People

2013 30 Under 35 Profile: Dustin Sussdorf

Dustin Sussdorf
32
Manager of Customer Service, Graybar

By Joe Nowlan

In discussing his career, Dustin Sussdorf occasionally refers to moving out of his “comfort zone.” That has happened at least a couple of times and he has turned that to his advantage.

He was born in Three Rivers, Mich., outside of Kalamazoo. He was introduced to electrical-related courses in high school. His school offered 11th and 12th graders the option of taking vocational training, he explained.

“In the first year we learned residential electronics. Everything you needed to know to complete a home installation from start to finish,” Sussdorf said.

He fondly remembers Marc Pebernat, who sparked his interest in electrical.

“It was all very interesting. Plus, [Mr. Pebernat] made it a lot of fun and a rewarding and unique experience,” he explained.

Interesting enough that after graduation, Sussdorf started working at the Kendall Electric Three Rivers location, focusing on the warehouse and later counter sales. Both were great learning and training experiences, he said.

“You learned how to interact with the customers who were coming in to see you each day,” Sussdorf said. “And you learned the products because you have to know what you are selling. People asked you technical questions about them.”

He moved up steadily at Kendall and eventually worked in another role that served as a great learning experience—as an “on-site crib manager” at a customer’s location.

“[Kendall] had a large contractor that needed to have somebody on-site at their facility to help them pull orders, put away inventory, process everything and get it ready,” he explained. “I wasn’t just a warehouse guy. I was a guy who had access to the system. I could provide immediate price quotes and submittals…. I became an on-site consultant of sorts.”

While he liked the work and people at Kendall, in 2006 Sussdorf took a sales representative position with Graybar in Chicago.

“I was looking for a new opportunity…. Graybar, being a larger company, had more opportunities and more positions to put people in,” he explained.

While it was an example of moving out of his comfort zone, it was a move Sussdorf was glad to take—despite, or maybe because of, the differences and changes going from Kalamazoo to Chicago.

“Business in Chicago happens at a different rate of speed than in a small town in Michigan…. I just had to learn the ropes,” Sussdorf explained.

He also learned the ropes of living in Chicago—a city he has grown to love.

“Driving [in Chicago] was challenging. Parking was challenging,” he laughed. “Everything seemed different but again it got me out of my comfort zone which I have realized is a good thing.”

He now works out of Graybar’s Hammond, Indiana location, just outside of Chicago. Sussdorf is currently attending Loyola University in Chicago. He and his wife Wiwanya have an 18 month old son, Tyler.

Sussdorf enjoys the variety that he finds in his work, even though there is a constant learning curve.

“For me, no two days are the same in this industry. Even more so now. There is something new to learn, new to experience or react to,” he said.

Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?

A. I would tell them to follow their ambitions. Fortune favors the bold. Opportunities will present themselves but you need to make sure you take a chance, take a risk and go for it. I think leaving your comfort zone is a good way to ensure career progression, and the best way to grow as an individual.

Q. What is one of the biggest challenges of running your department in today’s economic climate?

A. The major challenge that I see is – I am one of the younger managers in a branch that has a lot of tenured employees; which is a benefit for me because my people have been doing this for a long time. It’s important to make our people, of all generations, feel comfortable and motivate them. And sometimes it’s not always about the individual making the final decision. It’s about working with the team towards the best solution and then implementing that.… You go to the group and find out what works best and then go with it. This builds confidence in the team as a whole and in you as a manager. It can be tough, just motivating everybody and getting them involved.…

All that [experience] helps. It’s our advantage. The people have been doing this for a long time and have a lot of knowledge.

Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at jcnowlan@msn.com.

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