From Driver to Regional Manager: How Phil McKinney Built A Career At CES
At just 20 years old, Phil McKinney joined City Electric Supply (CES) as a driver in Charlotte, North Carolina, after his mother insisted it was time for him to find a career. He traded working at his grandfather’s tobacco farm for a one-hour commute each way to CES. Nearly 12 years later, the dedication paid off because he’s now the CES regional manager of North Texas.
McKinney discovered CES when his mother’s coworker, whose husband worked at CES, mentioned they were hiring.
As soon as he met the hiring manager, he knew it was the right fit. “I just knew these were my people,” he said. “It felt organic, and that’s how I knew I was supposed to be at CES.”
That’s when he knew the electrical industry was the right trade for him to kick off his career. Not long after, McKinney learned the importance of building relationships, which later proved to be his secret to growth in the industry.
McKinney drove for a couple of CES locations in Charlotte and eventually found himself working the counter and then in the warehouse.
Blair Feidler, the regional manager at the time, reached out to McKinney for his next role to oversee one of their larger accounts. They created an account specialist role for him to manage a multi-family contractor who worked across the U.S. In his new role, he managed everything from purchasing and billing to receiving and shipping.
In his new role, McKinney realized it could turn into a lifelong career.
“I was good at forming relationships, and it really got me involved,” he said. “Building lifelong relationships is one of McKinney’s favorite parts of his career. “They are like family to me.”
Not long after, he started working in outside sales, partly because of his ability to form lasting relationships with his coworkers and the customers they served.
“That’s when I fell in love because it’s always something new every day, and I could interact with people that I’m still friends with to this day,” McKinney said. “It really inspired me.”
After seven years of success at CES, Feidler, now the Vice President of Operations, reached out to him and said he needed some help growing the company’s footprint in Texas.
After consulting with his fiancé and getting support from their families, he realized he needed to get out of his comfort zone to take his career to the next level. They packed their bags and moved to Texas for him to open the Kennedale location as branch manager.
After spending a year and a half as branch manager, he was promoted to district manager in Fort Worth. The transition wasn’t easy at first because there was a lot of work to do, and nobody knew who he was—but forging relationships with his new coworkers got the job done.
“Learning how to navigate new relationships was one of the most difficult things, especially in Texas with not knowing anyone,” he said. But after finding common ground between different members and getting to know them on a personal level, his job became much easier.
McKinney didn’t give up, and it paid off. Nearly three years later, he was promoted to regional manager of North Texas.
“Looking back years ago when I was a driver, I wouldn’t be able to believe I’d be a branch manager in Texas, so there’s a lot of emotions,” he said. “I came out here, and I made a difference—we made a difference as a team—and it’s everything I could ask for.”
McKinney’s word of advice for youth working their way up in the industry? Be trainable.
It doesn’t matter if you have a degree or have no knowledge of the industry (like McKinney when he first joined CES). “Being a sponge and staying humble” will take you far in the industry.
“It doesn’t matter how much you know. You won’t know everything,” he said. “Ask yourself how you can be better today than you were yesterday, and there’s no other option but to succeed.”