@Work: Kevin Powers

COMPANY: Custom Industrial Products
TITLE: VP and National Director of Sales

My official title is Vice President and National Director of Sales. I came onboard a year ago. As the National Director of Sales for Custom Industrial Products, I am responsible for overseeing our Standard Sales Division and the Major Accounts Team. In addition, I work closely with all other departments to ensure orders flow smoothly. When issues sometimes arise, I am usually the one to step in to help. As Vice President, I work in concert with upper management to review the company’s vision and help keep us on track in achieving the company’s goals.

I usually get to the office around 7:45 a.m. and start my day with a quick conversation with my sales team to discuss the days agenda and the day’s expectations. A few days a week I will walk the building and greet my coworkers. This allows me to stay in tune with the workplace attitude. I meet with upper-level management as needed. What’s nice about our company is that leadership lets us manage with autonomy and trust.

From there, I go through emails, prepare for any meetings, and review my to-do list. Most mornings, I have a quick sales meeting to discuss past, present, and future sales opportunities and help where I can. I work closely with my Major Accounts team as well to make sure they know my expectations for the day’s work.

My responsibilities have organically increased over the past year. For example, because I take the time to talk with staff and take a sincere interest in them, problems and challenges come out. To make sure I stay in my lane, I’ll bring up the challenges to the appropriate manager and share my discovery with them. From there, I have total confidence and trust in them (the manager) to resolve the challenges presented. My background in manufacturing, finance, sales and management provides me the ability to have an understanding of multiple departments. It’s this understanding that allows me to be the best I can be the 50-60 hours per week I work.

This is not my first job in the material handling industry. For eight years prior to CIP, I was the managing partner for a hoisting company, Hi-Tech Hoists, that I bought from Henry Powers (the current owner of CIP) in 2016. I graduated from Concord University with a Bachelor of Science in Finance.

Every industry has its own set of challenges, and the materials handling industry is no different. In these uncertain times, the biggest challenge is getting the parts needed to manufacture our products. Supply chains are a mess. We have ship dates to meet, but the parts are backordered for months. In addition, there is the continually rising cost of steel and electronics selling 4-5 times higher than usual.

Then there are the everyday challenges of managing sales cycles, distribution channels, and maximizing returns. Regardless of the challenges, I love what I do and wouldn’t change a thing.

Excel, our internal CRM – CIP Systems, and the phone are the tools I couldn’t do my job without. I’m huge on Excel. I’m big on crunching data and tracking everything that’s trackable. Excel is my go-to software. I’m also a bit old school and still believe the phone is the best form of communication, especially when it comes to selling.

My coworkers will tell you that my motto around here is “it’s simple.” I think so many of us overcomplicate things and make them more difficult than they need to be. One of my skills is to break things down into manageable tasks. I’m a pretty energetic person and a good motivator – I consider both of these as skills. When people are motivated and on track, great things can be accomplished. In keeping it simple, I think it’s imperative that I have effective communication and very clear on my expectations for myself and all others I deal with. I also live by the motto inspect what you expect, and never let perfect get in the way of good enough.

Communication is vital. Upper-level managers are forever putting out fires. We need to be strong in our communication to show confidence in our decision making, to motivate – even when offering constructive criticism.

Strong communication makes all the difference. It is the most important attribute one should possess in management, because when you’re effectively communicating you are assigning ownership, and ownership leads to accountability.

Listening, communication, and good coaching to your team are keys to being successful in this job. Identifying people’s strengths and weaknesses and helping turn those weaknesses into strengths – understanding all the moving parts of the business, industry, and competitors – being able to get everyone rowing in the same direction with a focus on a common goal.

After college, I was professionally trained in the art of selling. I have more handling objective skills, closing skills, and getting past gate keeper skills than I know what to do with. In addition, I have management, financial, business, people, and manufacturing training. All of these are skills that anyone can learn and apply. But in my opinion, it’s the innate ability to know how to best put these learned skills into use that makes the difference. For me, the ability to speak and relate to customers has always been easy.

As an OEM, we don’t have a need for continuous training in the traditional sense. The core of our products and processes do not change all that much. Instead, we focus resources into finding ways to improve upon our products and introduce new ones to meet the changing industry. That’s not to say there is no training. We want our staff to better themselves and learn as much as they can. Recently we offered company-wide LEAN manufacturing training and finance training. We also have sales training monthly.

CIP prides itself on sharing ideas and knowledge. As we learn something new, we communicate that information. That is a form of training. We all know that in business the only constant is change, so in a sense we are training every day.

Technical and product knowledge are a plus, but not deal killers. We can teach those things. It’s the attitude and willingness to learn that I feel is necessary to be successful in the industry.