People

2014 30 Under 35 Profile: Justin Clayton

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Justin Clayton
30
Regional Manager, The HITE Company

By Joe Nowlan

When Justin Clayton was 26 years-old, he found his current job with The Hite Company by using a job search method many people might call old school: He answered a help wanted ad in his local newspaper. No headhunters. No Monster.com.

“Yup. An ad in a local newspaper,” Clayton laughed.

Clayton was working as an electrician for an electrical contractor in the Erie, Pa., area. When the economy slumped around 2009, he became a victim of the economic crunch felt by many, especially those working in housing-related industries.

“I was a contractor and actually dealt with [Hite] and I always liked dealing with them as a supplier,” he explained. “I responded to the newspaper ad that The Hite Company was running, seeking an outside salesman. I thought about it and figured, ‘If I have knowledge of the parts and I know what I’m talking about, it shouldn’t be a big stretch for me to actually sell the material as well.'”

Like many rookies in the industry, Clayton got his start in the warehouse—the type of place he used to visit to order parts.

“Because I knew the parts, but didn’t have any [sales] experience, [Hite] actually made a position for me and called it the outside sales training program,” he explained. “So they had me do a turn in the warehouse to start, pulling orders and packing orders, understanding the UPS shipments and stuff like that.”

Being a former electrician, and using many of these parts himself, gave Clayton a bit of a step up.

“If somebody said to me, that they need a certain part, I would ask them, ‘Well, do you also need one of these? Because that’s what I always needed when I did one of those jobs.’ It was an incredible help to me to have that field experience,” he said.

Eventually Clayton found himself moved to the inside sales counter to fill any [personnel] gaps in the store.

“So they would pay me to train,” Clayton said. “About 10 months into it, they formally introduced me to outside sales.”

He was born and raised in Erie, and was educated at the local high school and trade school where he first started working as an electrician.

“In my senior year, I was already working almost full-time hours for an electrician—half days, basically,” Clayton explained.

He and his wife, Nicole, have been married for 10 years. While they love the Erie area, the winters can be tough. That in turn can impact Clayton’s work with Hite.

 “Last winter here we had 140-some inches of snow by the end of the winter. It was a brutal year,” he said. “The thing that it affects the most is emergency type of equipment, generators, and other things…. But it can also push business down. Last winter, because there was such a hard freeze, our sales of everything from PVC to anything you need to bury in the ground were way lower than normal. The winter is definitely a factor here as far as how busy you’re going to stay for the year.”

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

A. Apply yourself. Don’t limit yourself to your current position. Always try to keep striving to move up and learn everything you can. Don’t just do a function. Think about why you’re doing that function. And think of the future on every action you do. Thinking ahead is the key. Think about what you see yourself doing in five years, not what you are doing presently.

Q. What has changed the most in the industry in the last five years?

A. I would say the biggest change is technology and LEDs. LED has changed the market and flipped it on its head. Where it was so easy to say what you would use in the past, now everything has changed. The technology is advancing so fast.… I liken it to the computer market. The computer you buy today is probably obsolete tomorrow. That’s the way that lighting and certain types of technology are advancing so fast. You just wonder what they are going to come out with next.

If you don’t stay up on it, somebody has already found some way to do what you did yesterday—at a better price, and with a better product. So even if it is some line or brand that you don’t specifically favor, you have to have an open mind to make sure that you have caught it and you didn’t miss an opportunity because you are unaware of what was available.

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

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