National Acquisitions Manager
Name: Sam Sterner
Company: SJF Material Handling, Inc.
Location: Winsted, MN
Years On Job: 2
I have been working at SJF pretty much my entire life. My father, Frank Sterner, and two uncles, Stafford and Jim, own the company, and I have worked here every summer since high school. I came to SJF full-time in September 2011, after graduating from the University of Wyoming. Growing up in the material handling industry has prepared me for the responsibilities of being the National Acquisitions Manager and Lead Buyer for SJF Material Handling. In my position, I oversee national purchasing of warehouse equipment, direct and manage all offsite sales, dismantling, relocation and transportation of equipment acquisitions. It is a job that requires me to keep my finger on the pulse of the industry and to make smart, quick decisions regarding potential deals. At SJF, we have the money and the capability to buy whole warehouses and projects and bring them in. Our crews can handle anything and it is my responsibility to find those projects for us.
1. Technical Knowledge
I started out at SJF working in our yard. I helped unload trucks, separate pieces of equipment and then put them back together. That experience has been the most important training I have received. Anybody can read manuals and attend seminars about how equipment works, but until you have actually worked with it hands-on, you won’t gain a full understanding of it. The more complete your knowledge of the industry is, the better you will be at buying. I need the technical knowledge necessary to make sure that I’m not buying something that is broken or could have problems.
A huge part of my job is the willingness to travel. I probably spend 25-percent of my time travelling. I was on 60 flights last year and visited 17 states. Many of those flights were day trips, where I fly out in the morning and back at night. If there is a piece of equipment that I want and would be a fit for us, I am absolutely willing to go there on the spot, check it out and make a deal.
My grandfather, Gerry Sterner, trained me in my position. He is a legend in the industry and founded SJF in 1979. He had a very old-school approach to business that he passed down to me. I much prefer talking face-to-face to communicating on the phone or by email. I think you get a lot more done that way, but it also cuts down on mistakes. I’m never going to buy something and have it get here to find out that it’s all wrong. That would cause an issue on both sides. Having an industry legend pass down all of his secrets and methods has been great because it’s different than how people typically do things. It’s more efficient and more personal.
The biggest tool that I have is my phone. Everything is on there. I can use email, take pictures, scan bills, send them to our customer and our shipping director, and keep up with all of my paperwork, right in the palm of my hand. And using an iPhone and a Mac is great because everything syncs right through the cloud. We have an enormous network, with contacts in every type of business. I need to be connected all the time; whether I’m at the office, on a job site or sitting in the middle of nowhere, it doesn’t matter as long as I have cell service. I’ll never miss a beat.