Nancy Martin, Martin Electrical Sales, Kirkwood, Mo.

It's never easy to follow an electrical industry icon in a family business. It can be even tougher when you are a woman in a man's world. The early years in the family business for this year's winner of the 2011 GEM Award for Independent Manufacturers' Reps sound much like that of many agents. Helping out with the bookkeeping and general office work years before you ever thought it would turn into your career. The challenge of making your own mark in the industry when your dad is an industry icon. And of course, those many family summer vacations that just happened to be in the same location as the factory of one of the firm's key lines.

This year's GEM Award Winner survived and loved it all — even the family summer vacations to Anoka, Minn., when her dad, Ray Martin, was visiting Hoffman's factory, and she did it her own way. Her beloved dad, who passed away last year, didn't coddle her. When she came to the office one day, ready to start calling on customers, Ray said, “Here's your desk. Here's your catalog. See you later.”

After Nancy learned the lines and accounts by working inside sales, her dad put her on the road calling on specifying engineers, which she says were the toughest sales calls to make because of the complexity of some of the products and the amount of preparation necessary before a sales call. But it turned out to be the perfect training ground for her.

Her dad called on electrical distributors and electrical contractors, and wasn't as familiar with many of the specifying engineers in the St. Louis market, so she made her own mark in the industry and developed a love for solution selling she still has to this day. Martin says she knew she had made it on her own when her dad was at an electrical industry function, and met someone from the business who said, “Oh, so you are Nancy Martin's father.”

Today, Martin is proud of her nine-person team at Martin Electrical Sales and the relationships she has maintained and grown with specifying engineers, electrical contractors, panel builders and other industrial accounts in the St. Louis market, as well as her key lines. The company has represented Hoffman for more than 50 years, is Caddy Fastener's oldest rep, and has had Intermatic since the 1950s. She's active with the St. Louis Electrical Board, the SERA Networking Group, and is a strong supporter of NEMRA over the years. She also won the GEM Rising Star Award in 1990. And she has done it all with a flair that is distinctly her own.