32 (31 at time of nomination)
Inside electrical sales supervisor; Dakota Supply Group
By Joe Nowlan
Jesse Streed always had an interest in electricity and studied construction electricity at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead, Minnesota.
“I don’t know why I chose that particular field. But it came down to that or going to a four-year college and I guess I just took the shortcut and went to two [year college],” he laughed.
Streed was honest enough with himself to realize that college wasn’t going to be the path for him. Plus, he’d started to do some work at Dakota Supply Group.
“College and I weren’t the greatest of friends,” he chuckled. “After my second year, Dakota Supply Group offered me a job to basically start at the bottom, in the warehouse…Well, 13 years later—here I am.”
And so, like many in the electrical industry, Streed started in the warehouse.
“I spent about two years in the warehouse. When I was pulling tickets or whatever, I was always reading the part number,” he said. “It was nice to be able to read the description of the part number and hold that part and put it all together—basically learn and teach yourself that way.”
It was an education that he still uses, some 13 years later.
“If somebody called and wanted an inch and a quarter PVC coupling, I was pretty sure I was going to know the part number,” Streed explained. “That was my thing. I am a numbers guy. Some people are baffled by the part numbers and the descriptions. I know I can rattle off a part number that’s got 10 digits on it. But then, I don’t know what I had for lunch today.”
Streed continued his rise through the ranks at DSG to his current position as inside electrical sales supervisor. During that time, he has seen a number of innovations and new product lines come along. While the technology is amazing at times, Streed emphasizes that sustaining and building on customer relationships is in many ways more important than ever.
“To me that is the No. 1 thing as far as being a successful salesman—those relationships. To me, it is not about price. It is about that [relationships],” he explained. “Who you can trust? Who is going to take care of you? Not just who’s going to be the low guy who is selling stuff at no margin, basically.”
Streed grew up in Milan, Minnesota, a small-town of only about 300 people. He lives in Alexandria, Minnesota and can’t imagine living anywhere else.
“Basically the reason I moved here is I wanted to be in the lakes area…I like the option of getting out of work and going cruising on the lake or snowmobiling or whatever it may be. Anything that is outside, I guess,” he said.
Fishing—summer and ice fishing in the winter—is a major hobby.
“I like to chase the elusive walleye. I’ll catch anything, but walleye is what I fish for,” Streed said. “They are not the easiest fish. You’ve got to find them. If you can find them, though, it is fun.”
Q. What advice would you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. Take advantage of training. And don’t sweat the small stuff. There are certain things in this business that we have no control over…It gets to the point where you can’t take things too personally in this business because, if you do, you aren’t going to make it.
I’m the one who will preach that but I am the one who is pretty much the opposite because I do worry about stuff. I like to think I have a very significant role in our company but there are certain things that even my bosses have said, “Jesse, you need to tone it down.” But I can’t because I care too much about things. When I make a mistake, it is not good. I get very hard on myself and I think that’s why my customers come back to me. They know that I’m not going to point the finger and try to blame somebody else. I say, “Hey, it was my fault. Let me fix it and make it right.” Honesty. Being honest is a huge thing in this business. Customers appreciate honesty.
Q. What has changed the most in the industry in the past five years?
A. The speed. I can be on vacation and I can get an e-mail…My coworkers can say, “We need to bid this and it needs to be bid today.” As opposed to not being able to get that e-mail and getting back to the office five days later only to see that your opportunity to quote on something has passed.
Also, the intelligence with LEDs and lighting, for example…Five years ago we heard the word LED and everybody might run because it was so expensive. Well nowadays, 50% to 70% of the jobs we sell are LEDs.
Also, everyone is shying away from printed catalogs these days. That is another thing that has changed in the last five years. We used to get catalogs and now manufacturers are not even printing them. They just put it on the Internet.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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