Marty Burbridge is retiring after 41 years at Crescent Electric Supply Company. I had the opportunity to work with Marty for over a decade, as my desk was about 25 feet away from his always-open office door. He is a mentor and friend to so many people in electrical distribution.
Reflecting on how to say thank you to him, I want to share the three biggest things I learned from Marty.
1. It’s more effective to be a “work with” versus a “work for” leader. If you spend any time on LinkedIn and social media, you will see all sorts of content about leading from the back of the pack, versus the front. I find that inspiring, but I also believe that many leaders talk a good game, but too often are just “work for” leaders.
Marty is not a “work for” guy. He started at the counter of a Crescent Electric Supply in Davenport, Iowa, and continued to advance in the company by being a “work with” leader.
He kept his door open, worked 12+ hours every day, has an amazing almost photographic memory and is present in every conversation. Every conversation with Marty involves direct eye contact at all times, treating everyone with respect — and truly listening to what they have to say.
He isn’t interested in telling you what he thinks, he wants to listen and learn to see if you have a better solution.
2. The Team, the Team, the Team. That famous quote from Bo Schembechler is something that Marty has lived. When you worked for Crescent, he didn’t just talk about the team, he showed you that the company’s success was more important than his own.
Marty and Jim Etheredge were general manager and CEO, respectively, when I first joined the company. In 2008, they switched roles where Marty became CEO and Jim became the CFO. Over roughly 20 years, Jim was the CEO for 10 years, and then Marty was the CEO for 10. For more than 20 years, they worked as a team, and each leader did what they were best at doing, with the objective of helping the company succeed.
I can’t think of many leaders that would be able to check their egos at the door in almost a co-leader role and put the team first like that. That is really living the “the Team, the Team, the Team.”
3. Focus on success. Two quotes from Marty’s retirement press release caught my attention:
“I have spent 41-plus years at Crescent Electric, and for the past few, I have focused very closely on where the organization is going and what we would need in leadership to make that happen,” Marty said.
I’m not a betting man, but I would bet the house on this quote being real. If you’ve met Marty, you know he has probably focused very closely with thousands of hours of work to put a leadership team in place for Crescent to be more successful than ever after he retires.
“The ongoing success of Crescent Electric is vitally important to me,” Marty said.
That single quote says it all to me about the leader that Marty is. The industry will miss his leadership, but I’m happy for him and his wife Linda to get onto their next chapter in life.
Thank you and Cheers to you, Marty. I hope that you will spend many happy retirement days with your grandkids looking them in the eye, treating them with respect and asking them what they think. I’ll bet you will get some great answers.
Gunderson is vice president of analytics and e-business at MDM. He has held senior distribution leadership roles in analytics, marketing, e-business, category management, pricing and sales over a 20-year career across multiple distribution product sectors. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.