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Better Together: Invest!

Better Together: Invest!

Publisher’s Note:  We are continuing our “Better Together” series with blogs from NAED members who wish to contribute their ideas to strengthen our supply chain.  If you are interested in submitting a blog, contact tED magazine Publisher Scott Costa at scosta@naed.org.

By Rhandi Kuchenmeister, Purchaser, K/E Electric Supply Corp.

 

If I’ve learned anything about the electrical distribution world it is that you get out what you put in. I knew very little detail about anything beyond a basic plug, switch or light bulb when I started, but quickly realized that the more I put into learning and sharing knowledge, the more I got out and the easier my job was.

From day one you should be encouraged to train and ask questions. I’ve told every new employee I meet two things; assume everything matters until you know it doesn’t, and I’d rather you ask 10 questions than try on your own and solve 1 problem.

What I mean by the first comment is each digit in a part number matters, you change a digit and it changes the product, that also applies to doing take-off’s, prints, schedules, etc., so pay attention to detail. After a while, some things may become routine and shortcuts found, but never assume details.

Secondly, it doesn’t matter how big or small the question is. We all know each and every problem will cost more money, time, and energy than asking a question, making a phone call to confirm, or double checking your work. Take every resource you have—like the NAED Learning Center, Blue Volt, EPEC, YouTube, manufacturers, and reps—to learn. You may forget most of that knowledge, but at least see and experience it, and one day someone might ask a question, that ‘eureka’ moment turns that light bulb on in your head, and you know where to go for the answer. When I first started, you could see me just walking around the warehouse physically seeing and touching the products. Even if I didn’t know exactly what it was, some customers would describe it and I could connect their description with my own memory. You won’t/can’t know everything there is to know in our ED world, but if you equip yourself with the tools and know where to find the answer you will be a valued asset to your company, customers, and manufacturers.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson described a job interview where the 2 applicants are asked what the height of the spire on a particular skyscraper was. One applicant remembered from an architecture class the exact answer he read out of a book and the potential employer was pleased. The second applicant didn’t have an architecture course, but had advanced math courses, so he tells the employer that he can go outside and mathematically calculate the height based on measurements of the sun, shadows, angles, etc. Who would you rather have: The person who remembered a fact? Or the critical thinker who said, “I’ll figure it out”?

Both applicants answered the question correctly, and the employer was pleased, but the critical thinker, the one who learned the tools, will be able to use those tools elsewhere for other problems and questions. Don’t get me wrong, It’s good to learn facts and specs, but learn the tools and how to use them and you’ll always find an answer to any question.

I learned early on that just like many websites have a similar format or layout, so do many tools in our industry. Learning one manufacturer’s software or app will probably help you with others. Really dig into them, too. It’s amazing what you can learn just by looking through the settings menu to customize your experience. Learn how to use the menus to navigate and find what you’re looking for instead of just Googling everything. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found an item on Google that had the wrong picture or outdated information. There is so much available information that employers should, at a bare minimum, follow NAED’s recommendation for 40 hours of training per year. I say you should apply that to all of your employees; not just your sales and support staff, but accounting, warehouse, delivery, IT, etc. You’ll never know if you have a shining star employee pulling orders that would make a great salesperson. Or someone on your accounting staff can become a master lighting project manager, as has happened from training and promoting from within at K/E Electric Supply.

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