People

2013 30 Under 35 Profile: Eric Stakem

Eric Stakem
28
Corporate purchasing agent, Electrical Equipment Company (EECO)

By Joe Nowlan

Eric Stakem has always been fascinated by numbers. He graduated from James Madison University with a B.A. in finance.

“I’ve always been a very numbers-oriented person. Numbers don’t lie,” said Stakem, corporate purchasing agent at the Electrical Equipment Company (EECO).

And even while working for Stock Building Supply in 2008, Stakem was still hoping to take this interest and move to the inventory management side of the business.

At that point, a certain amount of fate—not to mention the housing downturn—intervened, he explained.

“I had known the person I actually work for here [Mark Hysong, director of purchasing and inventory management] for several years. He had a new position opening up.… And I wanted to get into inventory management…. So I came on board and I’ve been working here ever since,” Stakem said.

Stakem’s current responsibilities include handling some of the purchasing for some of EECO’s larger vendors.

“We’ve got 13 locations throughout Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. I do the stock purchasing for all the locations,” he said.

In recent years, inventory management has evolved and become more precise and sophisticated than ever. Not to mention time consuming. But the discipline needed to stare at a computer in order to apply these new metrics is something that Stakem has thrived on.

“This sitting at a desk, the repetition, is an adjustment. When you sit at a computer and do the same things over and over again, it takes some patience and motivation… . The spreadsheets can become a bit monotonous at times,” he said.

What helps him is being able to get out of the office and visit some EECO customers.

“I get out to the locations just to put a face to the name, if nothing else,” he said. “It helps with the relationship building. You get a better feel for the people when you’ve actually sat in front of them and talked to them, instead of doing all your communicating via email or phone calls.”

Measuring performance in purchasing can be hard to pinpoint, Stakem explained. Yet regardless of the new, sophisticated metrics, he prizes one thing over all the other metrics.

 “Ultimately, it comes down to the customer, whether they are happy,” he said.

He was born and raised in Richmond, Va. He has been married for two years to his wife, Jessie. The two have known each other since high school, he said.

They like to take advantage of the outdoors in Virginia and do quite a bit of hiking, among other things.

“We are lucky, living in Virginia,” Stakem said. “Two hours in either direction, you have the mountains or the beach.”

Stakem recently earned his CPSM certificate—certified professional in supply management. It represents the latest in an unending line of learning experiences.

“In fact my boss told me before I started here that it would take me three years before I’d have a handle on it. And then when you do, everything will change,” Stakem said. “Everything is new. People are always coming out with new items, more efficient items. You’re always learning something new, that’s for sure.”

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

A. Keep your eyes open. Don’t be so narrow minded. When an opportunity presents itself, take [everything into] consideration—even if it’s not something that you may want to do right away. Opportunities can go in any different direction.

Q. If someone approached you during your freshman year of college and said that someday you be working in the electrical industry, what would your reaction have been?

A. [Laughter] I probably would have given you the same chuckle I just did. At least at that point, to be honest. I didn’t know what I was going to do or where I was headed.… When there has been an opportunity or things have come up, I made a decision for what was best.… Even when I was getting ready to leave college, I didn’t even know where I was headed or what I was going to do.… There are so many different things that can change in your life to plan that far in advance when you’re so young.

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

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