of The Board
John Thompson, CEO of First Electric in Indianapolis, Indiana has been elected to lead the IMARK Electrical Board of Directors.
John is taking over from Bob Powers of EDGES Group who skillfully led IMARK Electrical through both the pandemic and the establishment of IMARK Group. Bob recently retired after a long and successful career in our industry. He is owed a debt of gratitude by all members. We wish him and Deb a long and happy retirement.
According to John, IMARK Electrical has been very important to the growth and profitability of First Electric. “Our organization includes many of the strongest entrepreneurs and leaders in our industry. I am honored and excited to serve as the group’s chairman of the board for the next few years.”
John and his partner Tony Frost established First Electric in 2004. Recognizing the value of a marketing group, First Electric joined IMARK Electrical in 2007. John also owns Thompson Distribution Company, which is a member of IMARK Plumbing.
John is enthusiastic about the benefits associated with IMARK membership. “As a new company, we found great value and learned much from the members of our I-Net networking group—and we are greatly looking forward to seeing our fellow member execs at the IMARK Leadership Conference in June. It’s been too long since we’ve met face-to-face,” he said.
Click below to view a five-minute interview with John.
First Electric is a major project house in greater Indianapolis and as such does not always have control over the products specified. According to John, “Whenever we can influence which products are installed, we always advocate for products from IMARK Electrical suppliers. These companies are best-in-class and of course, our ability to grow purchases from IMARK Electrical suppliers has a material impact on our profitability. We watch our GainShare plans like a hawk and strive for successful outcomes.”
John believes that the electrical distribution industry is a great career choice for young people. “It is a stable and essential business with many opportunities for training and personal growth. Our industry is filled with stories about people who started in the warehouse and wound up leading the company. At our company, we’ve redeemed our Gateway to Growth points to pay for employee training—and we encourage our associates to take IMARK U courses from our suppliers on the IMARK Electrical website.”
‘I Love Business’
In the 1960s, John began selling fruit from a horse-drawn wagon as he walked the streets of his native Baltimore. “In Baltimore, a guy would rent a horse and wagon for the day,” John recalled. “He might cut up a watermelon and give me a quarter of it. I’d travel ahead of the wagon yelling the daily specials from the top of my lungs. We had all kinds of little rhymes that we would say that were catchy.”
He also earned cash carrying groceries home for neighbors. “Few of the people in my neighborhood had cars. They’d tip me a quarter,” he shared.
John demonstrated a flair for business throughout his childhood. At age 14, he started working for a youth center. The experiences cultivated a passion for economic and skills development that carries on to this day—both at his company and in his community.
Ultimately, John earned an MBA with honors from Columbia University and a B.S. in chemical engineering from Cornell University.
Paying it Forward
John has accomplished much in his life, overcoming many obstacles in his path. He is a humble and enthusiastic person with a contagious sense of optimism. John is quick to recognize the help and guidance that he has received from other people and is determined to “pay it forward.”
“My grandfather was a real motivating force for me, and he encouraged me to believe that I could be more than where we lived. We lived in the Lexington Terrace Projects and that is the site of the HBO show, The Wire. He always said, “You can be more than this—and here’s how.”
Today, he lends advice to those aspiring to start their own ventures. Chuckling, he explained, “I like those who’ve prepared themselves when they’re ready to start a business.
But I tell them (if the homework hasn’t been done), you need to do more to prepare yourself. Your plan isn’t solid. I don’t know anyone that’s buying the service you’re selling. I see that a lot. You’ve got to think through what you’re offering and what are the key factors to success in what you are offering.”
John is a prominent leader in his adapted home ofIndianapolis where he and his wife Norma have lived since 1984. According to Bill Oestrerle, a good friend and business associate of John, “He came to town not
knowing anyone; not having any money. He has become a successful businessperson. Successful community leader. Successful father of three children (and four grandkids). He’s been chairman of the Indiana Black EXPO, chairman of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the CAC Scout Council and other organizations too numerous to mention here. John has been great for Indianapolis and Indianapolis has been great for John.”
The members of IMARK Electrical will undoubtedly benefit from John’s leadership in the years to come.