March 8, 2023
Second-act stories usually begin like this: the narrator, having accumulated considerable success and security with their current distributorship, bets it all on a new opportunity, leaving to plant their flag elsewhere. Yates Hudson wasn’t looking for a second act. After 32 years with the same company, he got one anyway. Yates owes his successful pivot to general manager at Phoenix Fastener & Supply, a division of Birmingham Fastener, to an interest in roles beyond the IT department for which he was hired fresh after graduation and networking outside the company. Jason chats with Yates about building a career in distribution one position at a time and cultivating meaningful relationships along the way.
“I'm probably one of those typical guys that started in the fastener business but didn't think he was gonna be in the fastener business,” laughs Yates. And he certainly didn’t expect to stick with the same company for over three decades, working his way around Copper State Bolt & Nut Co. until he landed in the c-suite. So, how did the kid from IT eventually become chief operating officer? Yates’ expertise made him a valuable asset to almost every other department and helped him avoid the IT silo. “There was always exciting little tidbits that would come up work-wise that kept me interested.” From sales to branch manager to finance, Yates found endless opportunities at Copper to match his curiosity. “The people in the industry kept me around because you developed friendships not only with the company where you're working but [also] the folks you're working with, whether internal or external.”
Of course, even firmly entrenched COOs will tell you that all good things come to an end. “There was 32 years there, good years,” Yates recalls without bitterness. “I learned a lot. I developed a lot of friendships. But, with privately-held organizations, If you're not the guy that owns the company, you're expendable.” While an MBA and work experience paved the way for his successful second act, it’s the connections––via trade organizations, mentorships, and groups unrelated to his career––that have enriched Yates’ professional and personal development. “I was blessed with the way things happened,” he says, adding that the departure opened doors he hadn’t realized existed, all because he’d taken the time to listen and learn from folks around him, then return that favor over and over again.
Pacific-West Fastener Association
“Fortunately for me, relationships that have been developed, those are the really important things. You can develop technical expertise, you can develop a lot of things that people focus on. But the relationships not only within your organization but outside the organization, that's really what's going to make your career.”
“The building could burn down, and you're needing to go find a new building. And if you're not able to transition, then you're gonna be stuck, and it's not gonna be a happy place.”
“People need to recognize that there are folks out there that want to see you do well and care about you just because you've developed a relationship or you've had some effect on their life. Those are people that are worth listening to.”
“You can either have the scarcity mentality that it's mine, mine, mine, I can't share, or you can go in with the attitude that I'm gonna make this better for all of us because it's a big world. It's a lot better doing it the capitalistic way, where you know, everyone's creating a path for good, or you can go and be managed by a government, which would not be that fun.”
“I enjoy the customer base, the fellowship that I have, the teammates. We're sharing things that we can do for each other that just benefit the whole team.”
“I thought I was retired last year. Now I'm not, but I'm not because it's just too fun not to be.”
Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth and achieve personal goals.
This episode was edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.
Special thanks to our sponsor for this episode: INxSQL Distribution Software, integrated distribution ERP software designed for the wholesale and distribution industry.