Editor’s Note: The Wholesaler magazine understands the future of the PHCP-PVF industry relies on attracting and retaining talent to our industry channel. What sets our industry apart from others in terms of making it a fulfilling career choice? How does the next generation of leaders think, respond and act? To answer these questions and find out more about what is in store for our future leaders, we are focusing a lens on the next generation — listening to their concerns, ideas and approach.
We start today by bringing you a spotlight from Jeremiah Jackson, a gentleman who has been in the PVF industry for several years. Jackson is a PVF contributor and a volunteer leader of the PVF Roundtable’s Young Professionals, as well as an organizer for its Pros Know: A PVFYP’s Leadership Seminar Series.
As a young professional in the PVF industry, I have noticed many topics pushed to the forefront over the past few years — the age gap in the workforce, social media strategies, how to recruit, hire and keep young talent, and the overused word of “culture.”
All these topics are relevant, but two words are much more important for the success of the younger generations coming up through the ranks in industrial PVF. Two words: real connections. In an over-indulged world of digital, we as young up-and-comers in this industry should focus on networking: meeting new people and developing genuine business relationships.
These relationships should have the foundation of adding value — to our organizations, to client organizations and personal relationships. Young professionals should focus on adding value at every turn. To accomplish this, we as an age group have to actively take the time to step out from behind email, text, social media and everything else that goes along with the smartphone era.
All these digital tools have much value and a place in the toolbox. However, much more important is making an effort to get out every day to foster current relationships or start new ones. Get uncomfortable! We all make time to check email or send a quick text; that should be the same way we approach networking. Not only networking but networking with a purpose. Basically, never eat alone, whether its lunch, dinner or a coffee break. Take time to learn about clients, coworkers, owners, warehouse crew and anyone else who is willing to spend time with you.
Over and over I meet young individuals in the industrial PVF industry who want flourishing careers but are unwilling to take the time to make real connections with the veterans in our field. I know, the usual excuses seem to pop up every time you plan on networking. I am too busy. I travel too much. I have so much going on right now. One conversation, one meeting or one phone call could alter your career path. You have to be willing to make the time to let these opportunities arise.
I have been asked many times what challenges the younger generation faces in industrial PVF. The answer is simple: making those real connections that last the test of time. This topic is not only true to the younger generations coming up through the ranks; it can also be said to the industry as a whole. As people spend more time on social platforms, the personal touch of business seems to be fading away.
Over my career, I have spent time with many successful entrepreneurs in industrial PVF and they all have one thing in common. They have real connections that go back years, sometimes decades. They made the time to get to know business partners, co-workers, competitors, manufacturers, end users — the list goes on and on.
Industrial PVF is a very tight-knit community with an almost family-like feel. So as a young person, you have to take time to work on the skills of communication and public speaking. Take time to practice meeting people. Don’t be intimidated walking into a room of successful business folks. At one time they, too, were exactly in your shoes.
To the older generations in our industry, take time to talk to the young guns. Also, take time away from “what you have done for years” and try something new. Try something new in business. Take an idea from a young gun in your organization and implement it with your staff or leadership team.
Some of the struggles young professionals have is they feel as if they are seen and not heard. Leadership in their respective organizations has used the same business practices for years and that is the way it will stay. The business climate changes every month, it seems, and the younger generation will be crucial to the success of all business, not just in our industry. Embrace it, give them a voice, have them present an idea to leadership to create business or optimize a process. You will be amazed if you take the time to do this.
In the sense of new business ideas, marketing, processes, operations and networking, be creative. In the past, our industry has provided golfing, hunting, fishing and cocktail hour events. Although these are great opportunities to network, nothing beats getting to really know someone at a weekend retreat — say fishing or hunting or team building for a weekend.
Be creative in getting folks together for networking, not only outside your organization but inside is just as important. Team building within an organization can change the entire culture, energy, attitude and pride.
From a young professional perspective, it is hard to get out and network, so the creativity and length of the event are crucial. Also, the event should add value to the attendees and organizers.
Some ideas for creative networking are:
Mastermind groups. A group of employees or industry professionals get together away from phones and computers once a week to brainstorm on new ideas and topics of interest.
Mentorship programs. Team up veterans and younger generations within your organization. Schedule times for them to discuss specific topics.
Sales meetings (away from the office). These meetings with your sales team away from the office for breakfast — when the mind is fresh — can be very productive.
Exercise group. It could be internal or external. Meet clients for a workout, cycle, walk or any other appropriate physical fitness activity.
Conference or business retreat. A getaway for a weekend — some play, a lot of work! Once again, focus on getting away from the distractions to generate fresh ideas and build genuine relationships.
Real connections are the future of our industry, no matter the age. Make networking and fostering these relationships a priority in your business and organization.