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The Power and Pleasure of Mentoring

Jan. 4, 2016
Teaching younger employees the ropes is more than just a fulfilling way to pay back the time your mentors spent with you. It’s also good business.

The recent news about the passing of Dick Noel, founder of NEMRA and the Equity Electrical Associates buying/marketing group, and David Weisberg, founder of Affiliated Distributors got me thinking about what wonderful mentors they have been for so many folks in the electrical industry.

Dick and David were shining examples of the Greatest Generation. Neither was a giant in physical stature, but both were entrepreneurial giants in the industry who had immeasurable impact on generations of industry executives.

I was lucky to get to know both of them. Dick was a mischievous rabble rouser and a mad genius who was always cooking up all sorts of new business ventures.  Along with founding NEMRA and Equity, he founded a rep firm, distributor, executive search firm for the electrical market, and several other ventures.

David was a classy and kind Philadelphia gentleman who built AD into one of the most powerful marketing organizations the distribution world  has ever seen. While building AD into a multi-billion dollar buying/marketing group in several different product niches, he helped dozens of family-owned independent distributors pool their purchasing power to compete with the national chains and taught them the marketing and operational skills they needed to run profitable family-owned businesses. He was a renaissance man who had a broad pallet of interests, including sculpture, architecture, tennis, travel, reading, sailing, his beloved grandchildren, succession planning, and volunteering in the inner city to help underprivileged Philadelphia youths.

While Noel and Weisberg were very different, they had the same innate curiosity about and infectious love for the electrical industry. It made them wonderful mentors and fascinating conversationalists.

They led by example, and I learned by watching how they worked a room or lobby at an industry event and how they treated everyone with the same courtesy and respect, whether it was a waitress in a restaurant or the CEO of a multi-billion-dollar electrical business.

You don’t have to be a giant in the electrical wholesaling industry like David or Dick to make a difference as a mentor to employees at your company. And what you teach them doesn’t necessarily have to be all that profound. You can make your mark by teaching younger employees even the most basic job skills, like how to prepare for a sales call, dress appropriately or handle customer complaints.

It’s also important to be receptive to mentoring from your younger co-workers because you can learn from them, too. During a recent chat with Rob Fisher, vice president of marketing for Madison Electric Products, Bedford Heights, Ohio, we talked about how he likes to pick the brains of Madison’s millennial employees and how much one bright, young employee recently taught him how the younger generations use social media tools like Snapchat, Vine and Instagram.

Mentoring is more than a business paradigm. It gives you the opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s career and to teach younger employees skills they can one day pass along to the next generation, and hopefully help perpetuate the health of your business. That’s a win-win for everyone.