Industrial sales manager; Buffalo Electric Supply
By Joe Nowlan
Brad Gravitt grew up around an industry that, while not exactly electrical distribution, was close enough to give him a slight preview.
“There were about seven master plumbers and gas fitters in my family. I grew up working for a plumbing company and going to plumbing supply houses,” he explained. “So I had a pretty good idea of how the distribution process worked.”
In 2004, Brad graduated from the University of Alabama-Birmingham with a degree in management. His specific introduction to the electrical industry came from a college pal.
“I first heard about it through a college fraternity brother. I had just left a job and was looking for another one and he told me to come and interview at [St. Louis-based] Graybar,” Brad said.
Working for a Fortune 500 company like Graybar was an eye-opener. He was especially taken with the constant innovation and ongoing learning.
“If you didn't learn anything for the day then you didn't try hard enough, I guess,” Brad said. “You should be learning something every day that you come to work.”
It's an approach he has taken ever since. Much of his learning comes from his customers who are often his best teachers, he explained.
“That is my favorite part of the whole thing—going to a particular industrial end user and seeing their process,” he explained. “And then meeting that one guy that is passionate about their process and talking him into giving me a tour. You should learn something just from those experiences.”
In 2014, he accepted a position at Buffalo Electric Supply in Birmingham, Ala., where his current title is industrial sales manager.
“I have always called on some of the same types of customers that I did when I was at Graybar. But now I call on a little bit of everything like utilities and contractors, to be honest,” he explained. “It's has been neat to see the different processes.”
One favorite customer is a local potato chip plant.
“Especially the potato chip plant,” he laughed. “There's nothing like getting a hot bag of chips right off the assembly line.”
While it was a change going from a large company like Graybar to a one-branch business like Buffalo Electric, it's had several advantages, he explained.
“I like the 'back of the house' part of the business. Getting behind the curtains and doing those types of things instead of just having the same role every day,” Brad explained. “It allows me to use my degree from college, helping with departments like accounting, management and marketing.”
Brad was born and raised in Birmingham and loves still being there. He and his wife Nicole have two children: a daughter, Kate, who is seven; and a son, Sam, who is four.
Brad participates in Buffalo Electric's charitable efforts such as the Firehouse Shelter Can Food Drive event, among other fundraisers. But having two small children pretty much dictates what Brad and his wife do for hobbies.
“We're getting to the age where with after school and extracurricular activities—dance, gymnastics, and soccer—I've pretty much become a fan of children's activities. That's kind of my hobby,” he laughed.
Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. If you find yourself in a place where there are established salespeople (especially young salespeople), you may not know if there will be an open spot in sales for you in the near future. Things can always change so just keep learning. Learn from the people around you. In the end, that will usually wind up benefiting you the most. If they decide to leave or have the ability to suggest someone, they may put in a good word for you because of your work ethic.
Always be learning. Technology changes everything. There is always something that you can apply to the business. And being young, you have an advantage when it comes to those things because you probably have a better understanding of how technology works or how to find out about the new technologies and how to apply them. Keep plugging along.
Q. Why do you consider community involvement to be such an important part of a company's mission?
A. It's about giving back. What is the expression—to whom much is given, much is expected? If we do well, it is better if we all do well. The next charitable event we are doing, for example, is collecting some canned foods for our local firehouse shelter for men. We're going to collect cans and then make a donation to them.
We work in a part of town that is not the nicest section of town. There are a lot of people walking down the street where you can make the assumption that they are not well-off. They could be homeless. And this is a shelter a couple of blocks from us that will feed them and teach life skills—how to work computers, how to do up a resume. Things of that nature.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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