business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

We hear a lot of talk these days on the importance of mentors in everything from building diversity to simply making new staffers quickly understand the details and importance of their jobs.

With that in mind, I want to offer a personal lesson on the power of mentorship.  Like KC, I began my career as a newspaper reporter and editor and frankly never imagined doing anything else. I was in my late twenties, I loved my job, but long hours and a paltry salary weren't what I needed as I approached my wedding date.

By luck, the father of one of my newspaper colleagues was the editor of Progressive Grocer, then a paragon of original research and merchandising insights. The magazine needed a new managing editor to run the mechanics of the monthly publication and he reached out to me.

Quite honestly, I had no interest in working in the supermarket industry. In fact, as a politics and crime reporter I dreaded the times when my editor assigned me to cover a new store opening. But in hopes of building a new career path I went off to Progressive Grocer in April 1983 and quickly sized up my new career choice.

I hated it.

But that’s where mentorship came in. My editor, Edgar Walzer - a legendary figure in the industry who passed away years ago and, unfortunately, is hardly remembered in the industry today - recognized my frustration and proposed a solution. He guessed that if I had a chance to learn about the industry, that I’d come to appreciate it, so he pulled me off of running the mechanics of the magazine and sent me out to do articles. 

He was right, I got hooked and quickly learned how essential and reflective of a changing world this great industry is.

In the years since, I’ve had the chance to work with countless people in this industry, learn about a wide range of incredibly interesting and challenging topics and almost never once looked back with regret on my career change. In those years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many industry giants who in countless ways educated me and improved my life and I’m grateful to them all.

But I always remember my editor Ed and his insightful recognition of how I was feeling. Without his intervention, I might have stayed at the magazine for two years and drifted back into the publishing world never knowing all I would have missed. Honestly, I would have been greatly diminished.

I have had a front-row seat to countless changes in the industry and in the society it serves from the explosive growth of technology and data (yes, scanning was still relatively new in 1983) to wildly unexpected changes in competition and shopper desires. And it’s been endlessly fascinating.

I'm not writing this to say goodbye and announce that I am hanging up my computer keyboard.  I think there remains much to do, and, like KC, I feel energized by the chance to keep doing whatever I can at MNB and elsewhere.

I also know that none of this would have happened without a mentor who nourished something in me that even I didn’t see. And I hope that can encourage you to mentor others, in hopes that they might recall you and your deeds well after your career and name are remembered.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com.

His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.

For information about hiring Michael to speak at your next meeting or conference, click here.