Kelly Boyd, ElectroRep, Sausalito, Calif.

As business journalists covering the electrical market, an important mission for Electrical Wholesaling's editors is finding the thought leaders in this industry and learning what makes them so different from other reps, distributors and manufacturers. And while it's tough to figure out exactly what the ingredients are in the secret sauce that spells success in this business, over the years we have learned to spot the people in the business that others look up to.

The winner of the 2011 GEM Rising Star Award makes that impression on the people he meets in the electrical market. From his earliest days in the electrical market when Ken Hooper hired him out of the University of Iowa in 1991 as a field sales rep for Pass & Seymour, to his past 11 years as a rep for Electrorep, Sausalito, Calif., and his years of service at NEMRA's highest volunteer executive posts, Kelly Boyd has stood out as a guy to watch and to learn from.

Maybe it was that early training pushing a broom at an early age in the warehouse of his family's electrical business, City Electric Supply in Iowa City, Iowa. More likely, it's what he learned back then from working with his father, Bob Boyd, and his grandfather, Frank Boyd, who started that business.

Frank, who passed away last year at age 94, told him back then: “Work hard … get along with people … and someday you will find success.”

“I have applied that when I am lost for any other strategic thought,” Boyd says today.

Since those early days Boyd says he has learned from mentors like Bob Smith, Mike Gambino and Ken Hooper at P&S, Bill Schnirring and Mike Barker at Springfield Electric Supply, Hank Bergson at NEMRA and Ron Haedt at ElectroRep. He tries to take a little bit from each of these industry leaders and apply it properly to his own career. One of the important lessons Boyd had to keep remembering during the recent recession is to keep a long-term perspective on the business and to be patient. That perspective has helped him enjoy ElectroRep's current success in the solar market, but at the same time made him realize some of these sales opportunities will only last as long as the federal, state and utility financing and rebate programs that support solar.

Down the road, Boyd says a continuing challenge in their brand-building efforts for electrical manufacturers will be keeping the lines of communication open between billion-dollar industrial conglomerates that don't always understand the role of the independent manufacturers' rep, and much smaller, locally focused entrepreneurially driven business like the electrical rep. Boyd says one of the answers to this challenge lies in one of the first things he learned about the electrical wholesaling industry:

“At the end of the day, the greatest thing about the electrical business is that it's a people business. It's going to be hard to replace that face-to-face sales call with technology. You have to blend that to multiply your efforts, but to close the deal oftentimes you still need to have the independent manufacturers' rep make the brands we represent personal to the customer. I don't see that changing anytime soon. As long as we have the right brands and the best people, we will be in good shape.”