Inside Sales–Electrical; Dakota Supply Group
By Joe Nowlan
Bryan Gohn was indirectly a customer of Dakota Supply Group (DSG) well before he became an employee owner.
He worked for his uncle's electrical contracting business while attending school and during vacations.
"DSG was our main supplier," Bryan said. "That's where we bought about 90% of our materials. They have a great reputation in the upper Midwest."
In 2008, Bryan was completing his studies at Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D., majoring in business finance and economics.
"I was looking for a way to combine my experience and my passion for the electrical construction industry with what I went to school for," Bryan explained. "So I figured a wholesaler or distributor was a great way to combine my on-the-job training with my business education."
That's when he took a more serious look at Dakota Supply Group—this time, as a prospective employer.
"Everybody knew them and everyone seemed to have a very positive image of them," he explained. "They are 100% employee owned. That was a big selling point for me."
Upon being hired, he started in the warehouse in Aberdeen. He transferred to the Mitchell, S.D. location eight months later to work on counter sales.
Bryan explained that having worked in the field as an electrician was helpful to his DSG adjustment.
"That helped me tremendously. When I have a customer call in and say they have a certain issue, I try to get them to describe the issue as clearly as they can so I can visualize what they have going on," Bryan said. "Then I can go through the products that we have that would help solve their issue."
After two years in Mitchell, Bryan accepted an Inside Sales position and moved to one of DSG's larger branches in St. Paul, Minn.
Among his duties include being a member of the employee ownership committee, a key position at a company like DSG.
"Probably the best way of describing it is being an employee ownership liaison. We call it our ESOP communication committee," Bryan explained. "Basically it is a lot of education. We attend different regional conferences and local chapter meetings to better understand the value and benefits of employee owned companies. We learn how to effectively communicate the ESOP values and the ESOP culture to our fellow owners."
Bryan grew up in Aberdeen. When he worked at the Mitchell, S.D., branch, he lived in a nearby farm community with a population of about 600.
"I moved from a town of 600 people over here to the Twin Cities area. A little bit of a culture shock but it was definitely one of the best decisions I've made in my life," Bryan said.
In his spare time, he is an avid pheasant hunter. He also helps a Twin Cities area junior hockey team, working in their game-day operations department.
"I am not employed by the team or anything like that. Basically I told them as long as I can see the ice and watch the game, I'll do whatever they need me to do," Bryan said. "So I've been bartending for them this year. I've also done goal judging, penalty box and time-clock."
Q. What advice would you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. I would say keep looking forward. That would be the simplest way to put it. Keep trying to better yourself not just at work but in everything you do.
I know within Dakota Supply if you are willing to move and put in a little extra effort to do some training to set yourself out and set yourself apart from others, you will definitely get noticed. If you are willing to put in a little extra effort, you can go a long way.
Q. Where do you see the electrical industry in five years?
A. I see this industry becoming even more heavily developed on the service side of things as far as companies offering a complete package. I see more and more of our products becoming almost like commodities where everybody has an offering that isn't a unique product or solution. Or if it is unique, it doesn't last very long until someone else is copying it. So I feel like our industry is focusing more on the service side of things such as timely delivery.
And technology of course is hitting this industry just like every other industry out there as far as being able to place orders or communicate through applications from your smartphone or tablets. I feel like delivery and the use of technology going ahead are probably going to be the two main focuses for this industry.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.