On Oct. 26, Karen Bazela, Vice President of Sales, spoke to business students at the University of West Georgia’s (UWG) Richards College of Business (RCOB) located in Carrollton, Ga. According to Bazela, one of the RCOB professors, Simone Lee, reached out to Mandy Baeumel, senior director of employee development, looking for a guest speaker. Baeumel contacted Bazela, who prepared a presentation on the retail channel for the class.
“I wanted to keep it high-level and not get too far into the weeds,” said Bazela. “I really wanted to help them understand how Southwire views the retail market from a vendor perspective. One of the common misconceptions that I was able to address is that, if we sell to The Home Depot, we sell to every single store. Instead, we sell to The Home Depot in Atlanta, which manages the other stores all throughout North America. My overall goal was to help them understand what’s most important to us and how we manage the business.”
Throughout her presentation, Bazela provided a brief overview of Southwire’s products, plants and customer service centers, allowing students who may not be from the West Georgia area to learn more about the company. She also highlighted many important parts of the organization’s retail business, including the process of introducing new products, pricing, promotions and the use of planograms.
For Bazela, the experience brought her back to her alma mater and inside a familiar classroom. Serving as a guest speaker also reminded her of a similar encounter from her own time as a student.
“It was neat to go back to that building and into the same classroom that I took one of my final classes in as a senior,” said Bazela. “It was Strategic Management. It was really hard, and I still remember it to this day. When I was in that class, Lee Richards came and spoke, and at the end of his presentation, I went up to him and asked how I could work for Southwire. He advised me to apply in Personnel and look into getting an internship. The next day, that’s exactly what I did. The stars aligned, and within a week, I was a Southwire employee.”
Bazela, who began her career at Southwire as an intern in Human Resources, manages all the retail business except for Lowe’s and The Home Depot. In her position, she oversees three sales channels – hardware, e-commerce and mass merchant – and views her career with the company as a series of opportunities.
“Southwire has presented me with opportunity after opportunity because of my hard work,” said Bazela. “I told the students that they need to take advantage of every opportunity that is given to them, continue to learn, never get comfortable and always challenge themselves. Hard work is a big key to success, but you also can’t think that you’re above something or too good to complete a certain task. If it helps the customer and improves the company, you should be willing to do it.”
Feedback from the presentation was positive, and the students remained inquisitive throughout, asking questions about Southwire, Bazela’s current role and how to succeed in their own future endeavors. This, Bazela believes, is the true value of these encounters: the chance to inspire and encourage the next generation of business leaders.
“These students are our future,” said Bazela. “Just like I had that one, tiny conversation with Lee Richards, here I am doing the same thing with this class of students – and it’s already turned into a chance for another person to start at Southwire. One of the students followed up with me and is actually starting as an intern on my team. Who knows what her future holds, and who knows the potential of the other students? They may join the Southwire team one day, but even if they work in other careers with other companies, they know Southwire. They know that it’s more than a big building by Target. They could run other companies in the future and choose to do business with Southwire because of that one interaction. You never really know the connection that people will make or the impact you can have.”