Learning To Lead

Erich HaunEven though I work for my family’s company, I still had to put in my time to get where I am today. As a future branch manager, I spend my days apprenticing at Haun Welding Supply’s Queensbury (Glens Falls), New York, branch studying the tricks of the trade. Having grown up around the company, I’m familiar with daily operations. I’ve also lived most of my life in a house full of Haun employees (my family), so dinner conversation has typically revolved around shop talk.

As a kid, I was always helping out around our Syracuse, New York, shop and watching how the company works. Later, when I was in school at the University of Vermont, I spent a summer working in our warehouse—shipping and receiving, filling orders and helping out wherever I could. This experience allowed me to get to know the people here, and good relationships are an essential part of this industry.

After the summer in the warehouse, I decided I wanted some management experience. I spent the next three summers in Vermont running a painting company while attending classes during the school year. After my first summer with the painting company, I was promoted to executive manager of Vermont, with 35 people working for me. That, more than anything else, prepared me for a management role.

I came back to Haun after graduation with that management experience under my belt. Even though I’ve been around the company for years, I never hesitate to ask questions. I’ve learned that it’s best to admit I don’t know an answer and ask for help rather than trying to fake it. I always want to make sure I’m recommending the best products to customers and getting them what they need; and if that means going to a vendor or someone who’s been here longer than me, then that’s what I do.

At 22 years old, I’m younger than a lot of workers I’ll be managing, which makes it crucial to gain their respect and trust. My painting business taught me the importance of maturity in a manager. Employees typically thought I was much older than I was. Some even asked me out for a beer when I was only 18 (they thought I was 24)!

The way you handle yourself around employees is especially important for a young manager because your employees need to respect you, trust you and have confidence in you as a leader. In the end, a good manager creates a positive work environment and instills confidence in employees, and that’s what I try to do every day.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Erich Haun Meet the Author
Erich Haun is the fourth generation of his family to work at Haun Welding Supply (Syracuse, NY). He began by doing odd jobs around the shop when he was 10 years old and now, at 22, he is preparing for a position as branch manager. Haun attended the University of Vermont, where he earned a degree in business administration before rejoining the Haun team in April 2009.