On-site inventory specialist;
By Joe Nowlan
Chad Sherrill’s introduction to the electrical industry wasn’t exactly typical.
“Mine may be a little different from most. My degrees are actually in biology and psychology,” Sherrill explained.
While earning those degrees from the University of Dayton, he worked for a local fire department as an EMT.
“I was basically on the emergency medical service side of my hometown fire department. The experience gave me a glimpse into the medical profession, so to speak,” Sherrill said. “That had been my initial pursuit; however, with all the paperwork and extra schooling I came to the realization that path was not going to fit my attention span.”
After graduation, Sherrill joined Sherwin-Williams’ management training program. But a chance meeting on a golf course provided Sherrill with a welcome career change.
“About two years into the job, I actually met the vice president of [Dickman Supply] at a golf course. My buddy said to him, ‘Hey, would you get this kid out of paint?'” he laughed. “And he said to shoot over my resume. Shortly after that I started in as the fourth trainee in Dickman Supply’s Future Leaders Program.
In his time in the electrical industry Sherrill has found a number of similarities to working at both Sherwin-Williams and to his part-time job in college—working in a pawn shop.
“I think there is a tremendous amount of overlap,” Sherrill said. “No matter what you are selling, when it gets down to brass tacks, it is essentially the same. You’re just using different solutions. The key is, can you deal with different types of personalities, understand what they need, solve problems, and build up a level of respect between you. When it all comes down to it, being successful in distribution is about trust, not about being flashy or technically superior.”
Like many of this year’s 30 Under 35 honorees, Sherrill is challenged by the seemingly constant learning. It’s a challenge he embraces.
“I really have a passion for just understanding how things work…. I don’t really see it so much as learning as just figuring out what makes things tick,” Sherrill said.
Sherrill heads up his company’s on-site inventory management division, named Dickman Integrated Supply. “Vendor managed inventory for our customers has become a very popular value-added service for Dickman Supply,” he explained.
“The goal is basically to become an extension of your customer’s team. When you get on-site, you can integrate with the customer and develop a sense of trust,” Sherrill explained. “You become a partner as opposed to just a salesman walking in….”
He grew up in Vandalia, Ohio, a small town north of Dayton. Sherrill likes working with tools and he and his father refurbished a house he bought on foreclosure and in which he now lives.
“My father and I basically took it from unlivable to a pretty comfortable home,” he said. “We gutted most of the house and made quite a transition.”
When he can, though, Sherrill likes to keep things simple.
“I really enjoy being outside, drinking some good craft beer and playing a lot of golf,” he laughed.
Q. What advice would you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. I would tell them to pick a mentor, and I would advise them to pick a mentor who isn’t much like themselves. If they are an extrovert, I’d want them to pick somebody who is a little quieter…. And an introvert should pick someone who is more of an extrovert. Find someone who can maximize the capabilities for which you are not currently strong.
There are plenty of people within in our company whose strengths are far different from my own…. When you are out with customers, you don’t always have to know it. You just have to know someone who does. There are plenty of people that are smarter than me and I want to make sure I know those people.
And really take advantage of every learning opportunity. If they send you away to training– or they invite you in for plant tours where you can see how something works – I really find that advantageous.
Q. If someone approached you during your freshman year of college and said that someday you would be working in the electrical industry, what would your reaction have been?
A. I would have asked them what the hell is the electrical industry [laughing]. I would’ve thought of electricians. The only knowledge I had of distribution comes from my dad’s career as a manufacturer’s rep for aftermarket automotive. So I think I had a knowledge of what distribution was but I didn’t realize to what extent. If somebody said I would be working in the electrical industry I would’ve thought, “I’m not going to be an electrician. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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