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2013 30 Under 35 Profile: Tyson Berg

Tyson Berg
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West Coast Division Solar Manager, Rexel USA

By Joe Nowlan

As the solar sales manager for Rexel USA out of the San Leandro, Calif., location, Tyson Berg obviously has a solid background in solar energy. One aspect of his background that may be a surprise to some is security. As in theft prevention.

Before arriving at Rexel, Berg was a co-founder of Gridlock Solar Security. The company was born when Berg and his co-founders saw a growing problem: Solar panels, hundreds at a time, were being stolen. One winery in Napa Valley saw about 500 of its solar panels stolen, worth nearly $60,000, Berg explained.

“They were just sitting out in a remote area where most of the time there wasn’t anyone around,” Berg recalled. “They are worth a lot of money and could be used anywhere. We realized they were…kind of vulnerable.”

Gridlock developed what became a type of solar alarm system.

“It was a self-enclosed box that was strung through the array of solar panels so that if anyone tried to tamper with them, an alarm would go off and lights go on,” Berg said. “Cell phone communications would call your alarm company, send you a text message or call your landline.”

Berg has the combination of work ethic and creativity that characterizes many in the “30 Under 35” series. He got his first job in electrical when he was 14 years old.

As a member of the Boy Scouts, Berg got the opportunity to shadow a volunteer fireman in Kenwood, Calif., where he grew up. One of the other firemen had his own electrical business and soon asked Berg if he wanted to help out.

“So that turned into a seven-year stint of me pulling wire, running to electrical warehouses, and even installing my first solar system when I was 16,” Berg said. “I was making $14 an hour. It was a lot of money back then.”

He graduated from San Diego State University’s School of Business Management in 2004 and is currently working toward his MBA in Sustainable Energy Management.

In his current role as west coast division solar manager, Berg and his team advise and help fill solar orders from colleagues in Rexel’s U.S. territory.

“[We] maintain a sales database of roughly 400 customers that are solar only installers or contractors,” he explained. “We have about 42 solar only manufacturers that we have brought on board that I manage relationships with.”

He lives in Santa Rosa with his two dogs a boxer (Winston) and a Labrador retriever (Wyatt). He and his girlfriend Lauren enjoy getting outdoors whenever they can.

Berg is an enthusiastic fan of the world champion San Francisco Giants, despite their disappointing 2013 season.

“I go to as many games as I possibly can, even when they are horrible,” he laughed.

Likewise, Berg maintains his enthusiasm for the electrical industry.

“The electrical industry offers a lot to a new graduate because there are so many elements of it,” Berg said. “This industry is the place [to] take a really hard look at because a lot of the initial jobs out of college are very dead-end. But there is no end in the electrical distribution world.”

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

A. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to think outside the box. Find solutions on your own and always be bringing new ideas to the table. I think that the electrical industry of old was regimented in the way things used to be done. While working as a sales representative, I found that my biggest strength was acting as a consultant for the companies I sold to, constantly bringing new ideas to the forefront and suggesting different ways of selling and financing projects. The new blood infiltrating the industry is very good for its growth and future because there are so many new creative ideas and mindsets that allow companies to evolve into different markets. It is going to grow rapidly.

Q. What has changed the most in the industry in the past five years?

A. The single largest change in the electrical industry is technology. Electricians have the ability to diversify their business to sectors such as LED lighting, renewable energy, EV charging and controls. Technology also allows distributors and their customers to communicate much faster, with the introduction of online ordering, vendor owned inventory, as well as new credit processes—doing business is much easier. I remember while working for a large electrical house in San Diego following college, spending hours driving around collecting full plans and specifications from general contractors—this is a thing of the past. A project can come to fruition way faster than it used to because everything is electronic. Technology will continue to allow installers to expand their offering and allow distributors to offer new products and services.

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

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