TRS 008: Eric Parker Founder of Rosenberger North America and SCORE Advocate
With decades of on-the-job experiences, Eric Parker knew that retirement couldn’t be the end of the road for him. To stay current on business trends and challenges, the Rosenberger North America founder joined SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) to help shape new businesses in his community.
High-quality mentorship is an amazing asset to have in the marketing world, especially since so much of our work revolves around try, test, fail, repeat as we try to strike the next big idea. Join us as Eric adds a bit of structure to the fuzziness of mentorship and helps young business professionals discover the growth advice they need.
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Marcus: Hello marketers and business leaders. I’m Marcus Grimm, and welcome to The Revenue Stream, the podcast from Web Talent Marketing. Here we discuss everything you need to know to build brands, generate leads, and convert sales from some of the brightest minds in marketing.
Marcus: Hey, marketers and business leaders. There’s an old saying that goes, if you want to get someplace fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, you should go with others. And that saying certainly applies today as we’re going to be speaking with Web Talent Marketing CEO Mike Canarelli. Mike, welcome back to the program!
Mike: Thank you Marcus.
Marcus: We are thrilled to have you here today, but we’re also going to be speaking with one of his mentors who has advised, counseled and perhaps consoled Mike all along the way. Yes, today, folks, on The Revenue Stream, we have Mike Canarelli of Web Talent Marketing and his mentor Eric Parker. Now here’s what we can find out about Mr. Parker on LinkedIn. Eric received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northeastern University. He has had an awesome career culminating with a 17 year old stint at Rosenberger of North America, a company he actually founded. After that, he became a certified member of SCORE. That’s right: the Service Core of Retired Executives. In fact, according to his SCORE bio, he’s got 20 years experience fixing broken companies and building the teams to grow B2B industrial product businesses. So, Eric, I want to welcome you to the program today. Thanks for joining us.
Eric: Thanks very much. Glad to be here.
Marcus: So, generally speaking it seems that mentors don’t– I don’t see them walking around looking for mentees. Can I help this guy? Can I help that guy? So I’d like to actually begin by asking Mike– Mike, how did you even decide that the concept of mentorship made sense to you?
Mike: Oh, the concept of mentorship. That’s something that– I’ve always believed in figuring out what I don’t know that I don’t know. And a great way to do that is to learn from others that have a ton more experience than I do.
Marcus: So if I take you back, and I’ve heard you tell the story about how you spun up Web Talent Marketing, were you one of those guys who, the first thing that you didn’t know, you were like, “I’m going to ask somebody else,” or did you bang your head against the wall a few times and like, “Wait a second, there’s gotta be a better way to address this?”
Mike: No, I always had that natural curiosity. I was always asking questions whether it was of my neighbor, my father, anybody. Always on the pursuit of knowledge.
Marcus: Wise to realize that you’re probably not the first person to have that particular problem.
Mike: Yup. And wise to realize that I’m definitely not the smartest in the room, so learn from the others.
Marcus: Outstanding. Now, Eric, we’re going to spend most of this episode on your relationship with Mike, but I kind of want to take a step back to when you actually started with SCORE. So, talk me through it. You’ve retired, theoretically, from your business, you could have gone to the club, could have gone to the golf course. Did you know that you were going to go straight to SCORE, or how did that relationship happen for you?
Eric: I had a friend that I worked with many years ago who retired in Williamsburg, West Virginia who had become active in SCORE. My wife and I went down, probably seven or eight years ago, to his 80th birthday party. And in his infinite wisdom, he sat us at a table with SCORE clients of his, and that’s how I really got to learn about SCORE and what they do. So SCORE was on my short list of things to look into when I retired. My wife and I did some traveling, and in the spring of 2013, I wandered into the SCORE offices at Liberty Place in Lancaster and said, “Okay, tell me who you are and what you do.” And the rest is history. Here I am.
Marcus: You literally cold called the place!
Eric: Cold called the place. Exactly. Yeah.
Marcus: That is outstanding. So we’ve set the stage that you walked into Liberty Place. So you go through the training, and, Mike, you needed a mentor. Eric, you are a mentor, but I’m trying to envision how did you guys end up together? Mike, did you have informal mentors before you went to SCORE, or do you remember how you settled on reaching out to SCORE?
Mike: No, I would think SCORE as an organization was my first formal mentorship of any kind. And I can’t recall exactly how I learned about SCORE, but somehow I learned that there was an organization that offered free mentorship and coaching. And who doesn’t want free mentorship and coaching?!
Marcus: How long ago was this, by the way?
Mike: 2009 is when I initially reached out to SCORE. It was the same year that the company hired its first employee. So I figured it was time to make sure that we’re doing things the right way. So I reached out to SCORE and did a little bit more research. I believe I did some type of an intake interview/ evaluation, and I was assigned two initial SCORE mentors that I used probably for a few years on and off. So yeah, about 10 years with the organization, and then I ended up reaching back out to SCORE to kind of reignite the relationship. I think Eric was the one that responded along with, I believe, three or four other gentlemen that we would meet kind of on a monthly basis. It was awesome.
Marcus: I’m trying not to come up with a dating analogy, but I definitely feel like you got exposed to a lot of different people. But the intake process, was that you saying this is the type of business I have, these are the types of challenges that I’m going to be looking at?
Mike: Yeah, absolutely. I think SCORE does a really nice job matching you or trying to match you up with folks that either have experience in your area or they have experience with teams your size, your makeup. Are you struggling more with finances vs. HR vs. product development vs. general business stuff. So those were all the things that they really wanted to learn. Where are you headed? Where are you today? And ultimately what do you need?
Marcus: Meanwhile, Eric back at the ranch, back at SCORE, I’m curious, what’s happening now? I mean, are you guys all fighting over every intake that comes in, or are you looking at them and saying, “I hate this industry?” Tell me how you guys evaluate those things,
Eric: So Mike went online and signed up for a SCORE mentor. That inquiry comes into the office. We have an administrative group at the office who receives these inquiries when they come in, and they try and match up the mentee with a mentor and try and match skill sets with the needs of the mentee. I was assigned to be Mike’s lead mentor. I don’t remember whether we spoke on the telephone or whether we actually met ourselves once, but we did put together a team initially.
Marcus: Is that typical that you put together a team?
Eric: It’s more typical when a business is established and growing than necessarily when you’re starting a business. So you can think of the team as, if you will, an informal and unpaid board.
Eric: I’m not complaining about the unpaid part but yeah, so we put together a team. I think we had on board a mentor from human relations with a human relations background, someone with a government background, and someone from a banking and finance background. We met several times talking about strategic plans, goals, and business development and how to grow the business. I think after that, I either stopped by Web Talent Marketing one day or Mike called in or whatever. We had a specific question we were talking about and we said, “Let’s get together for lunch.” And I think that our relationship, still via SCORE, moved to one on one meetings and talking, and again, still mentoring if you will, but certainly in a different format and a different landscape than with the group mentoring at SCORE. And again, the other guys are still available. If we need them or we need different services or whatever, we can certainly call upon them. But that’s my recollection of how this has evolved. We’ve become good friends as a result of this.
Marcus: And, I would think, mentors provide tremendous value. So I’m guessing that perhaps that’s somewhat typical in situations where you’re getting to know him, he’s getting to know you– that those relationships probably in time do transcend the SCORE framework, or is that uncommon?
Eric: I think it’s very common. I think that it’s common that, as a mentor, not only am I good friends with many of my SCORE clients, with the mentees, but, I’ve become good friends with a lot of the other mentors. I mean, this is a club that we’re a part of. There’s 60 or 70 of us in Lancaster. It’s a very interesting organization, and I’m glad to be part of it.
Marcus: The team piece is definitely new to me. So I want to unpack that a little bit. Are you putting people on the team who have different skill sets than you do, or different personalities, or different areas of expertise? How do you decide, “Let’s get you. Let’s get you. Uhh, I don’t think we need you…?”
Eric: Well, as the lead mentor, I, or whoever the other lead mentor would be, look to assess the needs of the client and try to determine what skills are needed. Anyone one of what you mentioned (skillsets, personalities or what have you) could best be combined to serve the medium-term and longterm needs of the client. And it doesn’t mean that it is fixed, okay? There are times when we’ll bring in somebody with a legal background for example. If we’ve got a question where we need some help, we’ll bring in one of the retired lawyers or one of the lawyers from within the group to provide us with some advice. So it can be fluid just as it was with Mike and I.
Marcus: Right, right. It’s interesting you said the words medium to longterm relationship. When SCORE takes on a mentee, is there a goal for how long that relationship lasts, or typically how long does it last?
Eric: Well, some of the relationships are once and done. Somebody comes in, they have a specific question or a specific problem, we can point them in the right direction or answer the question, and that’s the end of that relationship. But more often than not, I think that the relationships continue. Many of our relationships are people who are looking to go into business, opposed to a situation with Mike and Web Talent Marketing where they’re looking to grow the business. So we would help that individual with whatever their needs are to help the business get started.
Eric: Many of them don’t get started for whatever reason. So those can be shorter term relationships, but it’s really up to the client as to how long they want to pursue that relationship. We have mentors who have been in Lancaster for 20 years who have some very long term relationships with clients that meet quarterly. Some meet once a year, meet twice a year. They might go on hiatus for a couple of years and then the phone rings or an email comes back because there’s a problem or whatever. They’d like to reinvigorate the relationship, and they get started again. There are no rules. It’s really whatever the clients and whatever the mentees are looking for.
Marcus: I actually saw Mike nodding. I want to go back to it to hiatus. Have there been periods or several months or even a year that Eric wasn’t a part of your life, and then you were like, “I need this guy!”
Mike: Well, yeah, even before Eric and I were working together. The first two SCORE gentleman that I worked with, there was probably about a two, two and a half year hiatus. For no specific reason whatsoever. I actually spent time in preparation for the podcast, and I can’t think of a reason. They were wonderful, wonderful guys. They gave great advice, really challenged me to think differently. And then, I think, things just got busy, and it was like, “Hey, I’ve got to do work.”
Marcus: And I’m guessing, Mike, that also the business changes. So the things that you would have maybe needed the first time you did the intake– perhaps when you went back to SCORE, you were like, “Okay, these were my problems back then,” or I should use the word challenge and not problems, “These are my challenges now.” Was there some of that, too? That “I’m looking for something little bit different this time?”
Mike: Absolutely. So when I initially reached out to SCORE, like I had said, we had just hired our first full-time person. Then when I reached back out years later, when Eric was assigned as the lead, we were probably at 15 to 18 full-time people, much different business, very different challenges and opportunities. So, it just kind of made sense.
Marcus: Eric, one of the things I found interesting is that I can’t just be a retired person and go out and become a SCORE mentor. There’s, there’s actually a certification process. Talk to us about the certification process.
Eric: So as I mentioned to you when I walked in to SCORE and said, “Kkay, here I am. Tell me what you do,” I went through a series of interviews with several of the members and talked about what SCORE does and my background and what I was interested in doing. SCORE is just one-on-one mentoring and group mentoring. They run a series of round tables, they run a series of workshops, and classes for simple steps for starting your business. So we looked for a definition as to what I was interested in doing, and clearly the mentoring was the thing that I was most interested in. There’s an intake process which includes a series of online webinars that you participate in and get certified, too. They really indoctrinate you into the SCORE process of mentoring to make sure that we all are consistent in mentoring, and the mentoring process is one that talks about listening, for example, and asking questions.
Marcus: Which to be clear, and I don’t care if you’re a retired executive or account executive, we’re not always great at that.
Mike: You bet. Absolutely right. So it’s a skill set that has to be continuously reinforced. And, in my case as I get older, it needs to continuously be reinforcement. So we go online and we take these series of courses. There’s a code of ethics that we have to ascribe to. Once we go through the certification process, online through SCORE international, then there’s an onboarding process that takes place here at the local level where we participate as a coach or mentor with various senior, experienced mentors sitting in on mentoring sessions. We learn the process, learn what they do, learn how it works. W go to some of the classes; we go to some of the round tables. We understand more about what they do so we can talk to these things from a position of knowledge. And then, when we’re ready and feel comfortable, we get assigned our clients and we can start to break into that as quickly or as slowly as we want to. And that basically is the journey and the way that it starts.
Marcus: As someone unfamiliar with the process, there’s a lot more rigor in it than I would’ve guessed. Were you expecting that much rigor when you walked in the door?
Eric: The answer is: I had no idea what to expect when I walked in the door! And I don’t want to scare people off. I mean, the online courses are probably three or four hours at most, and it can be done in one session or it can be done in a series of sessions. The onboarding process of sitting in on sessions and co-mentoring is important because it allows you to meet different clients and experience clients in different phases of where they are in different types of mentoring sessions and what their needs are. But the onboarding process can be as quickly or as slowly as you as you want it to be.
Marcus: Very interesting. Very interesting. Mike, I’m curious; you talk about how you were always one of those people who was like, “Okay, I’m stuck here. I need somebody else to help me, or I want somebody else to help me.” I’m curious if you recall, when you started reaching out to score, was it a structural thing? How do I read a balance sheet? How do I do this stuff that’s really objective? Or was it more of the softer skills like how do I coach this employee that I just hired? And a related question, Mike, is: have you changed over the years in what you feel like you need the most from?
Mike: Yeah, so I actually remember when I first reached out it was still the theme of growth. You know, what do I need in place? What do I need to know that I’m not doing that needs to be done right now? And I remember the first topic was proposals and quoting, and those two SCORE mentors challenged me until I was red in the face to look at the business as a manufacturing facility. So whether it was a website or whether it was content marketing or graphic design, whatever it was: break it down into its parts; assigned time value and make sure that you’re being paid for all of it. So don’t just throw a number out there. “Oh sure, that’ll be five grand for that!” and then figuring out how to plug in the details after the fact. So, I think that I still hold onto to this day. Over the years, what Eric and I have probably worked on more than finances and stuff like that is, I would say, general leadership and some of the softer skills. Certain difficult conversations or I think a lot of it’s probably been, what’s my next move?
Eric: More tactical, I think, than strategic. There’s a day-to-day issue, but you know again, it’s all focused on how do we grow the business. How do we keep customers delighted and happy and coming back for more? And how do we keep our associates engaged and maintain the culture that Mike’s established at Web Talent Marketing, which is a huge part of the success of the organization.
Marcus: Let’s talk about successes of organizations through decades. I think it’s really, really fascinating. You had a long, distinguished career, but now that you’re getting to kind of see Mike’s business, you’re seeing even more decades of business. And I’m just really curious, what are some of your observations? Are there things today that are radically different, and are the things that are just as timeless today as they were 30, 40 years ago?
Eric: Well, clearly the obvious changes have been in technology and in speed. I mean you have to remember when I started my career in the late ’70s, if you wanted to do a presentation- what we now refer to as a PowerPoint presentation- back in those days, you had an art department who would take photographs or do a layout for you. They would shoot a picture, make a 35 millimeter slide, and have that developed and then you would put it in a carousel and your PowerPoint would be a 35 millimeter slide. Presentation was very cumbersome and very expensive compared to today. In an hour you can have a PowerPoint presentation with graphics and photographs and videos and so forth. So that the technology is huge the communication is huge.
Marcus: It’s funny. I want to ask a tangential question because that’s fascinating to me. The amount of money that you would spend for presentation, did that mean, in that day, was perhaps the salesforce a bit more discerning? Did you do not as many pitches? Were they pitches that you had more confidence in? Whereas now, I can whip up a powerpoint and seven minutes. So-
Eric: I think the pitches were more canned. They were not personalized.
Marcus: Got it, okay. So you would do that expensive one, but then you would pretty much do that one ten or so times.
Eric: Yeah, that’s right, or that would be the one that you would give to the entire sales organization to take around the country and everybody would get same pitch. Now you’d follow it up with a personalized letter, but even the personalized letter was, in those days, dictated to a secretary when you got back from the trip. It would be typed, and it would be mailed. And then the client would get the thank you letter probably three weeks after you came back from the trip. Time, at time, was a relevant factors. Speed became a very important competitive weapon, and I’ve seen that over my career. We talked about time to market and product development, for example. That started in the late ’70s, early ’80s, but it was the technology that allowed speed to become a competitive weapon for that.
Marcus: Interesting. It was a differentiator then now, now it’s table stakes.
Eric: Yeah, exactly.
Marcus: What are some of the things that haven’t changed? What’s something that’s timeless?
Eric: I think some of the things that haven’t changed have been that successful organizations are the ones who look after their stakeholders. We didn’t have the word stakeholders back then. You know, it was, you took care of your employees, you took care of your customers. The focus in many of the big organizations was, and unfortunately still is, looking after the shareholders and the investors. But I think the longterm, successful companies are the ones that have always looked after their people, being the employees and certainly their customers. And the other thing that’s critically important that never changes, especially in small businesses, is cashflow. You’re out of cash, you’re out of business.
Marcus: Cash is king, right?
Eric: Cash is king. You bet. And I think that that’s the other staple that, if I had to pick one, I would say was the second one that has not changed at all over the years.
Marcus: And probably not likely to. Mike, I’m curious, you gave a great example earlier, but I’m just going to keep putting you on the spot here. Can you think of a time that you were approaching a decision and you were pretty much thinking you were going to go one way, and Eric or somebody else from SCORE said, “Oh, that’s interesting, but I would maybe push you in a different direction.” Can you speak to that, or what was the outcome?
Mike: That’s a really good question. Again as I was preparing for the podcast, I tried to think of specific examples, but I can’t necessarily recall a specific example where I was kind of gung-ho on going one direction. But Eric said, “Hey, you should consider this.” I can think of a few hiring decisions where I said, “Hey, Eric, I think maybe, but I’m really gun shy.” And he and I would talk through it and he would basically say, “Hey, what are you waiting for?” That was kind of the reassurance that I needed, and just knowing that that decision wasn’t just me alone was very helpful.
Marcus: So, Eric, it’s fascinating to me. You don’t have the type of career that you’ve had without having a position, without having an opinion, without having some strong thoughts-
Eric: I’ve been accused of all those things.
Marcus: As a mentor, what do you do with those? In this situation, do you have to keep yourself in check? It sounds like you’ve never thrown the veto power on Mike or anything, but have you done that or would you do that? Or just talk to me about how a guy like yourself who’s got strong opinions at times- How would you even navigate that?
Eric: Let me give you an example. I have a client that wanted to go into the retail business, a husband and wife team. They had selected a horrible location, and we went through the numbers of what they thought they were going to be able to sell at this retail location. I had them do some surveillance work by counting people that walked by this location to see what the street traffic was like, and they still were set in this location!
Marcus: So you’re giving them little exercises, you’re giving them homework-
Eric: And our job is as much to educate people and let them come to that conclusion than it is to point them in the right direction. When I finally sat down with this couple, cause they were going to sign a lease and we’re going to go ahead with this space, I said to them, “Listen, I’ve got to tell you. If you were my kids, I would not let you sign a lease on this space. I know you’re anxious. I know you’re in a hurry, but you’ve got to wait because you’ll find a better space.” And they found another space that they were negotiating with. And while they’re in the midst of negotiating on Space #2, Space #3 became available, which was just a spectacular selection. And they jumped all over that one. And I’m happy to tell you that they are doing very well and are very successful right now. So I don’t know if that answers your question, but that’s an example I think of the way we try and work.
Marcus: Right. So you’ve got the experience, you’ve got the background. You educate them on the process to go through, but at the end of the day, you’re there when need be.
Eric: I’m not signing the lease. They’re signing, but I’ve got to tell you. I can only share my experience with you and tell you what I would do.
Marcus: Yeah, awesome. Yeah, it’s really obvious what Mike’s gotten out of this relationship. Eric, but what about you, man? You could be on a golf course. I mean, what does a relationship like this provide for you?
Eric: Well, there are a lot of things. First of all, you have to realize that I’ve had a lot of mentors along the way myself. There have been a lot of folks, from my grandfathers who were both in business to boy scout leaders to professors in college to business leaders along the way, who have mentored me and coached me. So I don’t mean to be trite, but it’s a way for me to pay back and to thank them for what they’ve done. It also gives me tremendous satisfaction in watching businesses grow and watching businesses develop. I know how hard it is. I know how lonely it can be for an entrepreneur to stay up at night or to wake up at three o’clock in the morning and to worry about a hiring decision as to whether it’s the right one or not. I got a great deal of satisfaction of helping and watching people grow and develop and find their dream as I’ve found mine. And I think the third reason would be the fact that it keeps me on my game. It keeps me, it keeps me educated. It keeps me up to date with what’s going on in business.
Eric: You know, when I retired, there was no search engine optimization. Facebook was just getting going, and there was no advertising on Facebook. We had just started talking about Google Adwords and what they were. I remember a conversation late in my career as to whether we thought YouTube was really a good vehicle to advertise on or to link on. The world changes pretty quickly, and my SCORE relationships have allowed me to keep on top of that.
Marcus: It keeps you in the game, and you know as well as anyone, that, if you’re not involved in the businesses or having conversations about the businesses, it becomes something that you just can’t appreciate or understand.
Eric: Absolutely. You bet.
Marcus: Wow, this has been absolutely outstanding. Eric, I love having you here today. Mike, you’ve told me so many wonderful stories about Eric. This has been great. For those who are listening who are like, “Wow, kudos to Mike Canarelli for making this decision umpteen years ago,” but if somebody wants to do that, let’s go into some of the nuts and bolts of SCORE. Eric, how many chapters are there?
Eric: They’re 370 chapters nationwide.
Marcus: All US?
Eric: US and territories, I believe.
Mike: And last year the Lancaster chapter-
Eric: Thanks to the people we serve and the services that we provide, we were selected as the top chapter out of the 370 in the country.
Marcus: Do you know, and I didn’t tell you I was going to ask this question, the approximate number of SCORE volunteers?
Eric: It’s a little over 11,000 nationwide. And let me just also say, we’ve been talking mostly about being retired. We’re not all retired. There is no requirement for you to be retired. The acronym of the Service Core of Retired Executives, that’s been retired.
Marcus: Oh, that’s interesting.
Eric: Yeah. So that we have a lot of mentors who are still actively employed or in business of their own. SCORE is developing a new category of member that they’re calling a subject matter expert. So if you are an accountant or an advertising executive or what have you and you’re not interested in doing a generic mentoring stint but you want to come in and co-mentor or be part of a team and provide your expertise in that particular subject, we’re making provisions to allow people to come in and to do that.
Marcus: Outstanding. And I know you’ve talked about this before, I think Mike alluded to it: totally free for people that want counsel?
Eric: Everything we provide is free of charge except for the Simple Steps for Starting workshop. The courses that we run, there’s a nominal fee for those courses to help cover the cost of materials, and they’re free for US veterans.
Marcus: Outstanding. Tremendous. Eric, thank you so much for joining us today. Mike, thank you so much for bringing Eric here today. Very much appreciated.
Marcus: Hey, well that sound means that we are very, very near the end of the program, but it is time for our Marketing Minute with Eric Park where I’m going to ask Eric five- and I actually added a bonus sixth question for Eric for this one. Mike, you get to sit this one out because you’ve already played. But Eric, are you ready to face the Marketing Minute?
Eric: I guess so, haha!
Marcus: Okay. First thing we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about your smartphone. Is it an Apple or an Android?
Eric: It’s an Apple?
Marcus: It’s an Apple. Okay, let’s make a choice: are you going to YouTube, Facebook or LinkedIn?
Marcus: Linkedin. Let’s talk about on your wrist. Are we going to find a bare wrist, a Timex, or a smartwatch?
Eric: Neither. None. None.
Marcus: How about Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, or Don Draper to have a drink with?
Eric: Elon Musk.
Marcus: Outstanding. Let’s talk about your television habits. Are you, sir, a cable-holic or a cord cutter?
Eric: I’m a cable-holic.
Marcus: Outstanding. And this is my final bonus question for you. You’ve got a SCORE mentee that wants to work with you. You can choose one of the three: do you want to work with the bakery, the auto supply company, or the robot factory?
Eric: The robot factory.
Marcus: How did I know he was going to choose that on? Well, hey, this episode of The Revenue Stream has been a blast. I want to thank Web Talent Marketing CEO Mike Canarelli and SCORE executive Eric Parker for joining us today. You’ve been listening to The Revenue Stream with Web Talent Marketing, and I’m Marcus Grimm. We’ll see you next time around.