Chairman & Co-CEO,
Turtle & Hughes, Inc.
“WBENC connects us with other woman-owned businesses that we can partner with and mentor for the success of our customers – and for each other.”
About Turtle & Hughes, Inc.
Turtle & Hughes, established in 1923, is an independent electrical and industrial distribution company serving the industrial, construction, commercial, electrical contracting, export and utility markets. It is family- and employee-owned and ranks among the nation's top 20 electrical distribution companies. It is headquartered in Linden, NJ, with close to 20 branch offices stretching from coast to coast with over 900 employees. Turtle & Hughes Integrated Supply (THIS), a division of Turtle & Hughes, services Fortune 100 companies in the growing integrated supply market. It operates nationwide, and in Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico.
Headquartered: Linden, NJ
Company Website: www.turtle.com
When and how was your business started?
In the early 1920s, M. Berry Turtle and William Hughes were employees of W.E.R. Burnett Company, an electrical distributor in downtown Manhattan. Both men yearned to be their own bosses and on January 29, 1923, they opened Turtle & Hughes. From those early days, there developed a tradition of hands-on management by women. Ethel Macnamara Turtle, great-grandmother of current Chairman and Co-CEO, Jayne Millard, took over the firm after her husband died and directed the company for some 20 years in the mid-twentieth century. In the 1970s, her granddaughter Suzanne Turtle Millard and her husband Frank propelled the company’s expansion before passing the company leadership to their daughter Jayne, who has led the company to significant growth and expansion into new business segments and locations.
How has being a WBENC-Certified WBE helped your business?
Being a WBENC-Certified WBE has opened many doors for us in the electrical construction industry and provided opportunities for us to show our strength in the industry. More so, it connects us with other woman-owned businesses that we can partner with and mentor for the success of our customers – and for each other. WBENC challenges us all to be better businesses and leaders with the help and support of each other. The value of WBENC is seen in the growth of women entrepreneurs confidently competing for work as equals in every business segment.
What is your business philosophy and how has it impacted your success as a business?
We are celebrating our 95th year in business because we create value solutions for our customers. We define problems and then match them to the right solution. We are able to find those solutions as a team and we never give up until the customer is happy. We have grown by continuing to promote the same entrepreneurial spirit that led my great-grandfather to start this company. We have a get-it-done attitude that is ready to accept and conquer any challenge, anytime, anywhere.
What is your proudest moment thus far in business?
In 2012, I joined a group of company executives, a major supplier and my father on a tour of the rebuilt World Trade Center construction site. Turtle played a key role in what was a very complex electrical construction project. We were given grease pens to leave our mark on the bare concrete walls before they were sealed. One person stated how we all felt standing there on such hallowed ground when he wrote, “Freedom isn’t free.” In the skeleton of the building, high above the New York skyline with Lady Liberty just in sight, I have never been more proud of my team and their work.
How did you first learn about WBENC Certification?
We first received our first certification when my mother ran the company. From as long as I can remember, it has been a badge of honor and part of our long history. WBENC is part of our company’s DNA and bridge to our past, as well as a road to our future, providing the opportunity to team on bigger projects and mentor new women owned businesses on lessons we have learned over the years.
What advice would you share with a newly certified WBE looking to make the most out of her certification?
The certificate provides you with an opportunity to build a foundation for success and a support network. You have to demonstrate value to your customers, build a team, and advocate your competitive solution. The certificate provides you an opportunity; you still have to make it all happen. Believe in yourself, produce results for your customers, and never stop trying to be the very best in your space.
Have you partnered with other WBENC-Certified WBEs on contracts or utilized other WBEs as suppliers? If so, what has been the benefit? Why do you feel it is important to work with other WBEs in the WBENC network?
Our commitment to diversity extends to our supplier relationships across all aspects of our business dealings. We welcome diverse suppliers for our own internal company needs and for our external customer requirements. Many of our customers actively look to do business with diverse suppliers as a way to strengthen their supply chain. It is our goal to partner with diverse suppliers that will add value while helping our customers fulfill their corporate or government mandates.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
My mother taught me that you have to teach yourself to be brave. It's a lesson my great-grandmother and mother both lived by as they assumed roles that were untraditional for women of their time. As a young woman, I was always impressed by my mother's fearlessness. She never stopped to think, “Maybe I shouldn't have this conversation or make this ask.” When she took control of the company, she made big changes; moving the HQ from New York City to Linden, N.J., where we remain HQ’d today and creating an employee stock ownership trust. I admire her sense of mission, positiveness and team cheerleader for all the good going on in Turtle.
What tips do you have for WBEs to get the most out of their time at the National Conference & Business Fair?
Come rested and ready with your elevator speech, business cards, and a targeted list of whom you want to meet with at the business fair. Utilize the social events to network and attend the meals to be inspired with stories that look like you and inspire you to do more.