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2018 30 Under 35 Profile: Jim Stewart

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Jim Stewart, 33

Jim Stewart
33
Branch Manager, Stanion Wholesale Electric

 

When asked how he came to work in the electrical industry, Jim Stewart laughed and said, “To be honest, I more or less fell into it.”

In 2011, after graduating from Kansas State University, he found himself between jobs. A friend worked at Stanion Wholesale Electric’s Manhattan, Kansas, location and mentioned they were looking for a delivery driver.

He applied, was hired, and hasn’t left since.

“I started as a delivery driver in the Manhattan branch and worked my way up there to the warehouse, then counter sales and inside sales,” Jim explained. “I did that for two years and when a management trainee position opened up in our Wichita location, I jumped on that.”

He eventually became the branch manager at Stanion’s Emporia location, where he’s been for three years.

While Jim came to the industry knowing very little about it, he quickly learned how vast the electrical industry is.

“It was eye-opening for me just to realize how large it was. When I was a driver, you’re locked into your locality for a while there,” he explained. “You don’t realize how big it is until you start getting more and more experience.”

His rise was a fairly steady one, as he obviously impressed his employers.

“I think a big part of it was my flexibility. I grew up in a military family so we moved around a lot. We always had to be flexible. And with my position, I moved in a fairly short period of time from our Manhattan branch to the Wichita branch,” Jim explained.

The Stanion branch he manages at Emporia has a varied customer base.

“Our Emporia location is one of our smaller branches so we definitely get the smaller contractor base. But we also have a very large industrial base for one as small as we are,” Jim explained. “We are a Rockwell house so that definitely helps.”

There are also some do-it-yourselfers who stop by his branch.

“Anybody who walks through the door is a customer,” he laughed. “We’ll get do-it-yourselfers and the little old lady coming in with the 30-year-old light fixture looking to see if we can find parts for it. We try to treat everybody equally even though some of those may not mean a big sale.”

Growing up in a military family, Jim moved every two years or so all across the United States, he explained.

“We also spent two years in Australia while my dad was in the Army. He retired in 1998 and bought a 200 acre farm in rural Kansas,” he said. “So I got to travel quite a bit when I was young and then I finished up my adolescent years on a farm. He purchased the farm more for conservation purposes. He makes a lot of his decisions based on what it’s going to do for the wildlife. We are not big into over-grazing or over-farming the land.”

Jim is single.

“Just me and the dog,” he laughed, referring to Boston his pit bull mix terrier. “He was a shelter dog, mainly pit bull and some other breed mixed in there too.”

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

A. I would say to be able to be flexible and have an open mind about it. Sometimes it can be slow and tedious to start off. But I think while it is such a niche market, once you get into it there is a ton of room for advancement. It seems like a lot of companies like to promote from within so that is a great thing. Once you start and build on that knowledge base, you can really become an asset pretty quickly to a lot of these companies. So I would say to be able to stick with it and be flexible and open-minded about it.

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. For me, as a Millennial, it is an interesting time right now because you are seeing the industry really starting to embrace technology everywhere—from a product standpoint and a company standpoint. We recently invested quite a bit of money into our online presence, in social media as well as our website.

For me, as somebody growing up with that, it was at first kind of tedious because you look at some of these companies and some have underdeveloped websites or even no web presence. And now you start to see more companies realizing it is easy to get behind that stuff. You are seeing this progression and it’s nice to see us stepping up with the times.

Same thing with technology. You are seeing all sorts of products that are more and more integrated with Bluetooth, wireless, etc. It’s nice to see the industry working [with] and embracing that.

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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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