By Joe Nowlan
Adam Messner grew up in Michigan. He attended Stanford where he was co-captain of the swim team and won a gold medal for the United States in the Pan Am Games. He swam in the Olympic trials twice (1996 and 2000) and just missed making the U.S. team.
Much of the drive and competitiveness he brought to swimming has contributed towards his business success. Today, Messner is the CEO-founder of San Francisco-based LiveWireSupply.com.
“I have always been a salesman, ever since I was seven years-old,” he said. “I grew up on a golf course and I’d go through the lakes and creeks hunting for lost golf balls. Then I’d sell them back to the golfers.”
Messner graduated from Stanford in 2001 at a time when Internet companies such as Google were paying new graduates quite well. But he knew he was headed in a different direction.
“My goal was to spend a good portion of my day working outside,” Messner explained “and do something that could make the world a better place, ideally something with a green slant or a recycling slant. Plus, I wanted to make money.”
His first job was working as an environmental consultant but he soon realized he was spending too much time behind a desk and not outside. After a stint as a fisherman in Alaska, Messner returned to San Francisco and worked for an electric supply company where he began to notice something.
“I was in outside sales and I was losing orders to the Internet, to eBay,” he explained. “We were losing orders to companies outside of our territory, many of which had an online presence.”
Messner came to the conclusion that, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” In 2005 he began LiveWireSupply. The company takes parts that have been decommissioned and rebuilds them before reintroducing them to the marketplace.
“Decommissioned means that the company could be going out of business or shutting down a portion of their operations,” Messner explained. “Oftentimes it will be brand-new, boxed equipment that has been kept in a climate-controlled environment.”
LiveWireSupply was among the first to take this approach, he said.
However, Messner is quick to add that “the majority of the equipment that we sell is brand new. We have direct relationships with a couple of manufacturers and are an authorized distributor for a few lines. One of our primary objectives for 2013 is to build out more relationships with both manufacturers and other distributors around the world. Many of the manufacturers and distributors we already work with think of us as their not so secret weapon when it comes to online sales – we’re not competitive with them, we’re complementary.”
Messner and his wife, Allison, have a two-year-old son (Max) and a baby girl due in July.
Max hasn’t begun swimming laps in a pool yet, but he does join his dad in the family hot tub occasionally. They’ve yet to put a stopwatch on him, however.
Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. In the electrical industry there’s massive opportunity for young professionals. This is an especially exciting time in the industry. The convergence of technology and innovation within the industry should be especially compelling to young professionals. For those interested in a career in sales, like I was, the electrical industry has a multitude of tracks that start with inside sales and can lead to global enterprise sales.
I have built hundreds of solid relationships with customers and vendors—many of the folks I have met in the industry will be life-long friends. Young professionals should find mentors and role models to provide thoughtful insight and increase the size of one’s network. Innovators and savvy businessmen and women built the electrical supply industry; they can teach us a great deal. Establish yourself as an expert and learn what you can from those around you.
Business owners are looking for young professionals capable of building products and solutions that will power the future. If you are full of ambition, innovation and perseverance you will create a very rewarding and fulfilling career for yourself. You are following in the footsteps of countless thought leaders that have also been drawn to this rewarding industry. Highlight the positive personality traits within yourself when developing your own narrative within the electrical industry.
Q: What is the strangest or most unique customer request you’ve had?
A: A ski resort at Vail, Colo., had its chairlift break down over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday. They called us on Friday and we had the breakers to them later that night.
There was also the time officials from the Grammy awards called us. They had a solar-powered system set up to provide power to their in-house audio-visual equipment. But they had blown a couple of fuses. We had a courier drive them down to Los Angeles and get them there.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Tagged with tED