Derek Kline: The Swiss Army Knife of CES
When Derek Kline went to Dallas, Texas, for the City Electric Supply (CES) Journey conference, CEO Thomas Hartland-Mackie had people stand up based on how long they’d been with the company. First, people who had been there five years, then people who had been there 10, then 15, then 20, then 25.
“By the time they got to 25, there were only a few left,” said Kline. “I want to be one of the few one day. I want to be one of the last ones standing.”
And with 20 years already under his belt, he’s not far from that goal.
Kline started at CES Crystal River in Florida on March 23, 1999, but he’s changed branches and positions a few times since then.
“I’m kind of a Swiss Army knife at CES — I’ve done it all,” said Kline.
Besides CES Crystal River, he’s also worked at CES Brooksville and CES Land O’ Lakes, where he is now. Along the way, he worked his way from driver to counter sales rep to branch manager to operations manager.
“All of that experience helps,” said Kline. “I can help almost anyone get a better understanding of their role because I’ve had a lot of them.”
As Kline has developed a deep understanding of so many roles at CES, he has also developed a lot of strong relationships.
“After so many years in the business, it’s the relationships that become important. The ones that carry on,” said Kline. “I still talk to customers from my first post at Crystal River. Those are 20-year relationships now.”
To Kline, that’s a big part of why he’s still at CES.
“CES values relationships,” he said. “Customers get to know the people at CES really well, and that helps them know they can trust us. I’ve been able to keep a lot of customer relationships because I let them know who I am and that I’m here for them.”
And the phrase “relationships are a staple of CES” has more than one meaning.
“My father inspired me to work in the business, and when he moved to CES, I moved with him,” said Kline. “I watched him move up from the driver position and told myself that’s what I wanted to do, too.”
And luckily for CES, it’s still what he wants to do 20 years later.
“Every day, when the phone rings or the door opens, you don’t know who’s going to be there or what they’re going to need,” said Kline. “And that’s exciting for me.”
For helping him get where he is today, Kline thanks his father, Bill Kline, and Land O’ Lakes Branch Manager Frank Shortt. And for anyone starting out at CES today, Kline has some advice.
“Have fun,” said Kline. “Come in with a positive attitude, and everyone will pick up on it. You can go as far as you want to go with City Electric Supply; you just have to go after it.”
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