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Recruiting and Retention Series: Making the Transition

Recruiting and Retention Series: Making the Transition

By Bridget McCrea

He took the road from manufacturing to distribution and never looked back.

It’s only been 11 months since Dave Karr made the jump from GE Industrial Solutions to Mayer Electric Supply, but he’s already pretty happy with his choice. Having joined GE’s co-op program right out of college, this tED 30-Under-35 winner was armed with a double major in industrial distribution and marketing and ready to explore his career options.

“I was in the co-op program for about a year and a half, and then I joined GE’s commercial leadership program,” says Karr, Mayer Electric’s marketing director. The latter allowed him to get hands-on experience in various aspects of the electrical business. “I moved all around the U.S., with my final stop being in Atlanta,” says Karr, “where I did a stint in field sales and called on all of our distribution partners.”

A Great Addition
As it happens, Mayer Electric was one of Karr’s largest customers. “I was national account manager for Mayer, so I called on them for a little over a year from that standpoint,” says Karr, whose final position at GE was regional executive for the company’s “south” region, which included Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

“I managed a team of commercial salespeople and was basically was in charge of commercial sales strategy across that footprint,” says Karr, who during his time as Mayer’s national account manager formed a bond with the firm’s president, Wes Smith. As the pair collaborated and brainstormed ideas, Smith realized that Karr would make a great addition to Mayer’s team.

“Wes is a big thinker and one day we just started chatting about the future of electrical distribution and what the distributorship would need to do to remain relevant,” says Karr. “I made some marketing- and category management-related suggestions and a few months later he said, ‘Hey, how would you like to design your own job here at Mayer Electric?'”

No Short-Sighted Views Here
One month later, the enterprising duo had mapped out an entire strategy both for Karr’s new position (and for one of his other GE co-workers). Working together, they would lead the company’s new marketing and digital strategy. Karr says he was particularly impressed with the distributor’s willingness to put time, effort, and money into a digital strategy during a time when many others are taking a short-sighted view on such strategies.

“Not everyone is really taking ownership when it comes to technology, and they’re not really moving forward with innovation; Mayer has done both,” says Karr. “In fact, they’re doubling down on it.” For example, Karr says the company recently named a new “innovation leader” and also enhanced his own role to include category management responsibilities.

For Mayer, Karr also brings an infusion of millennial energy and tech-savvy. “I’ve been asked—along with five other millennial employees—to lead a ‘change leadership’ counsel,” says Karr. “Through this effort, we’re consulting with our senior leadership team on ways ensure that Mayer is well positioned to create, attract, and retain talent in the millennial workforce.”

Getting Involved
Since coming onboard with Mayer in January, Karr has already been working on numerous large-scale projects for the company, which is revamping its branding, communication, and messaging strategies. “We recently started an in-house production studio where we can do both podcasting and video production, as well as other types of digital media,” Karr says. “Now, we’re about to starting investing in augmented reality and virtual reality-type apps to help make our products more ‘alive’ for our customers.”

Personally, Karr says working on these types of projects aligns well with his original career aspirations. “It really taps into all of the creative aspects that I wanted in my career,” he says, “while also helping me develop leadership capabilities.”

To distributors that want to do a better job of attracting and retaining millennial employees, Karr says firms that lead disruption—rather than getting dragged around by it—are in a particularly good place right now. “In our industry, you’re either going to lead disruption, or you’re going to be a victim of it,” he says. “The surefire way to be the latter is by not being innovative, and not continually seeking out new ways to conduct business.”


McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.

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