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Blog: Finding and Hiring the Right People

By Jack Keough

In the past few weeks you’ve read some excellent tips on the home page of tEDmag.com on where to find talent in the upcoming years. There have been excellent suggestions made on how social media, for example, can be used to find new employees.

There are also unconventional means as I have learned from interviewing CEOs from distributorships across the country during the past 30 years.  Please note, as I said that these are, indeed, unconventional.

A CEO of one of the largest industrial distributorships in the country told me what characteristics he looks for in finding new employees,

“Discipline,” he said s emphatically. He said he specifically looks for college graduates who have had experience playing on sports teams. “Think about it” he said. “If a young guy or woman has to go to practice every day and work collectively as part of a team, he or she is going to be a good employee. What does our company emphasize?  Collaboration and teamwork.”

Another benefit from people involved in sports or some other type of similar activity is that they’re born competitors. “Generally they don’t like to lose and they make great salespeople because they have such a competitive spirit whether it’s on the sports field or calling on customers.”

A top executive at IBT, one of the largest power transmission companies in the country, once told me that he looks for talent everywhere he goes. I happened to be sitting near this executive at a resort during a convention  and he noticed how one of the hotel’s employees went the extra mile for customers, making sure they had everything they need. He did it all with a smile and an efficient manner.

He called the young man over, asked about his background and schooling then gave him his business card. He asked if he’d like to be interviewed for a job back at IBT headquarters. When I questioned the executive later he said he’s always on the lookout for prospective employees.

Several years ago I interviewed Dean and Ray Gross the founders of Transply Inc., a very successful distributorship in Pennsylvania and they described to me a unique approach they had to hiring: They often hired relatives of existing employees.

In fact, I recall that 28 employees of the company were spouses, brothers, and sisters  of existing employees. “These employees already were good ones. They weren’t going to recommend anyone who they didn’t believe could do the job. We’ve had excellent success with hiring their relatives.”

One of the problems for distributors is getting the message out that our industry is exciting and offers an excellent career opportunity for new graduates.

I remember the CEO of a manufacturing company posting two jobs. One was for a tool and die maker. He got two responses. The other was for a financial position. He got 200 respondents.

So what are we doing to promote our industry?

Fortunately there are some excellent programs for identifying new talent and bringing them into the distribution business., such as the Industrial Career Pathways Program, sponsored by several trade associations and groups. ICP has even started an ambassadorial program to help students learn about distribution.

Jim Murrell, ICP  an ambassador from Ashburn Chemical (Houston, Texas) and member of the Industrial Supply Association,  recently  worked with Jason Clark, an instructor with the Pasadena, Texas Independent School District, to introduce students to the field from both the distribution and manufacturing perspectives.

Murrell and Clark arranged for a group of 15 students to visit four companies, including a central distribution facility in Houston owned by Graybar, the giant electrical distributor.

They also visited  Drago/Motion Supply – a regional industrial MRO distributor, Houston Bearing and Supply and Axon Energy – a manufacturer and distributor of oilfield products

There were two separate trips, and the group visited two companies on each day. Murrell planned the discussion sessions at each of the stops and they went on a walking tour of each facility.

Murrell noted, according to an ICP release: “The students loved the opportunity to see first-hand the things that are involved in the manufacturing and distribution of industrial products. They came away with a much greater understanding of industrial distribution as a field and the many opportunities available for careers in the field. The students were extremely interested and asked great questions. I think we sparked a lot of interest in careers in industrial distribution.”

Distribution is a great business and it still might be considered industry’s best kept secret. But with programs like this maybe the message is getting out.

Jack Keough was the editor of Industrial Distribution magazine for more than 26 years. He often speaks at many industry events and seminars. He can be reached at john.keough@comcast.net or keoughbiz@gmail.com

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