In this series of articles, tED Magazine explores a problem that continues to plague this industry – finding young people to hire, train and equip to lead this industry. To obtain valuable insights on the topic, tED spoke with our 30 Under 35 honorees, both past and present. Our interviewees have some great advice on how to find new employees, how they were kept engaged by their current employers, and what the industry has to offer Millennials. Here are their stories.
By Bridget McCrea
The fact that Joe Speredon of Crum Electric Supply asked for a “heads-up text” 15 minutes before his tED Magazine phone interview was a dead giveaway on his age and technological bent. Clearly, this was a branch manager (for the distributor’s Salt Lake City location) who was up with the times and tuned into technology. After working in the title insurance industry for several years while attending college, Speredon found himself newly married and in need of a job.
“My brother-in-law was working for Codale Electric Supply (now owned by Sonepar) at the time, so he basically got me a job in the warehouse picking orders,” says Speredon, who was 23 at the time. “I worked hard in that position and moved up through the warehouse and over to counter sales.” Speredon’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed and before long he was promoted to an inside sales position. And while he full well admits that electrical distribution didn’t pop up on his radar screen until he actually needed a job, Speredon says he’s pleased with his career choice.
“I didn’t know anything about the industry but I needed a job and this was a good one,” says Speredon, who was particularly enthused by the advancement opportunities provided by distributorship. “I recognized that pretty quickly and knew I wanted to work my way up.” As it happens, Speredon says he saw even more opportunity at Crum Electric Supply, so he made an employer switch about four years ago.
“In researching Crum Electric, I picked up on the fact that there were more ways to work my way up the ladder – and there actually have been,” says Speredon. That’s not to say that his progression through the ranks of electrical distribution has been easy. One of the main obstacles has been the way in which the industry itself advances at the speed of light, so to speak, making it sometimes difficult for a newer employee to keep up with that pace.
“This is an ever-changing industry where roughly 70 percent of the products we were selling just 10 years ago have been significantly refined and improved,” Speredon points out, noting that LED lighting is one particularly challenging area. “When I got into this field a decade ago, LED was seen as being too expensive and out of reach; now about 70 percent of the lighting we sell is LED.”
On a positive note, Speredon says he likes the fact that electrical distribution is one of those evergreen industries that’s always in style and in demand. That’s one of the main draws that’s kept him interested in the various positions he’s held in the industry. “So many businesses are just a flash in the pan and almost gimmicky in nature, but ours has been around basically since electricity was discovered,” Speredon explains. “It’s always adapting and changing, but for anyone looking for a great career, this is a terrific field to be working in.”
Speredon warns younger employees that distribution may not be the right choice for someone looking to do the same job day in and day out for 30+ years. Knowing that Generation X and Millennial employees love a little variety, he’s confident that this sticking point won’t keep potential workers from exploring their opportunities in the field. “If you want a job that allows you to grow financially, personally, and socially,” says Speredon, “electrical distribution provides an excellent base of both national and international opportunities to feed those goals.”
Leveraging Key Tools
To hiring managers who want to do a better job of finding and recruiting younger workers, Speredon says it’s important to remember that – for better or worse – the younger generation tends to be somewhat entitled. “When I was getting into the workforce, I knew that I’d have to pay my dues upfront and work my way up,” he recalls. “Younger people don’t necessarily think like that anymore. Most of them want a pretty clear plan of succession from the outset; they want to know how they are going to advance through the company.”
Speredon, who uses online resources like LinkedIn to find good candidates for his branch, says social media is often a good starting point for the recruitment process. Job fairs still have their place in the process, he says, but having a presence on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter helps position Crum Electric Supply as a distributor that is “in touch” with younger generations. “That’s where the young people are right now,” he says, “and if you’re in last place – or non-existent – on those sites, then your odds of finding good, younger job candidates will be greatly diminished.”
McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at email@example.com or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.Tagged with distribution, Exclusive Feature, lighting, tED