31 (30 at the time of nomination)
Branch Manager, K/E Electric Supply
By Joe Nowlan
Chad Budnick was introduced to the electrical industry before he even started high school.
He grew up in Memphis, Mich.—which he describes as “a small, country farm town” located about an hour outside of Detroit.
“I was about 13 years old and my dad, who was an outside salesman, got me a job working for one of his customers,” he said.
Initially, he’d pull material and clean shelves for the electrician. As Budnick became more comfortable and got a little older the electrician began to teach him a few things about the trade.
Budnick continued to gain electrical experience throughout high school as he took on more responsibilities. Looking back now, he realizes that at a young age he discovered what he wanted to do for a career. A conversation with his then-boss clinched it.
“[He] told me I could make it is an electrician if I didn’t want to go to college and all that,” Budnick explained. “But I had to choose the right avenues. I couldn’t just sit back and live in the residential market. I had to go into the commercial end. It was at that point that I realized it was feasible and possible [as a career].”
Budnick started at K/E Electric Supply in 2011 after the downfall of the economy slowed down the electrical industry. Initially he worked on the sales counter and soon progressed to inside sales and power quotes.
K/E’s general manager at the time was also the de facto manager at the Mt. Clemens location, Budnick explained.
“He was taking on more and more with promotions and managing the other stores,” he said. “They basically created the branch manager position for me to run the day-to-day operations so he could fulfill the general manager’s position.”
He became full-time branch manager at the Mt. Clemens branch in September, 2014.
“We do a ton of commercial—pipe, wire, boxes, and fittings business. We do a little bit of residential but our base is commercial,” he explained. “The commercial business that we do is office buildings, schools, remodeled strip malls and some factory work.”
Budnick’s background as an electrician still comes in handy, especially when any new products come along. In addition to lunch-and-learns and IMARK and EPEC training, Budnick himself often tries out any new products.
“When a new product comes out I am the one who will dissect it and try it out,” Budnick explained. “If they bring a new MC connector, I don’t settle for saying ‘Here’s a new connector. Here’s the way it is.’ When the customer asks, I want to be able to explain to them why it is and what it is.”
Budnick and his wife Kelli have two children. Their son Ryan is four years-old and daughter Emily is one year-old.
He also serves as a volunteer fireman for the Memphis, Mich. fire department.
“I’m on call for them anytime that I’m around, at home or in the area,” Budnick said. “We do everything from treating someone who has a heart attack, car accidents—everything from the nothing calls all the way up to the house fires and stuff.”
Q. What advice would you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. Never settle for being comfortable in your position. There is always room to improve. There is always room to learn. Being in the fire prevention industry, that is one thing I’ve taken out of that and brought to this one. Never settle for saying, “A light bulb is just a light bulb.” Because it is never going to be that way. The light bulb will change every year. New technology, new methods and everything will come out.
You never want to say that you’re comfortable with your position because there may be a time and place when that position may not be needed. So you may have to advance. Make yourself personally well-rounded. You are more apt to be put in a position that is needed.
Q. What is one of the biggest challenges of running your department in today’s economic climate?
A. Product. Keeping everyone informed and making sure everyone is up on the latest and greatest. And make sure that the customers know what the latest and greatest is too. Making sure that everyone is aware of what is up-and-coming and what products are coming up the pipeline. Make sure that we are ready for it when needed.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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