Building a leadership bench is no easy task. Valued employees should be recognized and promoted from within, but what do you do if they aren’t quite qualified for the position? This is a common dilemma in many companies, and it means it’s time to evaluate the company career pathway. Employees are hired because they have the skills and knowledge for the vacant position, and some of those employees are standouts with potential. We see their proficiency, but we also recognize their need for guidance to become successful leaders.

ASA member Hirsch Pipe & Supply,  based in Van Nuys, California, has been experiencing rapid growth and realized it needed additional regional managers to increase coverage and manage new branch operations. The new regional manager positions weren’t yet officially open, but the distributor would need staff ready to hit the ground running and manage “the Hirsch way” once a position became available. Seeing this need on the horizon, and knowing it had great employees with high potential, Hirsch decided to proactively create the necessary career pathway to regional management, and prepare its future team to deploy. “Constant development and improvement is built into the culture here at Hirsch, and nothing is more important to me than promoting from within and building a bench of qualified employees ready to take this company to the next level,” explains Bill Glockner (BOLD), Hirsch President and CEO.

Charged with this challenge, the CEO, director of organizational development, and the regional management/branch operations team formed a task group to fully evaluate its current situation, future goals and construct its solution. The team developed a plan to create a comprehensive leadership development program with several preparatory phases to promote senior branch managers into regional management. With the desire to enhance leadership skills for its high-potentials, Hirsch decided to embrace the Master of Distribution Management program offered through ASA University as part of its educational ladder.

The Master of Distribution Management (MDM) program is a five-phased leadership development program with an advanced version for experienced managers. MDM fit perfectly into the plan the task group created: MDM aligned with its goals and management philosophy, heightened its tactical goals, and furthered its culture to educate and promote from within. MDM offered innovative ways to strengthen competencies that Hirsch and other employers look for in their leadership:

  • Strategic decision-making
  • Delegating responsibility and follow-up
  • Planning and organizing
  • Improving communication
  • Building trust and gaining commitment
  • Coaching and developing others
  • Managing conflict
  • Technical and professional skills

MDM was chosen as a prerequisite for a regional management position as part of the individualized development plan for each of its “Regionals in training,” explains Steve Shipley, Hirsch’s associate director of branch operations. “ASA’s knowledge of our industry provides a unique value to every student, at every level. There are only a few options when it comes to providing educational opportunities through the lens of wholesale distribution. The difference for us is the involvement of the membership in the course development, which helps to apply a ‘real world’ environment to the training.”

For Hirsch employees, MDM offered the confidence-building training that was needed to develop the desired management styles and capabilities, support from within the company with a mentor/mentee relationship, and the structure to showcase their newfound skills and effective strategy execution with a final Capstone project. Additionally, the program offered the “RITs” the flexibility to learn at their own pace without interfering with the demands of daily duties.

Hirsch MDM candidates continue to grow professionally, with 7 MDM participants and 4 graduates of the program to date. Roger Stauffer, San Diego area manager for Hirsch and MDM graduate,  “One of the greatest things I learned through the MDM program was delegation. The philosophy of ‘think, analyze and delegate’ has made me a better, more successful manager.” Roger continues with advice for current and future leaders: “MDM is a great refresher for those who have been in the industry a while, but also offers new perspectives. The program will help get you to where you want and/or need to be to reach that next level. I would recommend MDM to everyone.” Hirsch has successfully implemented its internal pathway for regional management which continues to meet the needs of the business. MDM has proven to enhance leadership skills of participants for both project and people management, as well as help enhance its culture of trust, know-how and growth.