Financial Analyst, Border States Electric
By Joe Nowlan
At first glance, a college student majoring in accounting, with a minor in finance, may not sound like a candidate for a career in electrical distribution.
But while electrical may not have been Nick Longfors’ career goal while attending Minnesota State University at Morehead, he was pragmatic enough to keep his options open.
“I wasn’t specifically looking at the electrical industry or any certain industry. But I was looking for an accounting position,” Longfors said, looking back to his 2003 graduation. “Border States happened to be hiring at the time I was lucky enough to get that position.”
Longfors had interned at the Fargo, North Dakota-headquartered company in 2002, but when he began his full time work, he admits he knew little about the overall electrical industry.
“In college they don’t really prepare you for certain types of industries. And I didn’t know much about distribution, supply chain networks or any of that. So that all needed to be learned on the job,” he said.
Longfors was able to learn from a number of experienced people at Border States who took time to teach and mentor him.
“There’s a guy I work with who always has a quote about distribution. He says, ‘Distribution is simple. It is freight in and freight out.’ It was the first thing I learned,” he laughed. “It got a lot more complex than that once you start getting into the intricacies. But when you really boil it down, that’s what it is. You get a package in…the customer orders it and you send that package out.”
From 2011 to 2013, Longfors was an operations supervisor at the Fargo branch.
A finance guy as a branch supervisor may seem a bit unusual. But it was something Longfors requested, he explained, “to get more business knowledge at Border States. I decided to make the move to understand operations a lot more closely.”
The position meant he had to get up to speed quickly on product knowledge.
“I learned a ton about product. I kind of knew what wire and pipe was,” Longfors said. “[But] you learn a lot more about the product when you’re down there touching it every day.”
He also appreciated the management and supervisory experience it gave him.
“I managed 20 some people while I was there,” Longfors explained. “It was really a strategic move for my career, to better understand the company, round out some of my skills and be better prepared for future opportunities.”
Longfors returned to the financial end of things in October 2013, when he became a financial analyst.
“We have a lot of large contracts and alliance agreements, things like that. So my job specifically is to focus on those and make sure…we’re doing things efficiently and correctly to meet the customer’s needs,” he explained.
Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. Get to know the industry as best you can. You look at the electrical industry, and the distribution industry, it may seem at first glance like there’s not a whole lot of distribution industries out there.…But realistically every single company that exists, in one way or another, has to worry about logistics and distribution – whether they’re outsourcing it or handling it themselves. It’s really an industry that can touch everything, from top to bottom, throughout the country.
You’re working with manufacturers and research companies potentially and all the way down to contractors. It just reaches everywhere so it’s a good industry to be in. It opens a lot of doors for anywhere you want to go.
Q. What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in this industry?
A. Specifically, is it is working with the people. Border States as a company—its benefit package and the level of lifestyle that they allow me to have—is phenomenal. They are 100 percent ESOP-owned. So their retirement package is phenomenal. And I don’t have to put a penny into it. It is all from them. It’s amazing the benefits and things that Border States supplies. I don’t think I’m ever going to leave Border States.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Tagged with tED