ELECTRICAL DISTRIBU TOR
• Jun. 17
primary point of contact with the manufacturer. “A good rep establishes a sound relationship and will improve the rela- tionship by being responsive to every- one,” she continued. “Additionally, the rep will challenge the distributor with sales programs to help [it] while also helping itself reach its sales and profit goals.” Barsema added that if a rep is less responsive, or if there is a con- flict or some other issue, “Generally you end up giving the rep a chance, but if it still isn’t working, then it’s up to the supplier to look into the situation.” While any reputable manufacturer would certainly address such concerns quickly, having a problematic rep in the mix could leave the distributor dealing with weeks—if not months— of less-than-stellar service while the three parties work on a resolution. For that reason, it’s incumbent upon manufacturers to ensure their reps adhere to specific standards, have a certain level of expertise, and can provide the same level of service an in-house salesperson would. “It’s our responsibility to make sure our reps are trained well on our prod- ucts and that they can efficiently and effectively use our e-commerce tools and deliver our value along with their own value-add to the distributor,” Vanden Hoek explained. There are other challenges that can arise from bringing in a third party to the distribution relationship as well, but consensus opinion was that these issues rarely rise to a crisis level. “They are still third parties, and they have business challenges on their own end—turnover, financial difficul- ties, etc.,” noted Vanden Hoek. “As best as we’re able, we make sure these companies are good, viable businesses and help them work through chal- lenges they may have. As manufactur- ers, we need to be very aware of the potential issue, be ready to assist them and, if needed, part ways.”
To better help electrical distributors respond to the needs of electrical contractors, “Contractor Q&A” features remarks from real contractors from around the country. Here, Laura Karow, president of Gunnar Electric in Eden Prairie, Minn., and Toni Terrill Skaff, president and owner of Ohms Electrical Services in Houston, Texas, answer the question:
HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED ANY UNIQUE CHALLENGES DIRECTLY RELATED TO BEING A WOMAN IN ELECTRICAL CONSTRUCTION?
There are plenty of unique challenges that I have faced— from being the only woman in a room full of men in a prebid or preconstruction meeting to dealing with the field electricians or suppliers—and most people expect me to not know what I’m talk- ing about because I’m a female. They are awfully surprised to learn that they are talking to the master electrician in our firm. Being a small business, I wear many hats. It surprises me when I have suppliers stop in my office and they automatically want to talk to my male project managers. Many times I have just as much, if not more, need for their material or equipment. Oftentimes, though, they don’t even take the time to talk to me about what my needs as a project manager are. The vendors that get the most orders from me are the ones that can treat me with respect and professionalism and that don’t automatically assume that they have nothing to sell me.
The primary issue with being a woman in the electrical field is its uniqueness. Not having a group of woman electrical contractors to compare notes with and discuss issues in the industry or simply lacking that “good ol’ boy” ethos creates such a solitary mode of operation. I have found a group of women in construction (Women Contractors Association), which helps con- siderably, but it is a small group with a lot of auxiliary businesses in its membership. I would love to see more women electricians, estimators, and project managers, but they are difficult to find. On a more humorous note, when I began in this business over 35 years ago, I was appalled that so many of the electrical com- ponents were named after male and female body parts, some- thing that still irks me to this day! ; Send your questions to “tED” Editor Misty Byers at firstname.lastname@example.org. CONTRACTOR Q A +
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