Gregory Parker (right) enthusiastically served his two-year term as chairman of the Young Executives Network. In July, Lee McGuire (left) will take on that role.
I didn’t know anything about the industry when I accepted a new position with a leading accessories distributor in the southeastern market in 2003, but I took a chance hoping that I could begin a new and different career path. I realized that I loved this industry after only a few months of learning the ropes from some well-known industry veterans and then attending my first PWA Conference and SEMA Show. It was so different from the cutthroat and hard-to-navigate industry I had come from. In the automotive specialty-equipment industry, the opportunity to build my own destiny was right there in front of me. I told myself to “just do it” and decided to make this industry my home for the rest of my career.
Although I worked with a great group of people, I realized that it was vitally important to get out and meet others outside of my current employer’s building. I needed to network.
At my first SEMA Show, I heard of an organization called the Young Executives Network, where young people like myself congregated to have one voice representing the group within the industry. I knew that was where I needed to go to begin to build a network of peers. I told myself to “just do it” and registered immediately.
My network grew amazingly quickly. I met people from all different levels of experience in the industry, from all different types of companies, with all different types of backgrounds. YEN literally opened a whole new world of industry and personal friends to me that was never possible before.
I was happy just being a member of YEN, but I felt the need to get more active, to do more. I asked my early mentors about running for the YEN Select Committee, and they all encouraged me to get more heavily involved. I once again told myself to “just do it” and nominated myself. I knew that joining the governing group would allow me to meet even more people, expand my networking group and learn a great deal about leadership and this industry. I was lucky enough to be elected to the Select Committee in 2004.
I served on the committee for nearly five years as a very active member. I chaired the YEN Silent Auction for two years, helping SEMA to raise more than $150,000 for charity. I also served as the Select Committee’s education chairman for two terms.
YEN also opened other doors in the industry, such as getting involved with SEMA Cares and the SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund. But, most importantly, it allowed me to meet and network with our industry’s masses. It also taught me about working with teams and about leadership. It taught me a lot of things that I never learned in college.
When the time came for council elections in 2009, I decided that I wanted to run for chair-elect. I once again told myself to “just do it.” I threw my name into the hat and was elected.
During my leadership time with YEN, I have met more people and learned more than I would have ever dreamed about. It has been a truly humbling experience. The personal growth that the opportunity has given me is priceless. I have been extremely fortunate to be able to work with some great people on our Select Committee, including our current Chair-Elect Lee McGuire.
So my parting words to you are “just do it.” If you are not a YEN member, sign up today. If you are a YEN member, I strongly encourage you to become more active. You can nominate yourself for the Select Committee or get involved with our member resource pool. Those are both great ways to get your feet wet with deeper involvement within YEN and SEMA. The industry needs you, and I know that you need it, too.
In closing, thank you again for graciously allowing me to steward this ship over the last couple of years. I appreciate it more than you know. Now, just do it.