In this week's My Job Story, we hear from Shirley Nutt, Branch Manager at Edges Electrical Group, the company created by the 2014 merger of Electrical Distributors of San Jose and Granite Electrical Supply of Sacramento. Shirley joined Edges in mid 2014.
High Demand, Low Supply: How do you describe your job to others not in your field?
Shirley Nutt: I manage a location that sells electrical materials to electrical contractors, industrial plants, cities and school districts, etc.
HDLS: How did you get this current job?
Shirley: I’ve found that who you know is as important as what you know. I worked for an electrical contractor for many years and I was a customer of Edges. I heard Edges was opening a branch in Stockton so I threw my name in the proverbial hat.
HDLS: What is a typical day like for you in your role?
Shirley: One of the best parts of my job is that every day is different. I start the day at 4 am by checking my phone for texts or emails to see if anything is an emergency (a sick employee, an urgent customer need, etc). I arrive at the branch a little before 7am. The first thing I do is go around and say good morning to my staff and check in with them to see if there are any urgent matters I need to get involved with. During the course of a typical day, I bill customer invoices, manage inventory, order material, help customers, and basically get involved whenever my staff needs me to.
HDLS: What are the best parts of your job?
Shirley: I love to help people. In my role, I’m lucky enough to be able to help a lot of people…..from the contractor trying to look for a solution in the field to an employee that needs support to be more successful. I truly care about my customers and my employees….no bull.
HDLS: What was your first job?
Shirley: My first “real job” was working at Taco Bell. It was the only job I was fired from. I was fired because my dad would only let me work on weekends (this was in high school) and they needed me to work during the week. I was fired about an hour after I bought my first car. I let myself be upset about it for a couple of hours but I knew I needed to go out and make it happen to be able to afford my new car so I found a job the very next day.
HDLS: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Shirley: I really wanted to be a secretary when I was little because I loved paperwork. Even now, I love paperwork. And I love multi-tasking so my job fits me well. Being a manager is sometimes like being an air-traffic controller. My mom always said I was happiest when my plate was overflowing and, boy, was she right!
HDLS: What is your career story? How did you get where you are now?
Shirley: After I was fired from Taco Bell, I worked for a few months in one of those little Fotomat booths. It was boring but I made the most of it by working on homework in my little booth. After a few months, I found a job at the $5 clothing store. As part of management at the clothing store, I would take deposits to the bank. Working at a bank seemed so much more challenging than a clothing store, so one day I asked if they were hiring. I wasn’t 18 years old yet so they told me to apply once I turned 18, which I did. I started working there a few weeks after I turned 18. Working at the bank was interesting. It was amazing to be in a room with a few million dollars in cash that was just delivered! One day, I was helping a business customer correct his deposit paperwork. I made a joke that it was hard to find good help these days and then he asked if I was looking to make a change. I was caught off-guard but he gave me his business card and told me to give him a call. The next day, I was in his office and he offered me a job. At the time, I was looking for full-time and all he had was part-time. I politely declined the offer and told him why. He said his office manager’s mother was looking for a full-time receptionist at Platt Electric Supply in Stockton. The following week, I was being interviewed at Platt and was offered the job on the spot.
In 1991, when I was 19, I started at Platt Electric Supply as receptionist. I felt bad for customers waiting on hold to talk to the counter guys, so I started trying to help them. That’s when my career changed. Within a couple of years, I was promoted to Inside Sales and did some Outside Sales as well. I was put through Platt’s Management Training program called PACE (Platt’s Accelerated Career Enhancement). I flew to their Corporate office every six weeks, staying a week at a time, for about a year. After 8 years at Platt, I called up the owner of my largest customer, Gene Gini at Collins Electric, and told him I wanted to come work for him.
I started at Collins Electric in Stockton in 1999 in Purchasing. I absolutely loved working at Collins Electric. I loved interacting with the foremen in the field, helping to develop new processes in the office, and growing with the company. Throughout my 15 years with Collins, I worked in the Stockton and Modesto locations; at times purchasing for the Fresno location as well. One of the companies Collins purchases from is Edges Electrical Group. Edges was opening a new branch in Stockton and I knew this was my chance to put the management training I had learned way back in my Platt days, to work.
I started with Edges in May 2014 in the Sacramento location. In July 2014, I opened the Stockton location and we grew to a team of 14 within a year. Being a Branch Manager is challenging and fun. I am very fortunate to have the amazing opportunity to build a branch from scratch!
HDLS: What is the best career advice you have ever received?
Shirley: Always give more than what is expected. And, although this isn’t exactly advice, my dad taught me to always do the right thing, even when nobody is watching. This lesson has served me well in many facets of my life.
HDLS: What is the worst career advice you have ever received?
Shirley: “Be nice to So-and-so because they are the movers and the shakers.” I don’t believe in using the status of people to gain favor. I believe in hard work and genuinely caring about people. I don’t do fake and I don’t appreciate when people are fake with me. Life is too short to be anything but real. B.S. is not a service the customer needs or wants. Just be real and truly care and your customer will notice.
HDLS: What career advice would you give your younger self?
Shirley: Don’t sell yourself short.
HDLS: Can you tell me about an interesting or exceptional day you’ve had in this job?
Shirley: When I started the lease on the building we are in, there was nothing but a small bathroom in an empty warehouse. So watching everything being built around me has been an exceptional experience. My very first day involved receiving the delivery of my forklift. There was nothing else in the warehouse at the time so while I waited for my office trailer and desks to be delivered later that day, I sat on the forklift with my iPad and cell phone and worked. Soon after came the dismantling of our restroom and having to use porta-potties - for about three months, including in the summer heat. Very humble beginnings! While my permanent office was being built, my team worked out of a jobsite trailer I rented and placed inside the warehouse. We sold our first million dollars in that office trailer before our actual offices were even done being built. I will remember that day we hit our first million for the rest of my life.
Shirley's job story demonstrates the importance of maintaining strong relationships with your customers and vendors, which Shirley has clearly done throughout her 25 years in this industry. Thank you Shirley for sharing your job story with us!
Shirley, who is another Tokay High School classmate of mine, lives in Ripon, California with her husband John and their two teenage sons. In addition to working hard and raising a family, Shirley is an avid runner and has completed 14 marathons and one ultra-marathon.