2013 30 Under 35 Profile: Richard Doherty

Richard Doherty
Senior Buyer, Needham Electric Supply

By Joe Nowlan

While still in his early twenties, Rick Doherty was working as a bartender at a restaurant in the Boston area. Another bartender there also worked at Needham Electric Supply, an electrical distributor located in Canton, Mass. And Needham, as it turned out, was hiring.

Today, Doherty is candid in saying what attracted him to an opening at Needham Electric.

“I started working there pretty much because of the need to have health insurance,” he laughed, “It’s not a glamorous story, I admit, but that’s really the reason I started.”

Doherty grew up in Hingham, Mass., a town south of Boston. He had a general knowledge of the overall supply chain. His father had owned a small medical supply company, Doherty explained.

“I would work in the warehouse during the summers,” Doherty said. “So I had a basic understanding of distribution, not necessarily electrical distribution. But I kind of knew what the business model was….”

Once he spent time as a fulltime employee at Needham Electric, Doherty’s eyes were opened.    

“I saw that [electrical] was an industry that isn’t out in the forefront. You don’t even necessarily know it is there,” he explained. “But it is a big industry and there is money to be made…. To be in this industry is kind of the ideal spot for me because I like the contact with the customers as well as the contact with the manufacturers.”

In addition, the company was rapidly growing. Needham Electric had four branches at the time while today it has 28 branches in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

“I saw that it is an industry in which hard work pays off,” Doherty said. “You can really carve out a good career for yourself as long as you’re willing to put in the work. I saw that it was a good opportunity, being able to grow with the company at the right time.”

Doherty was recently promoted to purchasing manager. It’s a role that still finds him interacting frequently with customers. Doherty tries to get to every company branch at least once each quarter.

“We are more of a sales-minded purchasing department than some other distributors. I go out and call on customers and go to trade shows and do all that as purchasing manager,” he said.

A native of Massachusetts, he attended college at the University of Oregon before moving back East. When he was younger, the Dohertys would visit relatives in Oregon during the summer.

“I kind of fell in love with it there. My cousin played for the Oregon football team,” he said. “So I became a fan pretty quickly.”

Doherty was married this past May to his wife, Stacy. His hobbies include closely following football. Needham Electric’s Canton headquarters are about a 12-mile drive from Foxboro, where the New England Patriots play. And he still avidly follows Oregon football, even if he does have to stay up rather late Saturday nights to watch their games from the West Coast.

“I DVR them, typically. Then I’ll wake up in the morning and watch them before I hear the final score,” he laughed.

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

A. I would say … patience.… It’s a type of industry where if you want to grow quickly, you can. But the best thing you can do is to ask a lot of questions. And find people who have been in the business for 20 [or] 30 years and ask them a lot of questions and listen to what they say. Then be a sponge for that information because there is just so much information out there. The product knowledge is so key. You are always learning when it comes to products because [they] are always changing. It is so extensive. So the biggest thing that I’ve had the luxury of is we have people who have been with our company for 30 years.… And [being able to] utilize their experience to help you grow.

Q. What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in this industry?

A. It is a growing industry. There will always be a need for it. It does go up and down with commercial construction. But there is always a job for people who are willing to work hard and utilize all the things that they have learned. There is stability in this industry.… Even in tough times, I think there is always a spot for people who work hard and provide value and are willing to step outside of their responsibilities and do a little extra.

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

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