able to do whatever you ask the employees to do.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?

A. I always wanted to own my own business, kind of from admiring my father. Whether I got into the hearing aid business or not really didn’t matter. You’re not depending on somebody else for a job. It falls back on guiding my own destiny, so to speak. If I succeed, that good. If I fail, that’s nobody’s fault but my own.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. That would be my father. When I was a little boy I had a toy lawnmower and as my father cut the yard I would follow him around the yard, so I would definitely have to say my father was my role model.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. Don’t depend on projected revenue. This environment is different from what it was years ago. If you look at our state, local and federal governments, they’ve gotten themselves in trouble by depending on projected revenue. Things have changed. If you don’t have it, you don’t need to spend it.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology – examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. – what would you most like to see go away?

A. I’d love to see the automated telephone systems go away. So much of the time you end up talking to a real person by the time you go through all the problems, but its just the getting there that’s so frustrating.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. It would have to be the iPad. The iPad is just amazing to me, the things that it’s capable of doing. Where the iPad is headed? For example, in the very near future you can go to a doctor’s office or an office like mine and have an iPad instead of a sheet to fill out with all your information. Fill it out and hand it to a receptionist, the receptionist will push a button, it will upload into the system and as soon as it does, all your personal information is deleted off that iPad. This keeps people from getting personal information about you that they should not have.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. On my wife’s side of the family I have a lot of nephews and nieces and I happen to be a good personal friend of Santa Claus. Santa stops by my house on his way back from the North Pole, visits with my nieces and just the expressions on their faces are absolutely priceless.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. The last book I read was “Lord of the Rings, Return of the King.” I love watching educational programs, and the History Channel, Discovery and also some of the local news. I read The Albany Herald every day.

Q. I’m up and going by?

A. I generally get up about 6 in the morning and the first order of business is to feed the cats. After that I feed myself, respond to emails then get things started and plan the rest of my day.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and Why?

A. I’ve met a lot of famous people and just never been that overly impressed.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. Working in the yard. I love target practice, shooting sporting clays. Just anything I can do outside.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. The best thing is when I’m able to give somebody the quality of hearing that they want — the expression on their face when they light up — when they haven’t heard their grandchildren or other family members like they should have in years. If a person can’t hear, it just makes them all alone. We humans need that ability to communicate.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. The worst thing is when that patient just doesn’t get the results we would like to give them. It’s heartbreaking for me, it’s heartbreaking for them. It does happen sometimes but it’s usually because the person has waited too long. The earlier a person does something about their hearing loss, the easier it is for them to adapt to hearing aids.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. I can’t really put my finger on one particular course. All my courses in school were beneficial to me. That’s why it’s so important to take as many courses as you can in school. You have to take all of it together to get the true benefit from school, so all of the courses are important.

Q. Finish this thought; “on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself…

A. Waking up and feeding my cats in the morning, working in my yard the first half of the day then sitting out by the pool the other half, with maybe a little travel.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. Integrity. You have to set the example for the employees. The way the owner or a manager acts around employees is also the way the employees will act around a customer, so it all comes down to integrity.

Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. If I had that crystal ball I would already be retired. I think its still going to be a few more years before you see a recovery. If you use the term full recovery it’s going to take some time to put this behind us.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. You would find a wide range, anything from the Eagles to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Some country and jazz. I like the older music. I’m not too much on the new stuff.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?

A. I went and lived and traveled in Australia back in 1981 and 82. I was there for about eight months. I met lot of nice people. Stayed with a lot of different types of people — people with moderate incomes, people with no money, people were just so friendly. The friends I made were just phenomenal.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. My business, like so many others has gone digital. Hearing aids are now digital. A hearing aid is nothing more than a computer now. It’s a computer we can manipulate according to a person’s lifestyle.