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Presidential Perspectives on Mentoring

As the old saying goes, no man is an island. Nowhere is that truth more evident than in the material handling industry. This isn’t a field that can be conquered alone. To grow and succeed in the material handling industry it helps to lean on industry veterans for guidance.

To find out more about the importance of mentoring MHEDA Edge talked to some people who know a thing or two about making it in material handling—a group of MHEDA past presidents. Every single one of them had someone who helped them learn the industry, and now they are all able and willing to return the favor. So remember, there are people in the industry willing to help, but it’s up to you to ask!

John CosgroveJohn Cosgrove

Atlantic Handling Systems, 2007 MHEDA President
Mentor: Ray Reckenwalt  

“When I started in the industry the mentoring I received was key to my success. I was fortunate enough to learn from Ray Reckenwalt of Dexion, who was a 30-year veteran of the industry. He was able to teach me the technical aspects of selling rack and material handling equipment. Now I feel a responsibility to help mentor the younger generation; in fact, that was one of the reasons I got involved with the MHEDA Board in the first place. I just hope to help younger people realize how much integrity matters, the foundation of our industry has always been that we hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

Dave GriffithDave Griffith

Modern Group, 2005 MHEDA President
Mentors: George Wilkinson, Al McCully

“When I went to work for Modern in 1992 there were two people there who really helped me out—George Wilkinson and Al McCully, both former MHEDA presidents. They impressed upon me the importance of paying close attention to the financial issues of running your business. Joining MHEDA was another great resource for me. I was able to build great relationships with quite a few people. Now, I’m not that old yet, but of course I still feel a responsibility to help out the younger people in the industry. I try to spend time talking, listening and affording opportunity. Sometimes I have even found that letting folks fail, if it’s not fatal, can help. Sometimes scar tissue is the best teacher. Most importantly I hope to teach them that they need to wear muddy boots—you can’t run a business without being in the field.”

Mike RomanoMike Romano

Associated Material Handling, 2002 MHEDA President
Mentor: Steve Gutman

“I came over to the industry from a CPA firm, so I had some learning to do—fortunately, I had a good teacher. Steve Gutman, the owner of company at the time, taught me about everything from the inner workings of the industry itself to the importance of product knowledge, and of course he made sure I understood how important customer service is. I think what the next generation of our industry has to be able to do is find and define their role within their own organization. Then use that to help drive the strategic direction of your business. And as always, remember the golden rule—treat customers, both internally and externally, the way you would like to be treated.”

Tim HiltonTim Hilton

Carolina Handling, 2000 MHEDA President
Mentor: Don Pratt

 I was the commercial banker for Carolina Handling for 5 years before the owner, Don Pratt, asked me to join the company. In my heart I knew it was the right thing to do, Don was a fair man who made sure that the people who gave themselves to help the company were taken care of. He was also an unselfish man. He reinvested his money into the company so it could grow and prosper—which in turn created opportunities for others. Now that I am in the leadership position, I try to instill the same principles in my employees that Don instilled in me. I try to show them that they can have great success by knowing that they are only as good as the people with which they surround themselves and the experiences they take from their profession. It’s important to learn from mistakes, but then move forward always remembering the lessons you learned.”

Ken MacDonaldKen MacDonald

M&G Materials Handling Company, 2001 MHEDA President
Mentors: Walt Geisenhainer, Daniel MacDonald

“I got my start in material handling at the age of 12 working for my father, M&G President Dan MacDonald. When I got older and wanted to learn more about the business side of the industry, I got advice from him and also from MHEDA President Walt Geisenhainer. Walt taught me everything he knew about about the operations side of the industry. They both taught me the benefits of tight financial controls—something that was crucial for me to learn. Now, the more experience I gain, the more important passing on my knowledge has become. For example, right now a lot of younger industry professionals are dealing with their first recession. I can remember my first recession and dealing with it was rather difficult. However, now after being through a few I know how to better manage one effectively—and that’s something I want to share.”

Jack PhelanJack Phelan

TriFactor, 2008 MHEDA President
Mentor: Gary Thompson

“When I started out working for OKI Systems, Gary Thompson was president and sales manager. He would advise me on how to proceed with my projects, and even though there were times I disagreed, he was usually right. Now that I am the president of my own company, I feel it’s my responsibility to ensure that anyone who wants to work hard and succeed knows they can come to me for encouragement as well as advice. There are many ways for the next generation to achieve their goals, but they’re all earned through hard work and persistence. I hope they learn by example and pay those lessons forward when they get the chance.”
Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

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