YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – What career did you envision when you were growing up? Who were your mentors, the leaders you learned from – those in your family and hometown, perhaps, or leaders you only met through books, history and current events?
The Brain Gain Youngstown Leadership Podcast Series poses these questions to a wide range of local leaders in 30-minute interviews conducted by Jeff Leo Herrmann, CEO of the Youngstown Publishing Co.
The series launched Sept. 9 and is available at our website under the Content Studio tab at BusinessJournalDaily.com/podcasts. The podcasts are also available on Spotify and soon will be available via iTunes, Amazon, Google Podcasts and Stitcher.
Subscribe so you don’t miss an episode. What follows is a sampling of what you’ll hear:
Entrepreneur at a Young Age
Jim Tressel became an entrepreneur when he was in fourth grade, learning lessons for life when he committed to a newspaper delivery route, first for the Cleveland Press and then for the Plain Dealer.
“I wanted to emulate what I saw, and I saw a household that worked extremely hard, that was innovative in its own way, service oriented for sure,” says the president of Youngstown State University.
“We talk about the voids in our society right now that might be causing some of the biggest problems, and everyone wants to debate what they think is a systemic problem. In my mind, the biggest systemic problem is the parenting void.
“I was fortunate. I had a hardworking, selfless set of parents. Had two older siblings who were hardworking, great models. I read once somewhere that the only way that the human is capable of truly learning is through example. I had example.
“The group that I worry about the most are [children] who don’t have an example at home. …That’s the biggest challenge that we have in education. Can we fill the gap with the lack of models and examples we have for our youth? That’s my biggest worry.”
Found His Career Path Early
Kevin Helmick says he knew what his career would be “early on … probably by seventh or eighth grade.”
The president and CEO of Farmers Bancorp “had a mother who was a banker,” he begins. “I had a father who invested in the stock market to help us go to college. I knew I wanted to do something in finance. … I was fortunate enough to have parents that invested in me at an early age not only monetarily but also educationally.”
Helmick grew up in Fowler Township, graduated from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., where he played on the baseball team, then earned his MBA from Case Western Reserve University.
“Out of college, when I entered the workforce, I worked for a bank, Security Dollar Bank in Niles,” which Farmers purchased in 2000. I was able to bring our wealth management group over from Security Dollar Bank into Farmers, which didn’t have wealth management [services] at the time,” Helmick says.
“Early on, I don’t think I had that crisp understanding of decision-making and made decisions off the cuff or by trusting my instincts rather than using the best people I had around me, and [gaining] a better understanding of the decision-making process.
“There are mistakes that I made … Those are great learning lessons.”
Hands-on Leadership Lessons
“As a young person, I always aspired to be in the restaurant industry,” says Art Daly. “I loved everything about that industry. Learned about it, read about food, how to cook, how to do things.”
Daly, senior vice president for the Youngstown Campus of Eastern Gateway Community College, worked for the original Quaker Steak and Lube in Sharon, Pa., after graduating from college. “What a great place to learn! [The owners] were very innovative, very cutting edge on a lot of the things that they did,” he remembers.
Daly moved on to positions with the Olive Garden chain where he observed the hands-on management style of top executives.
“If I need to wash windows outside, I’ll wash windows outside,” he says. “You get things done. You just dig in and you do it. We do that here [at EGCC]. I do that on a daily basis in my management style,” Daly says.
“There is tremendous value in how you communicate and how you share your values and vision.
“That’s the biggest thing that great leaders can do. Not only do they make sure you understand the message and vision, but it’s passion. It’s who you are. When you become that vision and that passion, and you share that with people, you will get the buy-in with no problems whatsoever.”
Learns from His Mistakes
When Ed Muransky was a little boy, he was already “very large,” he says. “Everyone wanted me to be a football player.” And so he played tackle at Cardinal Mooney High School, at the University of Michigan and for the Los Angeles Raiders.
Growing up, the CEO of The Muransky Companies – best known for operating the Surgical Hospital at Southwoods and The Lake Club – looked up to his uncle, Ray Kukura, a pharmacist in Pittsburgh.
“I went to Michigan Pharmacy School – not using much of that today. I would have gotten a heck of a lot more out of those hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships if I would have taken business classes at Michigan,” he laments.
“A mistake I made early in my career was with my father-in-law and sister-in-law. We invested in a company called Shoney’s Family Restaurants. They had just started franchising and it was a diversification of what we did. We got into a partnership with somebody who knew how to run the restaurant business and that was a mistake. The person who we thought was running the restaurant business really didn’t know what he was doing and we were pretty deep into it already,” Muransky says.
“Working with my father-in-law, [Don Pipino, I learned what] you had to ask prior to investing your money. The second thing it taught me is, how to work out of a bad situation.”
Pictured: Jeff Leo Herrmann, CEO of the Youngstown Publishing Co., interviewed Jim Tressel on the deck of Pollock House.