Starting a New Journey

Jim Bursch, Senior Vice President, Group Publisher & Editorial Director, CSP

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You read a lot today about the next generation hav­ing unrealistic expectations as they transition from college to the real world. They make demands about vacations or expect promotions before they’ve proven themselves. Some experts claim that this generation (and the one before) have been spoiled, coddled and praised for average efforts or talents and simply don’t know what it’s like to work hard and earn your way.

The mantra when I was raising my kids was to make sure everyone felt good about themselves. They got trophies for simply showing up, regardless of whether they had any talent. Failure was a bad word that we had to protect them from; otherwise we might risk ruin­ing their self-esteem or confidence. A friend of mine who runs HR for a large corporation claims that this as much as anything is why today’s newly graduated college kids can’t find jobs and return to the nest.

I have been reflecting on this con­versation, and maybe evening grading my own parenting/mentoring skills, as my oldest is getting ready to graduate college and transition to the next stage of her life. I like to think that Alex is one who figured it out and listened to some of my ramblings. She is a bright, diligent go-getter, motivated to make her own mark in the world.

Don’t get me wrong—there were times when we didn’t see eye to eye as I tried to instill in her the values I grew up with, that life is not fair and that if you want something, you have to work hard, and that values such as honesty and integrity are far more important than winning at all costs.

There were many times she didn’t think Dad was that smart about the ways of the world, and she ignored my advice or sought someone else’s guidance. Then when she got to college, she discovered that I was a genius and wondered how I got so smart in such a short period of time.

Like most parents, I made mistakes, spoiled them, lost my temper, didn’t listen well enough or missed important milestones. But I’d like to think that I worked on those shortcomings over the years and found the right balance, providing her (and also my son) with a good role model. Many of the attributes of parenting and raising kids—such as listening, communicating clearly and knowing when to push or praise them, or let them fail—come into play in lead­ership roles.

Like my daughter, I’m transitioning to another stage in my career at CSP. Over the past 15 years, I’ve had the good fortune of working alongside two great leaders and visionaries of our industry: Paul Reuter and Drayton McLane. My role, as Drayton said when he asked me to join CSP, was to develop a team, build relationships with the supplier community and drive sales to reach our ultimate goal of being No. 1. Paul is one of the best idea guys in the business, so he would drive the vision, and my role (along with my team’s) would be to execute.

As with my daughter, we did not always agree or see eye to eye. We would passionately argue, and at times I might have thought I knew more about taking the business to the next level. But in the end their vision, drive, guidance and pushing me to do more than I thought I could made me a better leader and played a role in CSP’s success.

As Paul is transitioning to the next stage in his life and I’ve assumed some of his roles (this column being one, which we will share), CSP is embark­ing on the next phase of our journey. I certainly don’t pretend to be the next Paul or Drayton, but I’ve had the good fortune to learn from the best. I hope some of that wisdom stuck, and I can offer some new ideas and vision in the years ahead. Those same values I grew up with and I tried to instill in my kids are even more relevant today. I still continue to learn every day, and I’ve never been afraid of hard work and a challenge.

So like the next generation of leaders we are profiling in this month’s cover story, I feel obligated not to let them (or you) down, and to continue to take CSP to a whole new level in the years ahead. As Allison Moran, the new CEO of Race­Trac, says, “There’s no cruise control in the industry.” So it’s full speed ahead in 2013!

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