Daniel De Longe
31 (30 at time of nomination)
Branch Manager, Graybar
By Joe Nowlan
Daniel De Longe probably took the most indirect career path to the electrical industry of any of this year’s 30 Under 35 honorees.
De Longe was working on the startup of TkFast, a technology solutions provider, he explained.
“[It was] a value-added reseller for companies like Cisco and Dell. We were an integrator, basically,” De Longe said. “One of the things that TkFast did was we would do small data centers for medical and financial companies. We would do audio-video integration for conference rooms, school classrooms, etc.”
It was an exciting yet nerve-wracking time, he recalled. (During this time, in addition to TkFast, De Longe was also managing an area Best Buy store while attending college.) But it was during his work at TkFast that De Longe came into contact with the electrical industry.
“I had a lot of interaction with electrical contractors. They were an integral part of some of the solutions that I designed, e.g. data centers, fully automated conference rooms,” he said. “We had to subcontract all the electrical work because we were not licensed contractors. That’s how I got to know some of them.”
In the beginning, De Longe explained, TkFast could be described as “controlled chaos, but then soon evolved into a very fluid and dynamic workplace with great potential.”
Eventually, though, he found that his TkFast role became too predictable and too much of a comfort zone for him.
“So it wasn’t much of a challenge [any longer]…. it wasn’t a good fit anymore,” he said. “I knew I needed to find something that would continue to challenge me….”
De Longe decided to apply for graduate school with the intention of getting his MBA. As part of the application process, he had to create and submit a resume.
He then decided to send out his fresh resume and apply for a couple of jobs, more for the application experience than anything else.
“I sent it off to a few openings that seemed to be a good fit including Graybar. At the time, the local Graybar branch was looking for a new branch manager,” De Longe explained.
Somewhat to his surprise, Graybar wanted him and, after learning about the company, De Longe wanted Graybar. He is now manager of its Wichita, Kansas, branch.
“As a branch manager I have a lot of autonomy,” he explained. “As an employee, I am grateful to be a part of a team that values integrity, employee ownership, the long-term view and a sharp customer focus.”
De Longe and his Wichita team have been able to increase 2015 sales by 25% over the previous year. They did this by shifting “the mindset from pushing as many boxes out the door to strengthening relationships with customers and suppliers to offer full-fledged solutions,” he said.
Providing personal, face-to-face customer service has also been important.
“Business is not B2B or B2C. It is human to human,” De Longe explained. “Good working relationships are critical for success of any kind.”
De Longe and his wife Niki have three children: a son, Bradley (age 7) and two daughters, Brooklyn (age 4) and Bella (3 months.)
Q. What advice would you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
I think it is important to become a good corporate citizen within your community. In addition, build a network of successful people within your local market. It is also important to stay in tune with industry trade information.
Q. Why do you consider community involvement to be such an important part of a company’s mission?
A. People do business with friends, people they can trust. You can sell the people on price but there is no loyalty there. Whoever can give the lowest price will beat you. But when you have the relationship aspect of it, there is value there.…Instead of reviewing the aggregate product cost, the customer then can focus on the total cost of doing business.
In that total cost of doing business is where your value-added services come into play—the trust and relationships. You can grow that reputation and trust by being involved in the community and being a good steward. People like to do business with people they know and also with companies that they know have a stake in the community, and are not just in it to make a buck. They are in it for the long term.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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