From College Classroom to Executive

I recently sat in the audience as our vice president of sales accepted the Young Alumni Achievement Award from his alma mater (and mine), the University of North Dakota. That evening several of Jonathan Warrey’ s friends, family and colleagues made it a point to tell me how much he enjoyed working for Marco. They went on to give me more credit than I probably deserve for leading a successful company. I responded, “Running a business is a team sport – Jonathan and our other executives play as much of a role in the success of our company as I do.”

Gary_Jonathan_Jeff_revisedI know this is almost cliché, but it really is about having the right people who get up every morning focused on their role and executing the plays. When each of us performs well, we see the results as a company.

As I listened to Jonathan’s well-delivered acceptance speech, I could not help but be proud and think about how he developed as a leader. Jonathan came to Marco right out of UND in 1996, enthusiastic and focused, like so many college grads.

Jonathan has been able to leverage and apply his intelligence and charismatic personality throughout his career. But his character is the foundation of his leadership success. He has a strong faith, steadfast commitment to family and gives back to his community as much as he gives to our company. In Jonathan’s case, it was apparent to me that his character comes from his strong family and good upbringing. Character is just one of the promotable behaviors I talked about in a previous blog.

Organizations can intentionally seek out and help grads become great leaders. Here are a few ways we get results:

  • Get connected with your local colleges and universities.
    The key is finding top talent right out of college – or while in college. We regularly connect with college administrators, instructors and professors for recommendations on who they view as top talent that might be a good fit for Marco. A good example of this is our relationship with
    Dr. Elbert, dean of the business college at UND, who helped Marco recruit Jonathan in 1996 and me two decades earlier. I know this is something many people talk about doing, but I challenge you to really do it.
  • Practice consistent and intentional mentoring.
    If you look at most successful leaders, they can always identify multiple mentors that positively impacted their careers. A lot of the responsibility is on the individual to seek out the best mentors for them and apply what they learn. However, we also need to do our part to effectively use and align mentors with people we identify as emerging leaders. This is an area that I actively participate in either by mentoring young professionals myself or making sure they are matched with another leader. I think we’re pretty good in this area but have plenty of room for improvement.
  • Promote attainable career paths.
    It’s important to help emerging leaders develop an executable career plan. As you probably already know, this is easier said than done. Often times, they will already have a personal career plan because they know where they are going. However, you do need to be actively engaged with these identified individuals and look for opportunities to reward their performance. As CEO, I feel it is my personal responsibility to be active in the leadership development in our company.

We have a philosophy of promoting from within the organization. This often starts by hiring and mentoring aspiring college grads of which Jonathan is just one example at Marco. I’m proud of our track record of successfully developing leadership. It has served us well in the past, and it will hopefully be my legacy one day.

Topics: Leadership, Recruiting