2014 30 Under 35 Profile: Shawn Kleven


Shawn Kleven
Inventory Planning Supervisor, Border States Electric

By Joe Nowlan

Shawn Kleven became involved in the electrical industry for the more or less traditional reasons.

“To be perfectly honest it was the old adage—I needed a job,” he laughed.

He started at Border States Electric’s Fargo, N.D., location in 2005 after graduating from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., with a bachelor’s degree in business management. He minored in communication.

“I actually knew a few people who worked at Border States but I didn’t know much about the company when I started,” said Kleven. “I was able to get my foot in the door and started in the warehouse here in Fargo. And looking back, that was a great opportunity for somebody new in the industry.”

By starting in the warehouse, he explained, he was able to get some hands-on experience and learn about the various products and customer needs.

Since then, Kleven has held titles such as pricing specialist and inventory planner (utility and gas) before his current position as inventory planning supervisor.

“As you get involved in different aspects of the business, you understand how interconnected everything is,” he said. “How one department that does something impacts another department.”

Kleven grew up in Crookston, Minn., about 20 miles from Grand Forks, N.D. So the sometimes-brutal winters there are old hat for him. But there is still a large degree of unpredictability for which he and his Border States colleagues try to prepare.

“We know something’s going to happen throughout the year; some sort of weather event…. We will be proactive and increase inventory levels just because we know that stuff is going to happen,” he explained. “We will take our best guess just from our knowledge of past events … to start procuring material before we actually know what customers might need.”

With the upper Midwest being so rural, a foot or two of heavy snow and ice can cause telephone poles and wires to collapse, resulting in lengthy power outages if supplies cannot be delivered quickly and repairs done promptly. While he’s lived his life in that area of the country, Kleven can still be a bit amazed at the damage and severity of a bad winter storm.

“You’d be surprised at the severity of some of the storms and how long they last…. So much of the area we cover is rural areas, open fields and not a whole lot of coverage from the winds that we can get up here,” Kleven said. “A lot of those overhead lines don’t have much protection from the brutal elements.”

He played hockey in college (usually at center) and still plays in a recreational men’s league, or “beer league,” as some affectionately call them.

Kleven lives in Moorhead, across the River from Fargo. He occasionally joins his Border State colleagues in volunteering with the Salvation Army and Great Plains Food Bank.

He is the proud owner of a rescue dog with a rather ironic name for one living in the upper Midwest: Rio.

“I adopted him when he was about a year old. I thought about changing his name but we kept it,” he laughed.

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

A. I would say to be patient. It takes some time. I have been with Border States for nine years and I have barely scratched the surface on understanding all the details of the industry and the aspects that I need to know more about. That would be the biggest thing for me—[patience].

Sometimes people want to be in their ideal job right at the beginning of their careers. But be patient and there are certainly a lot of opportunities in the industry if you put in the time and kind of pay your dues. You’ll find some fantastic opportunities down the road.

Q. Why do you consider community involvement such an important part of a company’s mission?

A. We’re a big part of the community. Community involvement is one of our key pillars, and is a big focus every year. We try to take advantage of every opportunity that we can to give back and improve lives in the communities we serve. And for me, personally, there’s something about volunteering your time and helping out … whether it’s monthly or quarterly are however you do it. Something about the feeling you get when you do that. You take pride in doing something like that.

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

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