Guest Column

Keith Untitled 1Our Future Belongs to the Young

I’m more a fan of Fox News than I am of network TV news, but it was on NBC Nightly News where I recently saw a segment hosted by former anchor, Tom Brokaw. It was called “America at the Crossroads,” and it dealt with the shift away from manufacturing jobs in this country.

The story’s focus was the greater Cincinnati, Ohio area, which had lost approximately 25 percent of its manufacturing jobs over the last few decades. During the same week, our industry announced that Midwest Wheel was celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Wow, what a contrast between those two stories.

As I was reading the Midwest Wheel announcement, I jokingly asked my business partner, “What do you think Stone Truck Parts is going to look like in 93 years when we’re 100?”

I was expecting him to say he’s not going to be around to worry about it. But his response was, “if we didn’t hire some younger guys to replace us, we wouldn’t have to worry about it anyway 10 years from now, much less 93.” Good point.

A question we were asked during last year’s Truck Parts & Service Distributor of the Year process was “What were some of the biggest challenges facing the industry.” I believe one of those challenges comes down to keeping the pipeline full of quality young people who ultimately will replace those of us who are “graying out” — like yours truly.

We’ve been fortunate to have several bright young adults who will be key players in our future.

And if we can’t find them, we have to grow them. Whether you live in the Rust Belt, on the West Coast or in a high tech area — like we do in this part of central North Carolina — we have a more attractive industry than we did a decade ago.

Foreign competition or a dot-com craze isn’t going to take jobs away in the independent aftermarket.

Our industry is not a fad; it’s here to stay, and it’s full of wonderful people. It’s a tough job and full of challenges, but I don’t remember hearing anyone grumble about it not being rewarding.

One of our challenges is to communicate this point to the younger set who may want to work for us.

We, at Stone Truck Parts, have been fortunate to have several bright young adults who will be key players in our future.

Two of the young men working for us had successful college football careers and played on the winning 2003 Gator Bowl team. We profiled one of them recently in our company newsletter, Connections.

He’s currently in outside sales and doing very well for a rookie. I couldn’t have made up his quote that we used in the article if I tried.

When our editor asked him how he was doing with a little more than a year under his belt, he said: “I know I still have a lot to prove. I’m learning to sell myself, sell my company and sell our products. But this is a good career for a young person. It’s the most fun and happiest I’ve been since I’ve played football.”

Not sure if we’ll match Midwest Wheel’s longevity, but with attitudes like that, maybe our young kids can give it a shot.

Keith McLemore is a partner in Stone Truck Parts, headquartered in Garner, N.C.

He also is the 2010 Truck Parts & Service Distributor of the Year.

The views expressed in the Guest Editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of Truck Parts & Service magazine.

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