So You Want To Be President?

What it takes to make it in this industry.

As the Baby Boomer generation nears retirement, GAWDA companies across the nation are looking to fill the management void left behind upon their retirement. Many of these companies are fortunate enough to be family-owned, which often makes choosing a replacement to run the company easier. However, the current younger generation that someday will be running these businesses first needs to prove that it is up to the challenge. Take a look at some of the steps young professionals are taking to position themselves for a top executive role.

Erich HaunErich Haun, 22, Branch Manager,
Haun Welding Supply

Haun Welding Supply (Syracuse, NY) was started by Erich Haun’s great grandfather more than 60 years ago. It has been passed down from generation to generation, and Erich plans to take over when his father, President Mark Haun, retires. While Erich predicts that this won’t be for at least another 10 years, he already has begun to prepare for a position at the top of the company. “My father took over when he was in his early 30s, and I hope to do the same when he retires,” says the 22-year-old branch manager. “It’s a huge responsibility, but I’m up to the challenge.”

In order to prepare for a presidential role, Haun will be managing one of the company’s branches. “I’m getting more experience with management and getting to know our customer base—who they are, what they do and how to go after them.” His prior management experience comes from a small painting company he started while attending the University of Vermont.

“Operating a branch is a great way to learn how things work,” Haun says. “I realize it is a lot different going from branch manager to running the entire company because the president is no longer dealing with customers day in and day out. He’s dealing with vendors, larger customers and suppliers. Not to mention employees. But people are people; it’s just a different set of people I’ll be interacting with.”

Two of Haun Welding Supply’s more seasoned veterans, Branch Manager Warren Kelly, and VP of Finance Jeff Salinger are working with Haun to help him learn more about managing the company’s financials. “The most crucial thing I hope to learn is how to continue to grow the business,” Haun says. “We need to continuously reach out to new customers and attract new business.”

Haun is looking forward to the opportunity to implement his experience and help the company continue to flourish. “I’m a big picture person,” he says. “I’m excited to be able to plan on a macro level and ensure the company’s continued success.”

Mike Ripple JrMike Ripple Jr., 32, Operations
Manager, Advanced Gas and Welding

Mike Ripple Jr. is the oldest of three Ripple brothers who work at their father’s company, Advanced Gas and Welding (Eastlake, OH). It is Mike’s plan to stay with the company as long as possible and hopefully take over when his father, Mike Ripple Sr., decides to retire. “He wants to retire and hand the company over to his kids,” Ripple says of his father. “And I hope someday I’m able to grow it even larger and make it even more successful than it is now.”

For Ripple, one of the most important factors in running his family’s business is experience. He has worked in nearly every position at the company and knows the roles of all the employees. “A lot of knowing how to run this place is just being here every day,” he says. “I’ve been with the company since it was founded in 2000. I know how things work.”

Ripple would, however, like to learn more about the legal aspects of running a business. In order to do that, he is considering going back to school and taking some more courses in finance and management. He does, however, have an excellent teacher in his father. “Dad and I see each other every day and working close with him is showing me a lot of the things that need to be done to run this company.”

Gases and Welding Distributors Association