It’s A People Business

Russ HarrellAs long as I’ve had a job, I’ve been in the customer service business. Whether it was working weekends at the Army-Navy store that my father and I own, or my previous job working as a driver for an engine manufacturer, my passion was always people. That’s why when a friend mentioned a counter sales opening with his employer, Sidney Lee Welding Supply, I knew I had to give it a hard look.

At first I was a little hesitant because I didn’t know all that much about the welding industry. However, my friend had always talked about how helpful the owners and employees were and that reassured me. Also, I knew my customer service skills made me a great fit for the position. Around here we like to say, you can learn welding but you can’t teach people skills. I ended up taking the job and now, two years later, I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

As one might expect, my first few months in the business were a bit of a challenge. There is so much that you have to learn in the welding industry, from products to processes, that it takes a while to nail it down. Fortunately, when I had questions, everyone around the shop was always more than willing to help. This was critical for me, because I didn’t really go through any sort of formal training program—it was all on-the-job. Now I’ve got a pretty good understanding of the business, but there is always more to learn. It’s like our company President Zane Lee likes to say, “You could spend 30 years in this business and still not learn everything there is to know.”

However, there is one thing that I’ll always know and that’s service. This job is all about helping people. Whether it’s helping the customers in the shop or helping our drivers get prepped in the morning, almost all of my time is spent serving internal and external customers. I genuinely care about our customers and I want to make sure that each of Meet A Young Leader them has an outstanding experience every time that they deal with me. I’ve found the key is to do your best to empathize with the customer’s situation and above all to always be straight with them. If you don’t know an answer, be honest about it and work hard to find it. Nobody knows it all in this business, and customers don’t trust people who pretend to. However, if you’re honest with them and they know you’ll work hard to answer anything they might ask, they’ll respect you for it.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Russ Harrell Meet the Author
Russ Harrell works in counter sales for Sidney Lee Welding Supply located in Hampton, GA, and on the Web at