People

2013 30 Under 35 Profile: Bobby Graham

Bobby Graham
33
Sales representative, Facility Solutions Group

By Joe Nowlan

So how did a one-time college linebacker from Texas end up in Chicago as one of his company’s top lighting experts?

He started in the warehouse.

Bobby Graham attended college at the University of North Texas, where he played football (outside linebacker). He worked at a nearby Facility Solutions Group (FSG) warehouse in the summers as an administrator and worked his way up to the position of driver.

“I quite enjoyed it. I was attracted mostly to the company itself and how they operated,” Graham explained.

After college, he worked at FSG’s branch in Ft. Worth, Texas, in a sales position. The chance to go to Chicago came about when FSG acquired a company there and was looking to grow business in that region.

“I was fresh out of college, a young guy eager to learn and eager to be successful like anybody else,” Graham said. “I thought it was a great opportunity.”

Graham is a sales rep at FSG and is involved primarily with retail and commercial-related customers with an emphasis on energy management.

“Buildings are now connected remotely across multiple locations,” he said. “You think about a retail facility, they are operating anywhere from 100 to 5,000 sites. Our business model and the energy division is focused on building controls and connecting to technologies like integrated lighting solutions.”

While his work and its related technologies carry a continuous learning curve, it’s a challenge that Graham has embraced.

“It’s a little more complicated than just selling lamps and fixtures,” Graham laughed. “The lighting and electrical industry is changing as fast as the computer industry. It’s amazing!”

Unlike many in electrical distribution, Graham is quite active in social media—Twitter, specifically. (@bobbyggraham ).

“I’ll post articles that are inspirational to me. If I’m reading a book, I’ll post about the book,” he explained. “It’s not about gaining a [sales] lead. It’s more for the customer that I do business with. It really brings a unity and bond with each other. They look to you as a friend as opposed to a business partner. They look to you as a person to learn from.”

Graham and his wife Sarah have two children: a two-year-old daughter (Avery) and a one year-old son (Tanner).

Graham is still very physically active and has even run marathons. In fact he met his wife while training for the Chicago Marathon.

“I was never really a marathon runner until I met my wife. It’s our joke. I always chased after her so the best way to do that was to learn how to run further,” he laughed.

It’s been 10 years since Graham left Texas but, as he puts it, “I’ve never looked back.”

He grew up in the Dallas area. And while he has been in Chicago for 10 years, he still cheers for the Dallas Cowboys.

“I’m always, at heart, a Cowboys fan. But I guess I’m turning into a bit of a fair weather, bandwagon Bears fan,” he said. “They play this year in Chicago at Soldiers Field. So if you know anybody with a spare ticket, send it my way!”

Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?

A. The advice that I would give—and this is what I’ve always done as a salesperson—is [to remember that] everybody has a hurt. Everybody has a struggle. One of the most rewarding things that I get out of making sales calls or working with companies is working with individuals and finding out what their headaches are and helping them through that. Help them become better by finding ways to solve their problems. So the advice is, don’t worry about sales or your success. Stay focused on the people you do business with and serve their needs first. If you can help others succeed, then you’ll become successful with them.

Q. What is the one thing a company should never post on social media?

A. The first thing that comes to mind is never air your dirty laundry. Never post anything negative about any other business. That would be my advice. Never talk badly about your competitors. Negativity is probably the most detrimental thing you can do on social media. If you talk bad or say something controversial about somebody else, people will discredit you.

Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at jcnowlan@msn.com.

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