John Hartmann Bio

College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Alumnus, John Hartmann '85, Charted His Path To CEO

From being the first in his family to attend college to becoming president and CEO of True Value Company, these achievements have been part of a plan John Hartmann ’85, the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus from the College of Liberal Arts, has quite literally crafted for himself.

“When you graduate from college, you need to have a plan for what you are going to do,” Hartmann said. “It is thinking about what you want to do during the course of your career and then committing some of it to paper.”

This does not mean Hartmann’s plans have not changed along the way.

A native of Clifton Springs, N.Y., Hartmann arrived at RIT with aspirations of becoming a police officer. The criminal justice major excelled at RIT and his professors encouraged him to pursue a law degree after graduation.
“RIT really opened my eyes to education,” Hartmann said. “That, combined with the classroom experience and understanding other people’s points of view, has impacted my entire career.”

After law school, Hartmann went on to enjoy a career in the FBI, but recalibrated his plan after 10 years with the bureau to pursue a corporate career, listing business leader and, in time, CEO as objectives.

“If you don’t choose to plan, then ultimately you are choosing to have others plan for you. Work your plan in a way that positions you to achieve your goals and aspirations. At the same time, keep your mind open to all the other possibilities and directions you can go.”

As president and CEO of True Value, Hartmann now oversees a co-op of 4,500 independently owned hardware stores, providing them with the resources they need to be successful. Under his leadership, True Value has gone on to see its best sales in over 20 years.

Hartmann credits this success, and others throughout his varied career, to a simple, yet unexpected, asset.

“Listening is more important than talking. Whether you’re in a classroom setting, corporate role or in public service, the skill of listening is an important one for all of us to focus on.”