Jeff Williamson’s Journey from Chef to City Electric Supply

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At first glance, the 18-year career of District Manager Jeff Williamson is the conventional path of a City Electric Supply (CES) team member. In 2005, he started out as a driver and moved up to working at the counter and assisting in the warehouse after a couple of years. Then, in 2008, Jeff was promoted to sales representative before eventually becoming a branch manager at CES Lynwood in 2012. From there, Jeff and his team worked to turn the branch around.

“When I took over, we made essential changes, we grew our customer base, and the branch became a success,” said District Manager Jeff Williamson.

In May of 2018, Jeff was promoted into his current role of district manager. But his life before CES may surprise you.

Life of A Chef

“Before working at CES, I was going to culinary school and working at a restaurant as a chef,” said Jeff.

Yep, you heard that right. Jeff Williamson was a professional chef at a popular country club. Instead of preparing facilities for branch openings, he prepared food for hundreds of people every day.

“It was a banquet facility with four separate rooms that could host parties for groups of up to 300 people each,” Jeff added. “The country club could have close to 1,200 people on a Saturday night, and I would manage everything from proteins, starches, veggies, soups, salads, you name it.”

And major holidays at the country club were no different.

“On Mother’s Day and Easter, we would serve close to 3,000 people on a Sunday, where I would work the omelet station. It was great interacting with so many customers.”

Needing A Change

A major career turning point for Jeff came shortly after meeting another member of the country club staff, his future wife Lori, who was a server at the restaurant.

“I met my wife at the restaurant where we worked. But, we both realized that if we wanted to have a family, we couldn’t do the long hours on Saturdays and Sundays that are typical in the life of a chef.”

Another surprising turn in Jeff’s journey was how he got his start at CES.

“At the time, I was also in a band, and I told some friends I was looking for a new career. The guitar player knew a branch manager who connected me with another branch manager who worked at CES Thornton. That branch eventually moved to Lynwood and is still operating successfully.”

Soon after, Jeff applied for an open position, and the rest was history.

New Beginnings

As with starting anything new, Jeff’s early days at CES came with its fair share of challenges.

“I was learning the product, our computer system, organizing the different routes for customer deliveries and pickups without the help of a GPS, and doing proper training to grow.”

CES hadn’t established an industry footprint yet in the Northern Indiana/Chicago region. So, acquiring customers was the main hurdle he faced in his early roles.

“We didn’t have enough of a presence at the time. We had to prove to the community that we could provide a viable service. Once we grew our network and teams by providing the material they needed, customers began to see the value that we brought to the market.”

Growing & Building

Currently, as district manager, Jeff Williamson oversees six branches.

“I inherited three branches (Lynwood, Chesterton, and Crown Point) and opened three (Valparaiso, La Porte, and Highland) since becoming district manager. Right now, we are in the process of opening two more branches (Fort Wayne and Michigan City),” said Jeff. 

Jeff has also promoted over 15 team members to higher positions within the company.

“We cultivate our teams from the beginning. As long as they show up to work every day, and work hard, they’ll succeed.”

Hard work is essential to growing in any industry. And Jeff knows that first-hand through his experience of transitioning from a chef to where he is today.

“CES is the only supply house I’ve worked for and where I got my start in the electrical industry. 

And Jeff has advice for those looking to make a career change like he did.

“Remember to have patience and train hard. Go to vendor events, join organizations in the industry, learn the products and systems, and come in with the right attitude to grow.”

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