I was reminded recently that January was National Mentoring Month. It prompted me to think about my own experiences, what we do at Ironwood Capital to mentor and develop our team members and how we reach out to others.
I am extremely grateful to my first mentor – Eileen Kraus. Our relationship has spanned 35 years, beginning with my internship in Eileen’s office during her tenure at Hartford National Bank. Her generous guidance and knowledge gave me confidence to pursue my interest in finance, despite a dearth of other female role models. Eileen and I remain close today and she serves as a senior advisor to Ironwood Capital. What a wealth of experience and wisdom she liberally shares!
One of the things I am most proud of – and something I consider a key reason for Ironwood’s success – is the longevity of our 18-member team. People join us and if the fit is right, they stay and bloom. It helps that we have been in business for nearly 30 years during which we have sought to constantly assess, improve and reinvent ourselves. This approach has resulted in an average length of employment of nine years for Ironwood team members, with six of us having worked together for over 15 years. As of January 2014, the U.S. median length of employment is 4.6 years, a significant contrast. We work hard to find people who will thrive in the Ironwood environment, determine what they need to succeed, then give them opportunities to grow and advance.
An important element of our culture is our intern program, which employs at least three students each year. Their Ironwood tenure may be short, but if the experience is positive, the relationship will be long. We consider our interns to be valuable members of the Ironwood team who provide us with a revolving intellectual spark and valuable insight into the current generation of college students.
Of course, our interns get their fair share of administrative and redundant work, but they always have the opportunity to be part of our management meetings and to take on as much as they can in project work. We encourage them to speak up and sometimes that is the best lesson of all. We even host an annual “intern reunion/luncheon” on the Friday after Thanksgiving so we can catch up with the growing group. Attendance is limited by geography, but all are invited and those who cannot join us tend to stay connected electronically. Since interns overlap only briefly with their predecessors and successors, we have encouraged them to include one another in their networks. Our last intern lunch was a beehive of networking. It’s a real pleasure to get updates on everyone’s progress and gratifying to see those we’ve mentored grow and succeed. We are extremely proud of the success of our interns!
Beyond our own doors, our team is active in the community, whether judging student competitions, providing guidance to entrepreneurs who want to launch a business or setting an example that encourages our associates to have fun, do well and give back at the same time.
We never lose sight of what a fortunate group we are and we seek to pass it forward. We have learned that when we invest our time and share our knowledge freely we are paid back many times over in myriad ways.