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My name is Jarod Hill and I’ve been an intern for VAMAC Inc., in Richmond, Va., for two years. While working here, I took classes at Reynolds Community College thanks to the help of VAMAC and scholarships offered to me by the Reynolds Foundation. The experience of working in business while studying business has benefited me in more ways than one.
First, I learned many business and economic terms/strategies that have helped me transition into my internship because of attending Reynolds. I never had the financial means to attend a university after graduating from Hanover High School, so the local community college was my only choice — one of the best choices I have made to date.
Because of my excellent business professors like Gerald Quirk, Pulane Lucas and Michael Kapral, I now understand the dynamics of VAMAC’s business and the terminology that comes along with it. I also learned many strategies and sayings from them. For starters, I wouldn’t be writing this paper if it wasn’t for my economics professor, Gerald Quirk. He not only taught us economics but how to market ourselves and have a successful future. My accounting professor, Michael Kapral, helped us with what to say during special situations in the workplace.
On top of all this knowledge, Reynolds continues to provide VAMAC with great associates. Many of the workers at VAMAC have taken classes at Reynolds. Without the knowledge I obtained from Reynolds, I do believe I would have had a tougher time transitioning into my internship.
With VAMAC, I have learned much about the wholesale plumbing industry. I have worked in both the corporate and warehouse settings. I even had a few interactions with the HR and IT departments (even teaching IT a few things about computers). In the warehouse, I learned firsthand the blue-collar side of the business. From pulling quick picks to packaging orders, I learned a lot about the products we sell, knowledge that I would not have obtained had I just worked in the office.
Working in the office and interviewing firsthand the leadership and the workers at corporate, I learned much about how VAMAC operates its business. Since VAMAC is a member of the Plumbing Buying Group, it partners with vendors and other companies to save and receive the best products at the lowest cost. With delivery trucks to supplies acquired, VAMAC Inc has continued to survive even through constant competition and times of stress.
I think the greatest factor VAMAC holds over its competition is customer service and the way it does business, two of the company’s four core values. It strives to be on top of problems and shows complete integrity throughout every level of the company. The two other core values are family and shared prosperity, two values I experienced firsthand. VAMAC truly is a second family to me. From serving people after hours to receiving candy from an anonymous person, it has and will continue to be a family for me. VAMAC has helped me pay for college, a part of its shared prosperity core value. It invests in its employees so they can invest in VAMAC, a value I’ve learned in my economics class as well.
I interviewed top leadership and employees at the company and learned many valuable lessons in business that I will carry to my future career and classroom discussions. While interviewing Chris Perry, VAMAC’s CEO and president, I learned that running a family business is both rewarding and challenging. Customers tend to trust a company with family values over a company with just a board of directors. They know they are dealing with someone who has their best interests in mind.
The biggest problem, however, is the drama that comes along with a family business. People who want to keep moving up the ladder can feel like they can no longer move up because a family member has that position. It can result in well-trained associates leaving the company. Chris has seen this problem and tries to provide the proper balance. And since VAMAC is a small corporation, it can easily adapt and overcome problems that would be major speed bumps for bigger companies.
Speaking to Ken Perry, chairman of the board, there’s not much bureaucracy compared to other competitors in the same industry. I also learned from interviews that employees appreciate the training for future leadership. Our lead accountant, Ian Smith, is thrilled he gets to work side by side with our CFO to strengthen him and guide him to his goal. Many companies do this and it’s a great way to create stars from within.
David Popek, COO, taught me much about people. People are the most important resource in a company. Yes, employees can make mistakes a few times but they get the job done. Without them, a company would cease to exist. A big problem with business, however, is communication, a problem Corbin Ensign, senior vice president, reiterated. Proper and timely communication at all levels is critical to get the job done.
To have the best employees possible, you not only have to elevate yourself but elevate others around you. Speaking to David, he told me how he was crushing sales figures in the past but received a bad review by his boss. It happened because instead of focusing on the team, he was focusing on himself. Teaming up with others to get the job completed is important business, especially in this modern age.
He also gave me three tips to always remember in my future career: there’s another approach to everything in life and business; there’s a way to say things and it’s usually not the first thing that would come to mind; and people shouldn’t be pushed into things they might be hesitant about. This is advice I’m sure I will use in the future.
We’ve all learned that hard work and determination are key to success but what we don’t learn is that we need to communicate these qualities to people in power. Yes, you can be the hardest worker in the office or warehouse but if you don’t communicate this to your supervisors, they may not notice. When you know the position you want, tell them what you’ve done, and let them know you are more than willing to learn about the position. They will see this initiative and hopefully take advantage of it.
Not only have I learned much about the industry, but I’ve also received helpful advice for my future path in business. I want to major in finance so I can become a CFO or an investment banker, and the perfect person to Interview was VAMAC’s CFO Rojer Lovejoy. He taught me that a life in finance is a life of learning. Finance is always changing due to new technologies and strategies.
I’ve also learned much about what I’m doing in accounts payable with my manager, Shelia Godsey. Shelia taught me much about AP but I’ve always wondered why and how we do business. Rojer got out a pencil and piece of paper and drew a diagram of the cycle that takes place between AP, purchasing and himself. Now I know what makes our purchasing different from other businesses like Walmart and the reason why.
My internship will end in a few weeks and I can’t help but reflect on the many people I’ve come to know and the knowledge I have been able to obtain. Using everything I’ve learned, I’ll be able to apply this information in my future classroom discussions at the University of Virginia and my future career in commerce.
Special thanks to Ken Perry, Chris Perry, Corbin Ensign, David Popek, Rojer Lovejoy, Shelia Godsey and Ian Smith for the interviews.
– By Jarod Hil