Insights into the forces shaping our industry.

Egret Consulting Attends the 2024 NAED Western Region Conference

Industry Events

Brooke Ziolo, Pati Kelly, and Rob Wieska represented Egret Consulting at the NAED Western Region Conference in Austin, TX January 15-17, 2024.  Egret Consulting recently became a NAED Allied Partner.  This further solidifies our relationships in the industry with distributors, manufacturers, rep agencies, and engineering firms.  Egret Consulting’s approach to serving our clients with specific expertise by industry vertical was widely embraced with nothing but positive feedback at the event.

Let’s start with some general information gathered while attending NAED.  These are summaries of conversations and presentations:

  • 1.5% growth GDP for Q4
  • Projecting 8% growth in 2024
  • Since 1920 there has only been a decline in the economy in an election year 4 times (so no relevance to whether it’s an election year or not)
  • There are 8.7M jobs open (6M is balance in the market)
  • Wage growth is typically 2 – 3% and right now it’s 5%
  • Interest rates are 5.25%, expect that to be around 4.75 in 2024 and 3.25 in 2025 (when it drops to 3.25 expect to see boost in construction projects
  • Total construction growth was 11%
  • Growth rates will continue to increase in healthcare and renewable energy
  • Distributors will hire more technically focused employees in both sales and engineering support functions, some even discussing the acquisition of engineering firms to accomplish this goal

At the “Futures Group Roundtable Discussion” topics included “Talent and Innovation:  Building a 21st Century Team”, “Electrification:  The $275 billion Opportunity of Electrification” and “Digital Transformation:  Where is your company on the digital transformation journey?”


The talent discussion sparked conversation that companies must offer solid benefits packages.  Salary alone is not the driver to attract, land and retain top talent.  Candidates today, especially younger talent and mid-career talent, want defined career paths.  They want their growth trajectory to be clear with the opportunity for multiple paths within the organization.  Candidates are seeking flexibility in their roles and responsibilities.  They want to take on additional responsibilities and are seeking to be recognized and rewarded for their contributions.  Work from home flexibility (as allowed) and increased or unlimited PTO is a key topic.  Attracting young talent was a hot button topic.  We heard some organizations are targeting kids in high school (as early at 10th grade).  Companies are going onsite to discuss the many benefits that a career in the electrical industry can offer, including rewarding careers in sales, operations, marketing, and engineering.  It was agreed that the industry must do a better job of creating scholarships for high school students to pursue the electrical industry and companies should be out recruiting at campus job fairs.  It was also discussed that candidates are now seeking socially good companies; they want their personal values to align with their employer’s.  Companies should create video testimonials from senior leaders and employees across the business to share how the organization helps the community and what, if any, charities, or social causes they represent and donate to.


The Electrification topic was interesting.  Many distributors feel much more is being pushed on them and being put onto their plate.  They’re feeling overwhelmed.  General feedback was distributors are not getting the support they need from manufacturers, especially in renewable energy (solar was mentioned specifically).  Distributors don’t know the customer they should be targeting and voiced they need additional training from their manufacturing partners.  It was shared that renewable energy is a new language for distributors.  They said there are different contractors involved and candidly they don’t know who they are or have relationships with them yet and they don’t know where the contracts are coming from.  Risk relative to extending credit to those they haven’t worked with in the past came up.  The analogy was made to lighting.  It was incandescent lamps, then CFL’s, then LED’s, but it was all lightbulbs, they knew who to sell them to. With things like EV charging it’s a totally new product that they haven’t sold before.  Distributors shared they don’t know the technologies yet and they need to work more closely with the manufacturers to understand and learn it.  Concerns were raised about what happens when government subsidies go away.  It is the chicken or the egg situation…do distributors hire specialists to go after this or is it too soon? Distributors are hearing a lot about EV Charging, but not seeing the actual business come through.  Lastly, questions were raised about distributors starting to offer new services to their customers: On-site vendor managed inventory, material kitting for customers, and even label making opportunities.

Digital Transformation:

Relative to digital transformation, discussions were raised on creating API connections with distributor vendors to see stock and availability of products from the manufacturers.  Slow-moving stock has always been a concern, but it is more important now with how expensive warehouse space is and costs being driven down. AI was identified as a growth area to analyze warehouses and design / redo their layout. Conversations were raised on the need for digital twin modeling.  It was discussed that AI can analyze sales (inside and outside) and suggest products that typically get sold with others and help with credit analysis.  Regardless of AI applications, concerns were raised that AI technology will only be as good as the data that is entered.

Electric Vehicle Landscape:

NAED offered a great panel discussion on the growing EV Market “Exploring the Electric Vehicle Landscape:  Opportunities and Strategies”.  The panelists were J.D. Johnson, President – EVESCO, Suji Sullivan, ABB National EV Infrastructure Segment Leader, and Chris Collins, National Account Manager at Sonepar.  Suji shared that ABB’s focus is largely on the freight and transit segment (500-mile range and greater) as well as offering more standardized product solutions and component offerings.  ABB is also focused on regenerative actions relative to EV Charging.  JD shared a more holistic approach to EV Charging that we must look at not just the EV Charger, but consider Microgrids, Energy Storage Solutions, Distributed Energy Resources, etc.  It all must go together.  Chris talked about the challenges with EV adoptions from consumers…their fear of accessible charging stations, lack of charging stations at multi-family residential and commercial buildings, and how auto manufacturer’s marketing efforts have failed to convey the high level of technology offered in the cars and trucks to attract buyers. 

Some general observations shared on the EV charging market:

  • For every 5 people leaving the industry today with technological expertise, they’re being replaced by only 2
  • Solar growth is expected to be at 130% by 2030 and EV charging will torpedo that number
  • Only 1 in 16 solar applications today also have energy storage solutions
  • There are currently 97 EV offerings in the market.  Only 4 can do vehicle to grid applications.  This will be an area of exceptional growth.  School buses are a great example of early entrants to target for vehicle to grid applications.
  • DC Fast Chargers currently only have a 5–8-year life span.   The electrical components in them have a 20-year life span.  How do we improve this?
  • New ESS Standards:  UL9540 and UL9540A

So how do distributors get in on EV Charging?  First, it was suggested that distributors create EV teams, with proven specialists for business development.  Going further, distributors truly committed to growth in EV Charing and ESS applications should also build microgrid teams and software management teams.  Distributors can also look to partner on the maintenance of EV Chargers.  Remember, the current lifespan is only 5-8 years.  Older units in the field will need to be retrofitted with current technology or replaced.  This opens the door to getting contractors involved.  Switchboards, panelboards, electrical and electronic components, hoses, connectors…there’s stock and flow products that distributors can immediately see ROI on.  Software is another area that distributors can immediately enter the EV Charging space.  Manufacturers and distributors must successfully partner on the entire market, they need each other.  Whether it be a complete solution offering, component level parts or software, manufacturers need distributors to make it work.  Moving forward, EV Charging solutions must be modular and have scalability.  Chargers must be repairable and upgradable.  All agreed; EV Charging is an area that will require genuine partnership from all stakeholders.

Egret Consulting also attended the “Women in Industry Happy Hour”.  There was clear excitement about the future of the industry.  Many attendants knew each other which speaks volumes as to how passionate NAED is about encouraging women and diversity in the industry.  New conversations surrounded how to get even more women (and young people in general) attracted to the industry.  Additional conversations were had about helping to make connections with product or applications areas not served or underserved by their companies.  The energy was real, and it was clear that all left inspired to act.

One of the most satisfying aspects of attending NAED for Egret Consulting was that we met candidates that we placed, some going back 8+ years, face to face.  Each conversation validated the work that we do for our clients, the candidates we place, and the industry in general.  We heard from each candidate that the company we placed them at is fantastic to work for and that they’ve enjoyed countless successes over the years including promotions and increased responsibilities. Handshakes and hugs were accompanied by a sincere “thank you” for matching them to their dream job and organization.  We also got to meet some of the managers and leaders who ultimately hired them, and their feedback was aligned…thanking Egret Consulting for helping to grow their company and achieve their goals.  Having these interactions keeps us inspired to do what we do, each day.

The NAED Western Conference was very successful for Egret Consulting.  Clients and prospective clients value our allied partnership with NAED and many jokes were exchanged about, “Hey, you are a real people…not just AI on the phone”.  Attendees and leadership at NAED welcomed us in and shared that they hope to further help solidify our relationships.  We look forward to attending future NAED regional and national events.  If we did not meet you in Austin, let’s make sure we connect at the next conference!