In honor of Jim Semitekol’s retirement, our team conducted an interview with him to reflect on his years as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at MacPherson’s. He joined the team in 2000 and officially retired on April 30th, 2021. Here is the audio version of the interview along with some written highlights. We hope you enjoy it!
Let’s talk about your experience at MacPherson’s. It’s been a long road and the readers of Art Dog would be interested to hear how you feel the industry has transformed? And what were your favorite parts about your time here?
“Well, the industry, like almost every business, has been impacted by the internet. There’s no question about it. People need to adapt to that or else they’re going to have trouble surviving in the future. The art business is a little bit different because there are more repeat consumers. By that, I mean that people tend to go back to the same stores. These are people that are doing it as their passion for the most part. And so they have a tendency to go back to the same store. They make a bond with people in the store because they’re also fellow artists. But the internet is obviously going to impact these people and they need to be aware of it. Digital is not going away and they’ve got to adapt to it.
I would say the best part of the business is the people, and that’s true in any industry. It’s the people and the relationships that you make over the years. I was very lucky to work with awesome people. Even though I was in operations, I spent a lot of time on the road and visited a lot of our customers all over the country at trade shows and made strong relationships with those people. And with our suppliers as well. There’s a lot of vendors, Bill Hartman from Golden and Jim Kelly from Sanford, who I’ve known for a long time. Those are the important parts of the business that make it a personal thing and a rewarding experience.
And I think what Dave Schofield has brought to MacPherson’s is really good; his core values of teamwork, but also of having fun. He always talks about it, because you’re spending a lot of time with the people you work with. You don’t want it to be drudgery, you want to enjoy the people around you.”
So you started your career doing distribution with appliance stores and then you found MacPherson’s. How did that happen?
MacPherson’s found me, actually. One of my business partners from the 80s, Stu [Beattie], bought 49% of Macpherson’s in the late 80s. And then in 2000, Stu called me up. We had remained friends and he said he acquired MacPherson’s and doubled the size of the business from $45 to $90 million. And that MacPherson’s previously had 90 employees and had grown to 220 employees. So after that conversation, I came to work at MacPherson’s at the end of 2000.”
Roots of Success
It sounds like your success has come in your expertise in operations and accounting, and then relationships as well. Can you elaborate on that?
“It has. And I would also say in the IT end of the business. Not that I was the director of IT, but I had a background in it before. Early in my career, I was fortunate enough that my boss paid for me to go to an IBM programming school. I took a three-week crash course at a very high price and learned how to write code. And that was how I became familiar with the operation of computers. One of MacPherson’s strong points over the years has been our willingness and ability to invest in technology.”
Is there anything else you would like to add?
“The relationships that are built with people over the years not only helped MacPherson’s become a success but helped our customers and vendors become successful as well. I think that’s really important. And we’re really more focused on it today than we ever have been in the past, making sure that we partner with people that share our values and are easy to work with.
It really comes home to roost when somebody has a problem and asks for a favor. When customers run into issues, they misorder an item or they have problems paying the bill, we extend them time. It’s really important, and it’s the same with the vendors who are strong partners when they call us up with issues. It’s the people and relationships that make the difference and hold us all together. Even in the world of the internet, you will be judged on how fast you respond and whether they’re treating someone like a human being. These types of things really matter in the long run.”
We can’t thank Jim enough for all he has done for MacPherson’s. It was great to chat with him about some moments from his career. Enjoy your retirement, Jim!
Who’s Who celebrates members of our industry community who are doing an incredible job. If you would like to nominate someone for a Who’s Who feature, please email us at artdogblog (@) macphersonart.com with their name, position, company, and a short description of why you would like to nominate them.