With a sales territory that extends through Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Montana, the winner of this year’s GEM Award for Independent Reps, Kevin Adams of the Shaffer & Nelson agency in Lake Oswego, Ore., has some unique insight on all sorts of different markets. You have high-tech companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Intel; heavy industrial sales from Boeing; oil business in Alaska; and the more rural markets of the Intermountain West. Adams says because his territory is really a whole bunch of micro-markets within one really big territory that operate independently of each other, during the recovery from the recession his market areas recovered all different rates, or weren’t hit too bad at all.

Although these market areas differ quite a bit, his approach to Shaffer & Nelson’s territory is the same — attract and keep good employees, invest in the training and technological tools to do their job right — and get out of the way. “I was always taught to allow people to breathe, to be their own person, Adams says. “That’s how I wanted to be treated and that’s how I treat the next generation of people.”

He himself is CSP- and CPMR-certified through MRERF, and all of has salespeople have completed CSP certification. On the technology side, his company is an early adopter. For several years, they have  used tablets and RepFiles to bring digital product information out to the market, used TeleNotes as a CRM system and are moving toward operating the company’s computer system on the cloud.

Adams started in the business working for Ed Mann of Electric Supply Inc. in Phoenix, and he says Mann is one of his mentors who taught him the business. His other mentors include Nancy Martin of Martin Electrical Sales; Dennis McDonald, McDonald Associates; Howard Pickett, George Pickett and Associates; Art Andrews and Rick Johnson from AJB and Gary Brusacorum, as well as Dean Lemman from North Coast Electric Supply and NEMRA’s Ken Hooper.

Kevin Adams told his kids that they should find a job where they get paid to have fun, and says that simple strategy has worked well for him in this business. When you get the chance to know him, we think you will agree that’s definitely the case with this year’s GEM Award Winner.