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2019 30 Under 35 Profile: Kevin Swan

Kevin Swan, 31

Kevin Swan
31
Vice-president of operations; Active Electrical Supply & Fox Lighting Galleries

Kevin Swan is the fourth generation of his family to work at Active Electrical Supply—even though his college studies, at first, pointed in a slightly different direction.

In college, he studied to be an architect.

“Midway through college I found out I would prefer the family company. I guess it’s a cliché, but the electrical industry is in my blood,” Kevin said. “What keeps driving me every day is living up to the values of my great grandfather who founded the company. I enjoy being able to keep that family tradition alive—to keep it growing and keep it sustaining.”

Looking back now, Kevin can recall hearing about the electrical industry at family dinners and talk among the grown-ups including his father. While in high school, he would occasionally help out at Active Electrical.

“I would help do inventory days and cleaning of the warehouse, packing and picking orders. Occasionally I would stop in with my father and I’d be poking around the warehouse a little bit,” he said.

After realizing that he had more passion for Active Electrical than a possible architecture career, he began fulltime at Active Electrical in 2011.

“When I started full time I got a broader understanding of how the electrical distribution industry works,” he said. “You get a larger understanding of your relationship to the suppliers and your relationship to the customers. And all that starts in the warehouse, packing and filling orders, making sure they get out to customers on time.”

While he doesn’t look back and second guess his decision to leave architecture behind, Kevin said that those studies do help him at times in his work.

“It actually helps me quite a bit, especially on the residential side because I have a very broad understanding of how buildings are built,” he explained. “So when people ask me questions about the installation or application, I can relate to that better because I did understand construction aspects at a young age. It gives me knowledge and experience that allow me to relate to customers.”

Kevin’s current title is vice president of operations. In that role he also spends time in a separate division of Active Electrical, their Fox Lighting Gallery.

“We also have a residential lighting showroom as well so I’m required to be well versed in the residential and decorative lighting, not just commercial lighting but all aspects of lighting,” he explained. “Learning that gives you more tools in your toolbox to talk to your commercial customers when they need to put in some lighting that’s more decorative or more involved.”

Kevin and his wife Stacy (who also works full time at Active Electrical) have two children: Charlotte is three years old and son Wesley is a year old.

As for hobbies with the couple’s busy schedule?

“It’s definitely hard because we both work full time and the kids are at daycare every day. The weekends are when we finally have the chance to hit the reset button,” Kevin explained. “We like to travel, garden and spend time in Wisconsin. So lately the weekends have been all about the kids.”

 

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

A. My advice for young professionals would be to pursue all the training they can and always have a desire to keep learning the industry because the industry is evolving so rapidly. There are new products coming out every day. A customer can tell when they speak to a salesperson or a distributor who is well-versed on the product. And when you have the training, you sound more confident, well-versed and fluid in that industry and that gives you a better chance to succeed.

Q. Where do you see the industry in five years?

A. I would anticipate the industry to be very weighted towards value-added services. We find that more and more our customers are looking not only for us to sell them a product, but for us to offer them a service that makes their job easier. Whether that is delivering large lighting orders for them and releasing them as they desire in categories—or even modifying fixtures for them to save them labor on the job. That is where I anticipate the industry going and I believe that those who want to be successful are going to have to be heavily invested in the value-added services.

I will give you an example: someone can go on Amazon and buy 40 fixtures at a cheap price. But we, being a distributor, have the resources to properly store those items for them and help them by taking the items off the job site and releasing them when they need them. They can call and say, “Send me seven today at this time, and eight tomorrow.”

 

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