Mike Bertone Celebrates 30th Anniversary at CES
When Regional Manager Mike Bertone started out as a driver in 1991, he’d tell you one thing about his future at City Electric Supply.
“This wasn’t a job for me — it was a career,” he said. “Before I joined CES, I was a part-time electrician out of high school. Digging ditches, climbing into attics, I didn’t know if that’s what I wanted to do the rest of my life.”
So, one day, Mike Bertone walked into CES Jupiter to grab some supplies like he usually did. Then, he noticed that the new branch was hiring.
“I filled out an application on September 26, and I put my start date as September 27,” he said. “Russ Swanson was the regional manager, and he did a great job selling the company to young guys who wanted to work hard and move their way up.”
This is usually where you say the rest is history. Mike Bertone got a new job, and he no longer had to climb into attics or dig ditches during Florida’s long hot summers.
But Mike wanted a lot more than just a chance to drive and deliver supplies. He wanted opportunities.
“When I joined, I was making $6 an hour as a driver. Before, I made more than $8 as an electrician,” he said. “I had to take a step backward in pay, but I believed that the opportunity was there. I took a risk, and I’ll always be glad I did.”
He even took a risk when he told his regional manager, Russ Swanson, that he wanted his job one day.
“I was only 20 years old,” he laughed. “Whether I was going to make it or not, I didn’t know. When I told Russ I wanted to become regional manager, he actually encouraged me. He said, ‘If that’s your goal, I want you to have my job.’”
“It all comes back to believing in the opportunity,” he added. “We’ve always wanted motivated employees who aim for the jobs of the people who hired them. I realized early on that this was a career, and I was going to make it happen.”
Today, after 30 long years at CES, Regional Manager Mike Bertone currently oversees five districts and more than 40 branches all across Florida. He made it happen.
Making It Happen
For anyone who knows Mike or works with him, they know that phrase is a personal motto of his.
“I make sure everyone in my region knows that saying,” he laughed. “You can’t wait for things to happen; you have to go out and make it happen.”
It’s that attitude that has helped him grow his career to where he is today. Even with the opportunities he was given, he still had to work hard to move his way up inside the branch.
“With my background as an electrician, I was fortunate enough to know most of the products,” Bertone said. “A few months into my career, I got promoted to the warehouse and counter sales. Not long after that, I found out that I had a son on the way, so I really had to move up as fast as possible.”
In 1993, Mike Bertone became operations manager at CES Jupiter, the same branch where he started. In 1996, he was promoted to outside sales and brought in 60% of CES Jupiter’s business.
By 1997, he was promoted again, this time to branch manager.
“The regional manager at the time saw that I had potential,” he explained. “I just made the most of the opportunities I was given.”
Bertone turned branches around while leading new districts in brand-new markets. From Port St. Lucie to Palm Beach to Treasure Coast, each district was an opportunity for Mike. In 2013, he became regional manager, keeping the promise he made to himself almost 20 years earlier.
“You know, it’s true what they say.” Mike Bertone said. “When you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. I always liked everything about working on this side of the counter. From interacting with customers to running your own branch, it’s really like running your own business.”
Mike loved it so much that he actually brought his son, Thomas Bertone, into the business as well — the same son that motivated him when he first began his CES career.
“I felt so good about CES being a family-owned company that I brought my own family into the business,” he said. “Now, Thomas will be celebrating his seventh year with CES in April, and he’s a very successful branch manager at CES Jupiter, my very first branch.”
And Thomas Bertone started the same way his father did, working his way up from the bottom. When Thomas got his first opportunity at CES Lake Worth, he managed to completely turn around the struggling branch in just one year.
“Now he’s at CES Jupiter, and he’s taking that branch to record highs, too,” Mike smiled.
We’re so fortunate that Thomas isn’t the only one in Bertone’s family who also works for the CES family!
Mike’s father, Lou Bertone, worked as a sales rep for five years before retiring, and Mike’s father-in-law, Robert D’Amico, just celebrated his 21st year with us. Mike’s wife, Cathy, is also a huge part of the CES family as she always helps out at charity events, golf tournaments, and more.
Mike Bertone’s Favorite Memories
“Looking back now to where we are today is incredible,” Bertone said.
In his 30 years at CES, Mike Bertone has created a lot of memories. He remembers when customer accounts were stored on a Rolodex because there were no computers and you hand to write all the invoices. He remembers branches recycling paperclips to help their bottom line, and he remembers double-booking with nearby branches on a CB radio because a long-distance phone call cost too much.
“Times were tough,” he joked. “I was glad to be a part of it because those are days I’ll never forget.”
But what does Bertone remember most of all? Just how different CES was from other suppliers at the time — and even to this day.
“CES has always focused on personal service,” he said. “Running events back then, those were key. It helped us to start building relationships with customers. Not a lot of distributors did that.”
Those events would end up being part of the secret to Mike Bertone’s success. He started taking customers on annual hunting and fishing trips, not only to talk about business, but to form friendships. It’s a tradition he still does today.
“Some people leave their work at work,” he said. “I’m not like that. I interact with the friends I make at work, and a lot of our teams are like that, too. When you’re friends with your customers, it makes it easier to work together because you know each other.”
It’s Not Over Yet
Bertone has had incredible success, but what excites him the most as he looks forward to the next stage of his career?
“My goal is to get every one of our team members to advance,” he said. “My favorite part of being a regional manager is being able to create opportunities for employees. When I open a new branch or a new district, that’s an opportunity for everyone to move up and take on new roles.”
But it’s not just creating opportunities and rewarding his team with promotions. Bertone also loves to see results.
“Every time we beat a previous year’s results or have record-breaking years, that’s what motivates us to do even better next year.”
And what has helped lead to those results? A lot of it just has to do with the mentality Bertone encourages in his region and across his 41 branches.
“Try to never say no,” Bertone said. “No matter what task you have to do or what your customer needs, take it and do everything you can to make it happen.”
Now that Bertone has 30 years behind him, what is he looking forward to the most in the next stage of his career? Hopefully, more success, but also just more opportunities to give back to his branch teams.
“I’ll be here as long as CES will have me,” Bertone laughed, “but I want everyone who’s worked with me to just remember me as an educator and as someone who tried to teach people the business from the inside out.”
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have a big impact on a lot of people,” he added. “There are people who came up as district managers and regional managers in my branch network, but I’ve only ever given them opportunities. They’re the ones who helped themselves. They’re the ones who earned it. That’s all I can do. I can give you the education and the chance, but it’s all up to you to see what you can do with it.”
In other words, it’s all up to you to make it happen. Thank you, Mike Bertone, for everything you’ve given back to CES over these last three decades. We’re excited to be celebrating and honoring your 30th anniversary with us!