Branch Manager, Needham Electric Supply
By Joe Nowlan
Mike Parmenter has been the branch manager at Needham Electric Supply’s Greenfield, Mass., location since March of 2013.
He attended Smith Vocational High School in Northampton, Mass., and focused on the electrical trade, among other subjects.
While working for the brother of a friend, who was a licensed electrician, Mike earned his first experience in the electrical field. From there, Parmenter took a job with another electrical distributor as a branch sales associate.
“I enjoyed the job and learned a lot about the industry in my first position in distribution,” he explained. “During my six years there, I was on the counter and in inside sales, [and also] gaining some valuable experience in outside sales.”
As Parmenter became more experienced, he received an offer from Needham Electric Supply. But he wasn’t ready to leave his current employer and decided to stay put.
However, the company was sold to a national chain and his role and the company changed. He was ready for a new challenge, Parmenter explained. Needham Electric approached him again and in September 2011, he came on board as inside sales and projects quotations manager for western Massachusetts.
Promoted to branch manager in March 2013, his current territory goes from western Massachusetts to southern Vermont.
“I am on the road three days a week, from 7 a.m. to after lunchtime,” he explained. “And then I’ll be back at the office for the rest of the day.”
Parmenter has an extremely diverse customer base.
“In our area there is a lot of opportunity for growth,” he explained. “We have a lot of residential contractors and a lot of commercial industrial contractors…. [And] we do have a lot of solar guys who order pipe and wire from us.”
Additionally, Parmenter’s branch has a lighting showroom. When the showroom became busier, the company hired a young, part-time associate —much as he himself was when starting out.
“She had no industry experience,” he said. “She had the drive that we look for in new associates. Everyone here saw great potential in her.”
Parmenter talked to Needham Electric executives and developed a plan to expand the role to a full-time position, comparable to what Parmenter originally did when he joined Needham.
“We basically developed a plan for her to become a quotations and project manager,” he said. “She’s doing great for the branch and for the industry.”
Helping the careers of others is all part of my day’s work, as Parmenter sees it.
“As a branch manager you are the location’s conduit to human resources and in some cases, play a bit of the HR role, so to speak, for your employees,” he said. “You have to have that kind of mentality to be able to handle both sales management and personnel management.”
Parmenter is a member of the advisory board at Franklin (Mass.) County Technical School.
“Sometimes I’ll bring a couple of pizzas for the kids for lunch and they’ll tell me what they’ve been doing, some of the products they’re installing [in classes],” Parmenter explained. “I’ve already seen kids graduate and come into the industry. It’s a good feeling. I was there once, and not very long ago.”
Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. I would definitely say that you have to keep your motivation up, not only for yourself, but especially if you are a professional in a leadership role. Your attitude and outlook and your reflection of the company – that all has to be positive. You are the one creating the morale and maintaining it. You need to be the biggest influence on everything around you whether it is your employees or your customers. Keep the morale on both sides as high as you can. And follow through with your customers and associates; make sure they know that you are the one to call. That’s how I got this position… It is important to keep the morale up and know that you can have probably the greatest effect on whether it goes up or down.
Q. What do you think is the biggest opportunity within the industry?
A. I guess that depends on where you want to go. If you’re interested in moving outside of your local area, a company like Needham Electric can provide many different career paths.… But if you’re more of a hometown person and you want to be where you are, I think the branch manager level or maybe a district manager level is probably a good aspiration.
But there’s plenty to be done in the industry. I did some purchasing in the past.… Buying commodities was a difficult thing to learn because of the constant market fluctuations. It was interesting watching the market trends.
Industry wise, there are opportunities everywhere. Working for a rep starting out on the inside, you’re answering phones. You’re taking the orders if you’re the order entry person. And then from there you can go on the road if your sales skills are proven. There is definitely opportunity for people to grow exponentially throughout the different areas of the industry.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Tagged with tED