This month's annual meeting of the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) in Atlanta marks a milestone of sorts for me personally. It will be my 20th NAED Annual.
Thinking about all of those meetings made me realize how many great mentors have been part of the electrical scene over those years. All of them walked through the hotel lobbies, conference sessions, 5-0-5 galas and other cocktail parties at the NAED Annual meetings over the years. From my earliest NAED Annual meetings, I have always enjoyed meeting the people I write about in Electrical Wholesaling or Electrical Marketing.
It hit me at a recent NAED conference just how many of the people who were always willing to share some of their insight into this great business aren't center stage in the industry anymore. People like: Chuck Guttadore, EMCORP; Bill Genne and Frank Higbie, Cutler-Hammer; Bernie Falk, NEMA; Jim Newton, Oakes Electric Supply/Sales Tech; Goody Gilman, Gilman Electric; John Moore, Moore Electric/Hughes Supply; Terry Hunt and John Myers, Houston Wire and Cable; Ron Kinney, All-Phase Electric; John Waltersdorf, Tristate Electrical Supply; Harry Ebert, Brohl and Appell; Bob Finley, Glasco Electric; George Ockuly, Bussmann; Jay Ziff, Mayer Electric; Frank Keller, I/O Corp.; Wayne Murphy, Westinghouse and Cutler/Hammer; Harvey Cohen, Square Electric; and Dick Dowhan and Norm Blake, Osram/Sylvania.
Then there are my mentors from Electrical Wholesaling's McGraw-Hill era who introduced me around the industry at these meetings early in my career: George Ganzenmuller, Tom Preston, Jerry Ryan, George Farley and Andrea Herbert.
Fortunately, some of my earliest mentors and industry friends are still tightly woven into the industry fabric — people like Dick Noel and Bob Snyder, Equity; Bill Elliott, Elliott Electric; Tom Latanision, now with Crescent Electric Supply; Jack Borkey, PEPCO; Hank Bergson, NEMRA; and David Weisberg, Affiliated Distributors.
I mention these mentors because they were always willing to share some of their vast insight into this great business in which we work. The impact they had in some way on my understanding of the electrical wholesaling industry reminds me of what Roy Williams, former (still hurts to say that!) coach of the University of Kansas Jayhawks basketball team, once said at a basketball clinic that two of my sons were attending. Williams said he always had all of his players work at his clinics because at some point in their basketball careers each had someone who turned them onto the game, and that he was giving the players the opportunity to do the same for some kid.
Time marches on in the electrical wholesaling industry. The NAED Annual is still a huge event each year for this business. But like association meetings in many industries, it has lost some of its luster. Consolidation, the prominence of buying/marketing group meetings, a sour economy, new industry opportunities for networking with peers, and different philosophies on the value and place for client entertainment have taken their toll.
During the 1980s, you could make a list of the people strolling through the conference booths or opening session of the NAED Annual and come up with a Who's-Who of the electrical industry. You can still do that it this year's NAED Annual, but it would be a smaller list.
Despite all of the changes in the electrical wholesaling industry, it's still a people business, and, much like Roy Williams' players, you have the opportunity to turn someone onto this game. It reminds me of a quote from the ancient Roman Lucan (A.D. 39 to 65) that I first heard in a college psychology class at the University of Maine: “Pygmies placed on the shoulders of giants see more than the giants themselves.”
If you have had a chance to enjoy a view of the electrical industry and would like to pass on what you have learned about the business, take the time to mentor someone in your company who's on the way up.