People

2018 30 Under 35 Profile: Ben Fordree

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Ben Fordree, 30

Ben Fordree
30
Industrial account manager; Shealy Electrical Wholesalers, a division of Border States

 

After graduating from college (The College of Charleston, S.C.), Ben Fordree was an account manager for a commercial cleaning company. He was managing 25 individuals and the cleaning of almost half a million square feet of commercial space, he explained.

So how did he wind up at Shealy Electric, which is a division of Border States Electric?

“I’m really here just kind of by happenstance, I knew some people in the industry and got connected with them,” Ben said.

He had heard about Border States Electric’s training program and was hoping to qualify for it when he began work at the Shealy warehouse in 2013.

“I really just started in the warehouse at our Columbia, S.C., location with the hopes of joining the training program. I figured I could be a good contributor to that program,” Ben explained.

Today, he freely admits he went into the warehouse on his first day knowing virtually nothing about the overall electrical industry.

“I joined the program with zero electrical distributor knowledge, zero electrical knowledge,” he laughed.

Like many before him, Ben found it all a bit overwhelming during those first days.

“I didn’t know what any of this stuff did. I just knew that this item needs to go in that box and then shipped to this customer,” he said. “So I started in the warehouse in March and worked my tail off for the first few months. I got noticed and they called me up to join the training program in June.”

While challenging, he enjoyed learning more and more each day. Once he joined Border States’ training program, though, his education accelerated.

“It’s a two-year program and it puts you in every aspect of the company. I didn’t really connect the dots until I got into that training program,” he explained. “That really helped me start looking at it and diving into products, diving into processes and how it all works.”

Ben obviously took to the various challenges—and Shealy-Border States realized it had a strong employee on its hands—since today his title is industrial account manager.

“I call on all of our industrial sales facilities around here. Some examples would be Kimberly Clark. Another big one is Bridgestone, and Georgia Pacific, too,” Ben explained. “I help them identify the best solution for whatever problem they’ve got going on. Really, it’s solution-oriented, service-oriented calls every day.”

Ben readily credits the team with which he works, emphasizing that it isn’t just polite talk on his part.

“They help me every day, above and beyond,” he explained. “I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without those guys and gals. They put up a lot of my ‘rookieness’ and have helped me along the way.”

Ben and his wife Abby have two daughters: three-year-old Harper, and Rebekah, who is three months old.

In addition to hunting, Ben also runs Spartan races and, in early December, he ran his first marathon.

“Fitness is a very big aspect of my hobbies. Spartan races, I did a lot of those last year. I’m crazy about running through the woods and getting muddy and doing obstacles,” he said.

 

 

Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?

A. I would challenge other young individuals in the electrical industry to stick with it, to continue to learn, continue to grow and continue to meet people. I would encourage them to invest in others around them, build relationships because in my time in the professional world, I haven’t seen a closer knit community anywhere.

My relationships with people within my organization, and outside of my organization with vendors, are awesome. The friendships I’ve built are long-lasting. Everybody, for the most part, is ready to help you. And they’re going to work their tails off to make sure you get what you need.

So more than the learning aspect and challenging yourself, I would say just invest in others around you because I don’t know if you’re going to find a group this concentrated that is as great as these guys and ladies.

Q. You and many in the electrical industry seem genuinely enthusiastic about your work and about the industry overall. Why do you think that is?

A. I think we have the enthusiasm because of the people around us. This is a great group of people. I think we’re enthusiastic because we like to help each other and what goes around comes around. I help you, you help me. We have a great time and in the end our customers are all happy and satisfied with what we’re doing. And we’re making money, so that’s great.

I think this industry is really changing and that makes it fun for us. We can watch the change in how we go to market. We can change how our customers get the information or the product they need.

And then our products—the light bulb has been reinvented 18 times this century! So seeing those kinds of changes and the technology is just getting better and better. It’s fun to show a customer a new product and they go, “Man, this is great. I wish we had this five years ago.” Well, now we got it. What do you want to do?

So I think it’s fun on two levels: one, because you get to help those around you. And two, because the industry is changing so much, both the product and process.

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Joe Nowlan  is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at jcnowlan@msn.com.

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