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2013 30 Under 35 Profile: Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson
33
Product manager of distribution equipment, Werner Electric Supply

By Joe Nowlan

When Jeff Erickson was graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2004, he was in a good position. He had a couple of job offers from companies outside of Wisconsin where he was born and raised.

There was a certain amount of pressure on the home front to remain in Wisconsin so with that in mind, he sat down for an interview with Werner Electric Supply—even though, he now admits, he had no particular interest the electrical industry.

“My other two offers were out of state,” Erickson explained. “I was kind of sold on those but I came in for an interview [with Werner] for a different position, a project coordinator job.… And everything sounded great.”

Not long after, he accepted an offer to start at Werner’s Milwaukee location. Looking back, while he was surprised at Werner’s keen interest, Erickson thinks his established work ethic also impressed them.

“I had worked construction all of my life.… I started young. I worked through college and after I graduated, I worked for another year as a foreman,” he said.

Still Werner was a challenge for Erickson as there was a steep learning curve almost from the start.

“When I started they wanted me to do switchgear quotations and distribution equipment for our Milwaukee Southeast region,” he said. Switchgear includes products such as transformers or panel boards, “or anything that would get something up and running.”

Erickson responded to the challenge of learning on the job and enrolled in as many training programs as he could.

“I came in here as green as a plant,” he laughed. “It’s been an ongoing learning experience from there. I had had no previous anything in electrical. Most of my construction background was either in framing, concrete or roofing—stuff like that but not much with electrical.”

Erickson was promoted to his current title of product manager of distribution equipment in 2007. Part of his adjustment was that he became the de facto boss of people who were his co-workers.

“It was [a challenging adjustment] at first but the majority of the people I worked with knew me and my personality,” Erickson explained. “I’m a strong believer in accomplishing your goals and getting what needs to be done. … If you’re doing the right thing, you’re going to be good.”

Erickson stresses that it is important have good relationships with the customers but just as important in his case to have had good relationships with colleagues and coworkers. He knew he was part of an ambitious and driven team.

“I came on board here knowing that it was going to be a tough, uphill battle especially with setbacks. But the way I looked at it is that I want to build an empire. And we’re going to take over,” Erickson said.

He was named Werner’s project manager of the year in 2010 and 2011, and adds that “in 2013, we’re going to have another record year.”

Thirty-three years old, Erickson is single and spends much of his free time in Wisconsin’s outdoors—hunting with his dog as well as fishing, snowmobiling, and skiing—as well as avidly following the Packers, Brewers, and Wisconsin Badgers.

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

A. For every young professional coming in, I think I they will do a lot better now than when I came in eight or nine years ago. A lot of the turnover is forcing more young people to come in and the [company] is doing a great job at attracting [younger] people to go into the electrical industry.… You’ve got to give people, as far as employees or customers go, someone they can count on as far as dependability [is concerned]. If you can do that, you’re accomplishing 75 percent of what you need to.

Say what you are going to do and do what you’re going to say.… As long as you follow through on your word, I think you’ll strive way above anyone else in the field.

One thing that I had a real tough time doing – and I still do but I’ve been working on it a lot—is being patient… Patience really is a virtue. That’s one thing that I’ve been working on constantly. You just have to learn to be patient. A great thing that I’ve learned is that you have to take in all the information that you can and then peruse the answers.

Q. What has been one of the most successful sales strategies given the current economic climate?

A. One thing I knew we needed to do was to differentiate ourselves from different distributors. And I think that’s how we have done so well.… If you talk to anyone about distribution equipment and switchgears, it’s really hard to get an edge over the competition. But I think that’s one thing that we have done fairly well. That’s why, even in a down economy, we are gaining market share. That’s how we have been constantly striving and raising sales.

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

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