By Ben Hershey, 4Ward Consulting Group, LLC
Recently, a Pastor at our church, Morgan MacPherson, shared a teaching from the Book of James talking about how our Actions Speak Louder. Though there was a lot of “meat on the bone” from what he shared, one of the additional thoughts I brought home was how important our actions are as leaders in the building industry.
Our industry has a variety of leaders – from those providing raw material, supplies, and services to those who distribute products to our customers, the builders, developers, and general contractors. But one of the important leadership functions that many of us should have is that of a mentor, putting our leadership to work for those who are entering or interested in our industry. A good example of this is the SBCA Emerging Leaders program, which was created to provide opportunities for the next generation of leaders in our industry to meet together, share ideas, and network with other next gen leaders. While the participants share their experiences and gain a deeper knowledge of the industry and SBCA, leaders in our industry also have an important opportunity to provide mentorship to many of these next gen leaders.
I have had the priviledge to mentor several individuals over the last few years; as a matter of fact, it is a cornerstone of why I started consulting and part of what each of the 4Ward team members provides to our customers. This year, I have the opportunity to mentor three individuals throughout the industry with one of them a part of the SBCA Emerging Leaders program. Just as important, many of my best friends are also mentoring individuals who are part of this program – Scott Ward, Steve Stroder, and Joe Hikel, among many others.
The Importance of Mentoring
I was very fortunate to have two incredible mentors in my development as a leader – my father, Don Hershey, who was one of the originals in our industry, and Andy Schwitter, the CEO of Truswal Systems. Both men provided me a foundation of knowledge that I was able to build upon, and through their leadership and example I was able to learn about the industry and what my role could be. I have always incredibly grateful for what both of them did for me, and their leadership example showed that their actions as leaders set the tone for who I am today. Other industries and associations are coming to terms with the importance of mentoring new leaders too, and I am glad SBCA has been at the forefront of this effort.
As a business owner and a leader, what are you doing to leave a lasting example for those who are our future leaders? The future leaders of both of our businesses and our association need our support and encouragement, and that applies whether we’re nearing retirement or planning to spend another few decades in our industry. It’s never too early or too late to start mentoring.
Here are ten reasons for being a mentor:
1. Mentors provide information and knowledge. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Many of the emerging leaders are starting out and have no idea what is involved in running a business, including making a business plan, budgeting, handling daily operations, making strategic decisions, or running a marketing campaign. As a mentor, you can provide this wealth of knowledge and shorten that (sometimes painful) learning curve.
2. Mentors have the perspective to see areas needing improvement. Movie maker George Lucas noted, “Mentors have a way of seeing more of our faults than we would like. It’s the only way we grow.” A good mentor will always be brutally honest and tell you exactly how it is rather than downplay any weaknesses they see.
3. Mentors find ways to stimulate personal and professional growth. The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves. A mentor should pose questions to think about and ask the person they are mentoring to come back with answers later.
A good mentor will also set various goals and then let them loose to see if they can accomplish them on their own, all the while watching from a distance to see how these projects help a mentee to develop. A good mentor will also focus on character and values, which nurture personal growth as well as leadership abilities. One of the things I will remember most from Andy Schwitter was how he had a good work-life balance. He was able to be very successful at work while still maintaining that his faith and family came first.
4. Mentors offer encouragement. A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself. They are there no matter what and offer moral support sprinkled heavily with cheerleading.
5. Mentors are disciplinarians who create necessary boundaries that we cannot set for ourselves. A good mentor knows the importance of tough love and how to use it. This tough love will help to solidify work ethic, sharpen focus, and clarify priorities in a way that a mentee could not do on their own.
6. Mentors are sounding boards to bounce ideas off for an unfiltered opinion. An emerging leader will have numerous ideas for all types of business ventures, products, and processes – but a mentor will help you see which ones have potential and why others are better left alone.
7. Mentors are trusted advisers. In the world of business, it can be hard to know who to trust – and that you can trust someone, especially with proprietary information or intellectual property.
8. Mentors can be connectors. Playing a dual role of teacher and connector, a mentor can provide access to those within the industry who are willing to offer their skills and expertise, introduce you to talent that can fuel your business, and help you get closer to your targeted goals.
9. Mentors have the experiences you can learn from (hopefully) to prevent making the same mistakes. Making mistakes is a part of like, but mentors can share their numerous mistakes so that others may be able to avoid some of the devastating effects without having to experience them personally.
10. Mentors are free, which makes them priceless in more ways than one. You may say that you have no time for mentoring another, but helping leaders move to the next level is probably more important than anything you will do. Indeed, it serves as a basis of the importance of our leadership actions.
There are several opportunities to get involved in industry efforts including SBCA Emerging Leaders – one of the best ways is to attend this year’s BCMC Show in Columbus. You’ll even be able to participate in activities which also raise money for scholorships to allow this next generation to be more involved. I have many more years if not a few more decades left before I will even think about retiring; why not join me in the effort to put our leadership into action through mentoring.
The entire 4Ward Consulting team has helped several hundred operations effectively increase lean efficiency while also mentoring/coaching leaders to empower their employees to lead them to success. As I’ve said, mentoring/coaching is one of the core principals for which we were founded, so if we can be of assistance to you and your team, please give us a call.
Ben Hershey is CEO of the 4Ward Consulting Group, LLC team. When the industry needs an actual expert, they turn to 4Ward Consulting Group team with more than 100 years of experience. 4Ward Consulting Group isthe leading provider of Management and Manufacturing Consulting to the Structural Component and Lumber Industry. A Past President of SBCA, Ben has owned and managed several manufacturing and distribution companies and is Six Sigma Black Belt Certified. Ben has provided consulting to hundreds of Component Manufacturers, Lumber Dealers, and Millwork Operations in the past seven years. You can reach Ben at ben@4WardConsult.com or 623-512-6770.
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