2014 30 Under 35 Profile: Brad Riley


Brad Riley
Inside Sales Specialist, Synergy Electrical Sales

By Joe Nowlan

In 2007, Brad Riley was a student at Temple University when he decided to take some time off.

“I decided to get some work under my belt for a while, and then go back to school after that,” Riley explained.

He went to a local temp agency to see what part-time jobs were open until an appealing full-time position came along. Consolidated Electrical Distributors (CED), a large electrical distributorship, was looking for a truck driver.

“I started there knowing nothing about the electrical distribution industry at all,” Riley said. “After doing my driving, deliveries, and cutting wire in the warehouse for a couple of weeks, I met with a regional manager there. Within two weeks of starting there as a truck driver, I was put into their management training program.”

CED management knew a good prospect when they saw one. And Riley realized the position had the potential to be more than just something to do between semesters.

“I certainly wasn’t going into it with career aspirations,” he said. “I really knew nothing about the industry or that there even was an [electrical] industry. Once I started working there…and getting more into the lighting side, it really interested me and took off from there.”

The CED management training program challenged Riley while also showing him the various paths in the electrical industry he could consider.

“I was busy doing some inside sales, outside sales, some deliveries, warehouse work, some purchasing,” he explained. “Eventually I started doing…more on the energy and project management side of things, specifically with lighting.”

It was the growing and evolving developments in lighting that Riley was drawn to. After three years at CED, Riley moved to his current position (inside sales specialist) at Synergy Electrical Sales in 2010.

For anyone working in lighting these days, there is almost constant learning. But Riley enjoys having to keep up with the new developments.

“I love it and I have a lot of innovative manufacturers at my fingertips that I am able to utilize like a Swiss Army knife, wherever I have a need,” he said. “It is literally every few months there is something new coming out and keeping me on my toes….That’s this industry in a nutshell these days.”

Riley was born and raised in Vineland, N.J., “about half way between the Jersey shore and Philadelphia,” he explained.

He is newly engaged and currently lives about five miles from his office. His hobbies include rugby, a sport he started playing a couple years ago.

“[Rugby] is a hobby of mine and my general release from work,” Riley said. “I saw a sign for practices for a local team. I had only seen it on TV. I was feeling out of shape, selling lighting all day, so I decided to give it a try.”

His rugby season runs through spring, summer and fall.

“I’m biased now that I actually play it, but I think if there is one international sport that will catch on here in the United States—I think rugby is the one that will do it,” he said.

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

A. First and foremost, education—self-education. You really need to educate yourself whenever possible. I think one of the strong suits of the industry in general is the above average educational resources available. Take full advantage of it and help yourself become a value to your customers. The tools are out there to do that, whether it is something through NAED, or through different manufacturers. There are many different ways to make yourself more knowledgeable and to make yourself more useful.

It’s a requirement now especially in this business.…If you are a distributor, you’re going to be left in the dust if you are not growing your knowledge of the product and staying on top of the newer stuff, and offering that knowledge to your customer base as a value.

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

A. I can think of two things right away. First and foremost, lighting is just ridiculous! The LED era has arrived—and I think a little sooner than anyone expected it to get here. It is in full force now. Every manufacturer is just developing and innovating and changing products and adjusting price structures. It is a fun time to be selling it. It is a challenging time to be selling it. It is a whirlwind of change, and it is fun to watch science and innovation at work, especially with some of the manufacturers that we deal with.

The other thing that comes to mind right away, but not on a product basis, is customer service. The definition of customer service and how it is treated has really changed a lot. There are new expectations as far as customer service goes. We’re basically into the 24-hour work day now with people having iPhones and iPads and laptops and things like that. [So] the standard of customer service has changed dramatically, even from five years ago.  Salespeople really need to think about this in their day to day service methodology.

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

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