The March mentorship interview: Peter Yurek

Published in the St Thomas Elgin Weekly News

Can you tell us how you got into the business?


I grew up in the family business stocking the shelves on Sunday afternoons while my dad caught up on work. I would receive my choice of candy bar for my work. By the time I graduated from the University of Toronto I had experience working at all the jobs in the store. All my brothers and sisters have similar experiences. After graduation I started working at Yurek’s as a pharmacist.


Who were some of the people who influenced you the most in the early days?


My father was obviously a huge influence on me. My experiences on the YMCA board gave me the opportunity to work with many talented people. Shortly after my father retired, my brother Jeff and I worked with a consultant, Terry McCully. Terry was and still is an important mentor to me.


What are some of the important lessons you’ve learned from people who have mentored you along the way?


My father taught me how to be passionate about what I do, to think for myself and to work hard. My experiences on the YMCA taught me how to make difficult decisions and how to engage people in coming to those decisions. Terry McCully taught me a lot about business and how to get things done. You manage two retail outlets, a processing facility, and a warehouse under the Yurek banner. It’s a second-generation business.


What role has family played in your business and its expansion?


Family has always been important at Yurek’s; twenty years after Dad retired his values are still evident at Yurek’s. It is not uncommon for a customer to share a story about how Dad went out of his way to look after someone. Over the past few years we have recruited several key people, a key selling point is the importance of family at Yurek’s. This past year we had an employee celebrate their 31st year working with us, and we have a couple of staff coming up on their 25th anniversaries. I’m very proud of that and believe that it is a testimony to how important family and our staff are to us.


What are some of the things you, and your management team, do to mentor and encourage others?


At Yurek’s we have just completed about 30 hours of leadership training for our managers, supervisors, and key staff. We had over 20 staff participate in these sessions where we talked about the importance of engaging staff and how to be an effective leader. We have followed up these sessions in our manager meetings with discussions about how we can apply what we have learned in our day-to-day work at Yurek’s. Senior management also conducts one on one interviews with staff, the agenda for these interviews belongs to the staff person. The conversation is usually pretty frank and senior management usually receives great feedback from staff. We also get the opportunity to discuss with staff why we make the decisions we do.


Can you share your thoughts about being a mentor, or finding a mentor?


My business skills are self-taught through reading and learning from my experiences in growing the business. believe that Yurek’s would not have been as successful as we have been were it not for the people who have influenced myself and the other leaders at Yurek’s. The know – edge and experience they have shared have been invaluable to myself and Yurek’s.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?


The best advice I have received is to respect people and do no judge.