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Danielle Galian: Tell me a little bit about your background?
AJ Benton: I went to UC Santa Barbara and graduated in 2008. I started off as an accounting major and then switched to sociology. I’m pleasantly surprised at how applicable what I learned has been in the business world.
DG: What attracted you to this business/industry?
AJ: The opportunity to work for a company with a history and a reputation within an industry as Smardan has is an honor. Being part of the family is just a bonus.
DG: What are you most proud of at Smardan Supply since joining in 2008?
AJ: I’m most proud of how my two cousins and I, the fourth generation of the company, have stepped up into leadership roles at a relatively young age.
DG: Who inspires you as a next generation businessman?
AJ: I draw my inspiration from my great grandfather, grandfather, and father and uncle. Seeing how successful the family and the company have been throughout the last three generations inspires me to want to keep moving the company forward.
DG: How are you/Smardan Supply utilizing the latest in marketing technology to further the company’s success?
AJ: Our app has been a great tool. I work with exisiting customers to show them the benefits it can provide to their business . It’s also a great selling tool to go after new business. It offers a lot of different features.
DG: In this way, what can millennials learn from the innovative approach Smardan Supply implements? What can they take away by first glance?
AJ: I’d say don’t stray too far from what got you to where you are - the customer relations that we have built are the backbone of our company, and how we were able to sustain ourselves in economic down times. It’s also what’s allowed us to grow during the good times. There are lots of new and exciting opportunities out there to potentially grow a business and market to new people whether it’s an app or even e-commerce. And while it’s always great to explore new opportunities and see what’s available, make sure that you don’t get away from what got you there.
DG: What are your hobbies/interests outside of the business?
AJ: I love playing golf. It’s definitely a nice hobby to have in this industry. My wife and I are big sports fans, our family has had season tickets to the Anaheim Ducks since they became a franchise over 20 years ago so we love going to hockey games. My wife and I had a daughter, our first child, two and a half months ago, so those other things are currently taking a backseat to her! We also love traveling, and are very lucky to have traveled all over the world.
DG: Any top favorite travel destinations?
AJ: My family and I took a safari trip in South Africa. So if I had to pick one it would be the African safari.
DG: Do you have a personal motto or phrase to guide you?
AJ: I don’t really, although the first job that I had was working at Nordstrom. When I was hired, my HR Manager said we were required to memorize the employee handbook before we started working. In the binder there was only one sentence that said ‘use good judgment in all situations.’ That’s such a simple phrase for a huge company. So that has always stuck with me.
DG: What’s one piece of advice you’d give somebody just starting out in this industry?
AJ: Engage. Whether it’s within your own company or with peers in the industry. Engaging and networking creates a great opportunity to develop solid peers you can reach out to for advice or sharing best practices.
For more information on AJ Benton and Smardan Supply, visit www.smardan.com