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Recruiting and Retention Series: Carving out a Growth Path

Recruiting and Retention Series: Carving out a Growth Path

Seven years into his electrical distribution career, this tED 30-Under-35 winner is on a clear path to long-term success.


When J.D. Henigman left his position at Midwest Medical Supply seven years ago, he already had years of distribution experience under his belt and the desire to work for a firm where internal promotions and advancements were within reach. He found what he was looking for at Graybar, a company that had numerous locations (for geographic diversity) and opportunities for advancement.

“I was looking for growth opportunities, and already at the highest position that I’d be able to attain at the company I was working for,” says Henigman, branch manager for Graybar in Evansville, Ind. “I was getting feedback from management about how there weren’t going to be any growth opportunities for me going forward, so I started looking for something else.”

Wanting to stay in the warehousing and logistics field, where he already had five years of job experience, Henigman learned about Graybar and decided to apply for an open position in the distributor’s warehouse. The company was in the process of converting its St. Louis warehouse into a distribution center that would service several branches, and promoted Henigman to supervisory shortly after he joined the company.

“From there, I was promoted to district management trainee, where I was pulled from the warehouse and into the district office,” says Henigman. “There, I worked for the director of operations and the rest of the district staff. In that role, I learned about every aspect of our business—including sales, operations, HR, accounting, and finance.”

Clear Career Trajectory

When it came to the promotional opportunities that Henigman was focused on, Graybar certainly didn’t disappoint. His next stint would be as manager of customer service for the firm’s Springfield, Mo., location. He spent about 18 months in that position before being promoted to manager of customer service in Memphis. “That was a larger market,” he says, “and I stayed there for about 3-1/2 years before taking my current position as branch manager in Evansville.”

Pleased with the progress he’s made within the Graybar organization over the last seven years, Henigman says he particularly enjoys working with other team members at both the corporate and branch levels. “We’ve enjoyed some collective success and wins together,” he says, “and those accomplishments have obviously helped my own growth path in this industry.”

Henigman says his early decision to join Graybar was also based on the distributor’s status as a 100% employee-owned firm. “This is a major benefit and it’s great for the long-term,” says Henigman. “It’s also good for recruiting, and being 100% employee-owned you get a lot of buy-in and ownership from the whole team. Around here, we’re all about helping everyone grow, focusing in on customers, and being as successful as possible as a team.”

Mentoring Works

Right now, Henigman says his main focus is on building and cultivating the Evansville team, but he says he’s also thinking about his own next steps and succession planning—both of which are supported by his employer. “Graybar also has done a good job of developing succession plans for employees, and ensuring that everyone finds a position that’s a good fit,” says Henigman, who credits a handful of mentors from within the company with helping to fuel his own career trajectory.

“I’ve had several mentors—both on paper and off paper—that have been super helpful,” he explains, noting that he often “returns the favor” by sharing his own insights and advice with newer employees. “I try to do the same, particularly when it comes to other managers in other locations and with individuals who want to advance their own careers.”

A Winning Formula

Now tasked with finding and recruiting new employees for his branch, Henigman says the key selling points were the employee-ownership piece, the firm’s overall corporate culture—which is deeply rooted in solid teamwork—and a good work environment. “One thing that tends to get lost when you’re interviewing and recruiting employees is the focus on your group’s teamwork and work atmosphere,” says Henigman.

“When you’re recruiting and hiring, some things are negotiable—like salary and benefits,” he continues, “but when you can present an environment that centers both on organizational success and individual success, you wind up with a winning formula.”

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Bridget McCrea  is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.

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