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|Monday, January 01, 2007|
Harvey PlattCEO, Platt Electric
Even after 20 years, Harvey Platt still feels like the accidental head of his family’s 53-year-old wholesale electrical supply business, Platt Electric. “I thought I’d always be someone who worked for his brother,” he says of filling the void left by older sibling Jerry, who was Platt Electric’s president when he died from cancer in 1986. “I never planned to be in charge, which is why I’m so encouraging of employees to work their way out of the warehouse. You don’t start at the top, but you can get there.”
This scenario is familiar to Platt as he was, literally, sent packing to the warehouse after college in 1972 to wrap and ship electrical wire because his father said “that’s where his real education” began. After a year, Platt tried his hand at sales, then administration and purchasing, where he spent the next 14 or so years before losing his brother. He wasn’t prepared to take over and learned quickly how he and his brother differed in their management styles. “Jerry’s approach was ‘I will tell you everything you need to know,’” says Platt. “I was big on training people so they could figure things out for themselves. That was a tough transition, but it’s proven fruitful.”
In 1997, Platt became CEO and his cousin Jay took over as president. Jay’s leadership, he says, has helped strengthen the family-business side of their corporate culture: a model built on performance and enthusiasm, not fancy degrees. “If you hire the right people, give them incentives and a good corporate culture, they’ll stick around,” says Platt, adding that four of his regional VPs started in the warehouse. “Our electrical wire isn’t any better than anyone else’s, but I think our employees are happy and it makes all the difference.”
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