Canadian Electrical Industry News Week

 

Oct 6, 2017

Andrew MacleodAndrew MacLeod is a territory sales manager with Leviton Manufacturing of Canada in British Columbia. He has a lot of passion for sales and working with a diverse range of individuals, likely the result of the path he took to get to the position he now holds.

EIN spoke recently with Andrew about his experiences and position with Leviton.

Could you tell us where you are coming from, why you are in this industry/business/company?

My path to the electrical industry is not exactly a straight line…

 

 

I got my first real job when I was 16, and spent my summers playing Midget Baseball and working on trucks delivering drywall (or “packing board”). My old man called it my “stay in school job.” When I moved back home from UBC during summers to play Junior Baseball in Delta I worked construction, both on site and on the trucks.

Most of the time I drove from site to site in a turquoise Ford F-450 flat-deck, delivering everything from drill bits to steel studs to lifts of fibreglass drywall. This was long before Google maps, so you had to rely on your old trusty Rand McNally in the passenger seat for your navigation. I really enjoyed being on the road with a handful of tasks to complete under critical timelines, and it was up to me to figure out the best way to do it.

While I attended UBC (1999-2003) and for some years after I spent my working hours bartending and managing at various bars, nightclubs and restaurants, often two at a time. I think a decade behind the wood lends itself well to a career in sales. You learn how to think on your feet and you get plenty of insight into human psychology. The thickened skin doesn’t hurt, either.

In my eight-year sales career, I’ve sold a few differing things — printing services, stock market education, drywall — and I’ve worked for some great companies. However, I was told very early on by my sales mentors to avoid becoming jaded. Once you stop believing in your product or the company you represent it’s probably time to move on.

Of all the past sales jobs I had, I really enjoyed construction because of the tangible nature of it. I find there’s a different sort of pride in selling physical products, especially in consultative situations. You can drive by a building and say you had some small part in its construction. Unfortunately, too many companies I encountered in the construction industry operated under a “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality. This seemed to me to be a very dangerous business mantra and a sure-fire way to stifle young talent with a hunger for growth and innovation.

Through my business and social networks, I knew people in electrical, and it appealed to me as a very forward-thinking industry. A position came open with Leviton, and I was (not so) gently nudged by my wife and a mentor to interview as they knew that this company and industry would appeal to me.

After meeting and interviewing with the BC sales manager, Bishop Smith, and learning all about the company and the role, it was a no-brainer to pursue the opportunity. I went through the interview process and ended up getting hired in the fall of 2014. The strength of the Leviton team was made evident immediately. Coming from outside the electrical industry, I was “drinking from a firehose” (as Bishop so eloquently put it) for the first six months and I’m sure asking a lot of dumb questions. Nobody on our nine-person team seemed to mind, and in fact regularly put time aside for me to help me get my bearings with regard to electrical theory, product knowledge, and industry politics. It’s been an awesome ride ever since, by far the best role and the best company I’ve worked for.

Tell us about your company, work?

Of all the companies I knew of in the electrical industry, Leviton seemed to be one of the — if not the — most innovative. We play in a number of spaces in the electrical industry: residential wiring devices, commercial lighting controls, heavy duty industrial gear, network solutions, electric vehicle charging, and home automation, to name a few. Leviton is a proven leader in the electrical industry and is committed to driving quality, safety and reliability in all products. This organization believes in social responsibility and as such focuses on sustainability and develops solutions that add value, efficiency and energy savings to the world.

Leviton has been a privately-owned company since its inception in 1906. Not only does this result in a family-owned mentality felt all the way down the ranks, it allows for constant investment in people, acquisition, research, and development.

My work hours are about a 70/30 split between time on the road and time in my office. As a “territory manager,” my role is to support our distributor partner network in the Lower Mainland on all of our product lines, negotiating pricing, attending joint sales calls with distributor reps, and providing education to electrical wholesalers and contractors. I’ve always enjoyed public speaking and I am given the opportunity to present at lunch & learns and training sessions with anywhere from 5 to 50 people in the room. This allows me to grow and improve at something I’ve always loved to do. Working from home is a huge bonus in this role, as I’ve found I am able to be much more productive as well as strike a healthy work-life balance.

What impact would you like to make?

Pretty introspective question… where to start? In business, I would like to continue to grow professionally and always strive to find better ways of doing business. I would like to be at the forefront of the Leviton charge to continue to grow market share and profitability in BC for many years.

Our industry is going to be facing a large-scale personnel challenge in the near future as many people retire. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some awesome people through the BCEA over the past few years, many of whom are clearly the future of the electrical industry, and we share the same goals of working to ensure our industry continues to thrive. I look forward to continuing the work we are doing to mitigate the effects of this mass exodus by attracting and retaining good talent in the electrical industry.

As for society? I think, being in my mid-30s, this may be the toughest one to answer. I’ve shed a lot of my 20s naiveté so the road to my legacy may not be as clear as it used to be, but I can see a path forming.

I’ve had the opportunity over the past year to work with BCIT and Douglas College students on sales and marketing job-shadow projects and not only did I really enjoy it, I found that my 36-year-old head may actually contain some knowledge I can pass on. I’ve been through a lot and I’ve seen a lot, both personally and professionally. As my career and life progress, I look forward to working with younger people and helping them grow and prosper in their careers and life, and hopefully leaving some sort of mark on the next generation.

Overall, I would like to hope that I make enough of an impact through professional, volunteer, and charity work that I leave a legacy my family can be proud of. Like my mother, I want my children and grandchildren to understand what it means to be a good and giving person in the world. She accomplished that through her impact on society and left a lasting legacy with the organizations and people that she helped. She made us all better people because of it, and I hope I can do the same.

What decisions do you find are the most difficult to make?

I think most salespeople can relate to the “fish or cut bait” dilemma that you come across from time to time. There’s a customer you haven’t seen in a few weeks and today is your chance to get there, but you’re staring at a stack of paperwork on your desk and you have a quarterly report you need to prepare for a meeting early next week. What’s your move? Oh, wait, someone just called with a critical delivery issue… priority shift!

In any outside sales role, time management is key, but making the decision of where and how to spend your time most effectively can be difficult at times. There are only so many hours in a day, so you must constantly take inventory of your priorities to make sure your limited time is spent in the most valuable way possible.

What is your biggest work-related challenge right now?

Pricing, pricing, pricing! Unfortunately, many electrical products have been commoditized and have faced a lot of downward pressure over the past years. Healthy competition is one thing, but it’s very discouraging when you see irresponsible pricing out in the market. It’s difficult not to get caught in the race to the bottom.

What has been the greatest achievement in your life so far?

Although I’m proud of the individual sales achievements and sports awards I’ve won over the years, I would say I’m most proud of being a part of the Twins Cancer Fundraising group where I work on cancer fundraisers — both a Christmas gala and their flagship summer event called “Gone Country: Here for the Cure.”

I started working with TCF about 12 years ago, not long after I lost my mother to cancer. Chris and Jamie (the twins) are two of the most amazing people I have ever met, they are the driving force and they work tirelessly year-round to make Gone Country happen. These events started as a BBQ in their father’s back yard with 200-300 people in attendance and have now grown to a full-blown country music concert with major acts and thousands in attendance, and to date TCF has raised over $2.3 million towards the fight against cancer.

I am very proud to say I’ve been a part of this amazing ride. Our group meets throughout the year to plan and promote the events. Over the years Gone Country has become such a well-oiled machine that during set-up we are now at a point on Friday morning that we used to be scrambling to get to Saturday afternoon, thanks for the most part to the hundreds of volunteers that show up to help out. Before this all started, I was never a huge fan of country music (that has changed, somewhat), but you have to give the people what they want. The popularity of the show has grown exponentially. The icing on the cake is I get to emcee all of the events. At our most recent event on July 22 — Gone Country 5 — I got to bring up one of Canada’s biggest country music artists, Tim Hicks, in front of a sell-out crowd of 5000 screaming maniacs. It was one of the biggest thrills of my life. This is nothing I would consider a personal achievement, but being part of such an amazing group of people that give so much for this cause is such an incredible experience that I can’t think of anything more rewarding.

What do you think is next for your industry? Trends? Solutions?

I think we are facing similar challenges as many other industries in that we are going to see a lot of people leaving for retirement very soon, and the electrical industry as a whole is going to be stressed to find good candidates to fill junior roles. Part of the BCEA U40 mandate is to promote electrical as a career not just within, but outside the industry through career fairs and partnerships with colleges and other organizations. We as an industry need to focus on attracting and retaining good young talent. Having met the individuals in the electrical industry and the BCEA over the past few years, we definitely have the right people in place to accomplish this.

If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be?

I say this about a lot of things, but I would like to see more people thinking long term. In the electrical industry, I feel this often applies to decisions people make with regard to pricing and customer relationships. We all have targets and sales goals to hit, but if we make decisions without considering the long-term ramifications of our vendor/distributor/contractor relationships and overall health of the industry, we can easily jeopardize the viability of our market and our own jobs for that matter.

Describe one way in which you effectively separate work from family and personal life?

This can obviously be tough with modern technology because everybody knows there is nowhere to hide. I think setting boundaries and expectations with customers and colleagues is key, but that’s something I’ve learned and applied over time, and I didn’t realize how important it was until my wife and I had a child. I’ve made the mistake of taking calls after hours while with my family only to realize there’s nothing that can be done at 6:30 pm and I’m taking attention away from my family.

Now I do my best to let my customers know that once I pick up my daughter from preschool, I’m offline until she goes to bed. I work extremely hard to take care of my customers and I would hope that my reputation reflects this. However, if there is something urgent after hours, it’s best to send it to me in an email and I can address it late in the evening or when I’m back at my desk first thing in the morning, because if I’m at the park pushing my four year-old daughter on the swing chances are I’m not going to take the call.

During the week, in the midst of “the grind” dealing with work, daycare, and the myriad other activities that make up our days, my wife and I make sure we set aside time every evening to spend with our daughter with computers closed and work phones down. Seeing the elation in Ella’s eyes when she has our undivided attention at the park or doing puzzles is worth every moment. If I or my wife is facing a tight deadline or working on an important project on a given evening or weekend, we can hide in the office while the other one goes for a walk or colours Disney princesses, but more often than not we get to all spend time together and will put our daughter to bed before the work laptops come back out to finish the day. When we go away, we make sure our desks are clear so that we can turn our phones and computers off and enjoy each other’s company for the entire vacation.

Who ahs been source of inspiration for you?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a few awesome mentors throughout my professional career (in both sales and a storied decade behind the bar), but the person who always has inspired me the most is my mother, who we lost to cancer when I was 23. She was not only the smartest person I’ve ever known, but also the kindest.

She always challenged me to question everything and make my own decisions. We used to have epic Sunday night debates over tea and cookies before I had to drive back to UBC campus for class the next morning. She always wanted me to understand that I was capable of doing whatever I wanted to do in this world if I was willing to work for it.

The example of giving she set for her children and grandchildren cannot be equalled. Aside from being an amazing mother and grandmother, she ran the PTA, she worked at and ran multiple organizations through her church, she played the organ every Sunday, she ran the baseball park concession stand all summer, she counselled battered women, she sent local low-income families presents and food at Christmas… the list goes on and on. Just about every moment of her life was spent serving somebody else.

I think about the type of person she was and what she stood for — hard work, mindfulness, honesty, charity, and family — and hope that someday I can come close to what she accomplished in the world.

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