Catching Up with the 30 Under 35: Tony King

We’re catching up with our previous “30 Under 35” winners to see where they are now and how their perspective has changed since being named one of the rising stars of the electrical industry.

Today, we talk with Tony King, a 2014 honoree.

Tony King

What is your current position?

President and Consultant at Zerion

What has been the reaction from co-workers and people in the industry to your “30 Under 35” award?

I’ve received congratulations via email, phone and in-person. Some of these accolades were from customers, and in some cases I didn’t expect they would’ve heard about the award.

What advice would you give young professionals about electrical distribution?

My advice for any young professional in the industry is threefold: 1. Work hard. Probably even harder than you think you should, and harder than you perceive your peers to be working. 2. Don’t count your dollars before you have them. In today’s market, you have to expect that your career can and will take on many changes. Save, be prepared, and don’t let your emotions get the best of you. 3. Never stop working on relationships with other folks in the industry.  You might be surprised at who ends up being an influencer or a decision maker.

What recruiting advice would you give companies when it comes to hiring great, young talent?

I always look for work ethic.  You can usually tell from their demeanor and previous experience how committed they were and how hard they worked. Most of the young talent I see is asking “what’s in it for me?” I’m always looking for those that aren’t so focused on that.  That being said, you still have to offer comparable benefits and ensure you’re focused on work/life balance. I’ve found that vacation and quality of life are just as important as the money.

How important was your mentoring (and reverse mentoring) when it comes to furthering your career?

Mentoring was and is an extremely important part of my journey.  I had the privilege of working under some key executives while at a Fortune 500 company and that gave me insight into the minds of big suppliers in the industry. When I started Hughes, it was alongside Jack Whitwam, who used to own his own supply business and had a lot of helpful relationships. Without Jack, Zerion probably never could’ve made it past year one, let alone to the ten year anniversary we recently celebrated. Now, even with Jack retired from Zerion, I continue to seek his counsel and I’ve followed his lead in how I mentor others.

What advice would you give to company leaders (c-suite) about working with millennials?

I would tell company leaders that millennials can’t be expected to stick around forever. They will move on to other opportunities, and they won’t see it as off-putting in any way. It’s just how they operate. So don’t cut ties with them or burn any bridges when it happens. Their future position or company could be important to you down the road, and industry relationships are always of value. Also, I’d say to challenge yourself to give as much vacation, flex time, paid lunches and other benefits as possible so you can provide the work life balance they’re looking for. I try to watch the trending companies like Google and Apple to see what they’re doing to keep folks around.

What do you see in the future of electrical distribution when it comes to technology and business practices?

I’m directly involved with the software and ERP world, so I see that landscape changing first-hand; but, it’s happening slowly right now.  I’m expecting it to start changing more dramatically in the next five to ten years. There seems to be a bottleneck of services, features and choice in the ERP space that is allowing the vendors to have control. But distributors will become less committed to their ERP and will eventually get the choices they desire, one way or another. Considering this, and the onset of new technology in the future, I think you’ll see ERP become cheaper, better, and faster.


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