R.T. Smith’s 25 Years (and Counting) at CES

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With 25 years at City Electric Supply (CES) under his belt, Regional Manager R.T. Smith’s career didn’t start out like your typical electrical industry veteran.

“Right after graduating college, I started working at an insurance company for a little while,” said R.T. “Then, I transitioned into working for my family’s small business.”

He hadn’t found what he was looking for in terms of a long-term career. But then, an opportunity of a lifetime came knocking.

An Unexpected Calling

“My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, worked at a job in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where we decided to live once we got married,” R.T. explained. “A friend of hers let her know about an open position at a store called City Electric Supply.”

Shortly after, his wife encouraged him to apply for the job.

“I had never heard about City Electric Supply at that point. But, when I learned more about the company, I liked that it was a family-owned business and branches ran independently based on the local market.”

R.T. didn’t know much about the electrical field, but the position brought back memories of when he was younger and working for his family.

“While working for my family’s small business, I helped sell building supplies, hardware, and a few electrical products.” 

R.T. joined CES in 1997 and used his previous experience to his advantage.

“I started as an outside salesman. I really liked the concept of selling a product that’s a part of something you can build, use, or maintain to make a complete system.”

Eventually, R.T. rose through the ranks and became the branch manager. But soon, another career opportunity presented itself.

A Short Detour

“I was getting offers from a lighting vendor to come over and join them, and accepting this opportunity would allow me to explore different aspects of the industry,” said R.T. 

After 11 years at CES Rock Hill, R.T. accepted the position. 

“I struggled with if it was the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do, but I think things happen for a reason.”

R.T. gained knowledge on lighting, met distributors, and got a look at the electrical business from the vendor’s perspective.

“I learned a lot about LED lighting, which was still a somewhat new technology at the time, tested products, and attended tradeshows,” R.T. said. “I missed the CES family and interaction with customers, but I was also learning a lot about the lighting industry. 

The Visit

Nearly a year later, R.T. received a visit from an old friend and colleague, Vice President of Operations Jim Lawson.

Jim, who’s been with City Electric Supply for over four decades, was someone who R.T. looked up to because of his leadership.

“He has been a tremendous leader, mentor, and an example of how to do things right and treat people right,” R.T. added.

Jim discussed some big changes on the horizon at the company and shared with R.T. a new opportunity.

R.T. Returns to CES

R.T. gladly returned to City Electric Supply, excited to apply what he had learned.

Soon after returning, he was promoted to district manager, eventually rising even further up the ranks to regional manager. 

“I currently oversee six districts and 47 branches, including CES Irmo that just opened this past December,” said R.T. 

He continued, “I look back on that time I was away, and I think it made me better at what I do. I was a better branch manager, a better district manager, and so on.”

After 25 non-consecutive years at City Electric Supply, R.T. has great advice on thriving in this business.

“Surround yourself with good people. Having that support system helps you no matter where you go,” said R.T. “That’s especially true at a company like CES, where you’re allowed to learn as you go and grow. Be patient and be the best at whatever your job is within our system, and you will move forward. Bloom where you are planted, as the saying goes.”

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