Branch Manager, K/E Electrical Supply
By Joe Nowlan
When Erin Gabor was appointed manager of K/E Electrical Supply’s Brighton, Mich., branch earlier this year, she was K/E’s first female branch manager.
It represents the highpoint to date in a steady career path—one that actually started in a lumberyard. Gabor was working for a small, family-owned lumber company where she started as a cashier, then moved to purchasing and later to sales.
A friend of hers at K/E Supply mentioned that they had an opening. Gabor applied and started there in 2000.
Once at K/E, she worked in accounts receivable, she said, before moving over to accounts payable where she stayed for about nine years. In 2008 she was offered the opportunity to move to the lighting side of K/E and immediately took it.
“I was ready for something a little different,” Gabor said. “I didn’t want to leave the company. That was for sure. [But I was looking for] new challenges, something a little more exciting [that would] challenge me a little more. So I jumped at the chance to get into this field.”
Gabor clearly took to the new responsibilities and soon enrolled in the EPEC Bronze training program for sales.
“I looked at it as something to help me along, to understand the sales aspect better. I know is going to help me more than it would ever hurt me,” she laughed.
She realized right away that the lighting industry brought with it a constant learning curve with various new products and innovations. This was the challenging aspect she had been looking for.
“I really enjoyed lighting and I think part of it was we were always learning something new. Even if it was the same problem every day, it was still different,” Gabor explained.
With her varied professional background, Gabor said she has learned something useful at every stop and with each responsibility.
“I’ve taken a lot from every position I’ve been in. When I moved to lighting, I already knew my way around the computer system and I think that was why I was able to advance so quickly. I only had to learn lighting. I didn’t have to learn how to use their computer system as well,” Gabor explained. “Now in my management position, I have to help out on the counter. So I have learned quite a bit about the small parts and pieces of everyday stuff for the electricians when they come in.”
Some people joke that they are still glad not to have to go back to school each September. But the 34 year-old Gabor obviously feels differently.
“I ask for it. The education, the training, is not mandatory. It is all voluntary. We don’t have to do it but we can if we want,” she said. “It just makes us better employees and better at our job.”
Her husband Brad is, ironically, an electrician although he wasn’t one when they first met. They have a son, Joshua, who will be two years old in October.
Having an electrician the house is convenient, she laughed, as Brad was able to make all the electrical outlets tamper-resistant—a necessity with a toddler running around.
Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. Stick with it. Take all the learning opportunities you can. If you have a chance to do EPEC, definitely do it and stay on it. Also, NAED has some other great training courses that have been very helpful. So any training that they can get, and any advice they can get from any of their customers, electricians, co-workers – definitely take it.
Q. What has been one of your most successful sales strategies given the current economic climate?
A. I ran a promotion for [Detroit] Tigers tickets. It was a three-pack game, which we gave away to customers. [But] they had to purchase a certain dollar amount to be put into the drawing. It really seemed to help increase sales because, for example, you had to spend $500 [to be entered]. So if somebody had $450 [they had ordered] well, for another $50 you could get into the drawing. So they’d always find something more to purchase. That seemed to really help boost sales quite a bit during the promotion.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Tagged with tED