Rhandi Kuchenmeister Discusses Forced Innovation

tED Publisher, Scott Costa, reached out to our former 30 Under 35 award winners to discuss their visions of the future.

For years, we have talked about Millennials becoming up to 70% of the workforce by 2023. While that is still on track, what is a bit unexpected is the number of higher-level executives who are retiring sooner than expected. As a result, Millennials are not just in the workforce. They are leading the workforce, taking on higher level roles, and they are doing it during a time of massive transition.

“So, I am reaching out to you. I am looking for your vision of the future. It has changed so radically over the last 5 months that I am interested in your view. Where do you see this supply chain in 3 years? What about 5? What about in 2030?”

Here is the first response of, hopefully, many. This comes from 2017 30 Under 35 Award winner, Rhandi Kuchenmeister of K/E Electric Supply.

“I think it's safe to say we all know we are in unprecedented times in 2020, in most everyone's lifetime at least. Thrust into a global pandemic that has forced all of us into uncharted territories. Inconsistent news and data from local, state and federal government has led to many unknowns and unanswered questions to try and make informed decisions, both personally and professionally, coupled with historic unemployment and the worst recession in decades. Most of us are now working from home, at least part time. We are having daily video meetings with people we used to see face to face. We are relying on phone, text messages, and emails to make deals and communicate rather than in-person meetings with customers, vendors, and reps. Many of our local area people are barred from travel, and architects and customers aren't allowing office visits anymore. That just takes care of this year—what about next year? What about the next 3, 5, 10 years? What do you do? Innovate, adapt, evolve... or die.

“What was your plan 9 months ago to deal with a pandemic and recession? I bet none of us had one, but we sure came up with a plan quickly, even if it was for the short-sighted problems we now face. Where is your company headed and is there a plan for both the expected and unexpected on the horizon? We know (hope) the pandemic will be over soon and unemployment will drop along with it and the economy will pick back up, but what have you done in the last 6 months that will continue on? Are you going to allow more employees to work from home on a regular basis? Will you be doing more curbside pick-ups in the future and no signature deliveries? What are you doing with the employees who took this period as a time to retire or will be retiring soon? The future is bright, and young. The average age in our industry is rather 'experienced' to put it politely, but that means in the next 5 years there will be more and more upper level and management positions opening up, and most likely your mid-level employees are getting younger and younger. How is your mentor program in your company, if you even have one? Does the executive level have a succession plan, as many business owners are 'experienced' as well and probably close to, if not past, retirement age. What do you do? Innovate, adapt, evolve... or die.

“When I look around our organization, I see a slew of rising stars and our 'experienced' stars helping, guiding and mentoring them. We don't plan on losing any of our stars because we always want to treat them fairly, as part of our Team K/E atmosphere, and incentivize them to do more, better. We continue to invest in our people, offering training to everyone, every year with NAED's online courses, EPEC and conferences, along with other sources. We continue to invest in our company with new equipment, new services, e-commerce and more inventory (even during a pandemic). The number one thing every customer wants is material when they need it — price is a secondary factor. We can all go online and probably find our products at a cheaper price, but what they don't offer is our services to get the right product to your customers when they need it, which is usually right now. Your services will set you apart from anyone else who is just selling a box. What are your next steps moving forward? The two best places to look are your employees and your customers. Ask them! If you don't, someone else will. So, what do you do now? Innovate, adapt, evolve.”


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Rhandi Kuchenmeister

Rhandi Kuchenmeister

Rhandi Kuchenmeister serves at K/E Electric Supply and is a 2017 30 Under 35 Award Winner.