DALLAS, Texas — Shortly after his wedding in 1979, Jim Lawson responded to a newspaper job announcement for a sales representative. Thanks to that ad, Lawson joined City Electric Supply (CES), also known as City Electrical Factors (CEF) in the United Kingdom, as an outside sales representative in Glasgow, Scotland. He launched a career spanning two continents and almost five decades. Now, Lawson has to retire after 44 years with the company.
“It’s a strange feeling, and it’s never something I’ve contemplated until now. For 44 years, I’ve come to work for CES. That’s been my standard,” said Lawson. “It’s a difficult thing. It’s bitter for some reasons, sweet for others. It’s a good feeling, and I genuinely believe the time is right.”
Starting his journey with the company in sales, Lawson opened the Glasgow City Centre Store as a branch manager in 1985. By 1991, he was a district manager, with 10 stores reporting to him. Shortly after that, he was asked to do something that would change his life, and his career forever.
“I came to the U.S. on June 10th, 1996. I couldn’t forget it. I was offered to come to the states as a district manager. I wanted to come to America and help build something from scratch,” said Lawson.
Lawson, along with his wife Lynn and two sons Craig and Scott, took a leap of faith and decided to make the East Coast their new home.
“I left Glasgow with my wife, two children, and 10 suitcases. When we left Scotland, it was 55 degrees. When we stepped off the airplane in Raleigh, North Carolina, it was 105 degrees. The humidity was something we weren’t used to. We had to take two taxi cabs to the hotel, one for us and one for all of our luggage,” said Lawson with a laugh.
Helping build a business in a new country came with challenges for Lawson to overcome.
“We had no connections with vendors or potential CES team members in North Carolina. We basically started from ground zero. I had to go out and find people to come out and work for me. We found people and sold them a dream. They were working in places that were established, and they took a chance with us. Some of those guys are still with us today.”
Over the next 27 years, Lawson helped build CES into what it is now: one of the largest electrical wholesale distributors in the United States. Starting in Raleigh, then moving to Charleston, Lawson helped open CES in Colorado in the early 2000s and even oversaw company expansion up north in Philadelphia.
As a VP of Operations for at least a decade and a half, Lawson’s territory reached 115 CES stores across South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Northern Florida, and parts of Mississippi.
While a lot has changed with the company over more than four decades, one thing has stayed the same that enticed Lawson from the beginning. And that was the company culture.
“I think considering the size we are now, the culture is definitely unique,” said Lawson. “It’s been this way since the beginning, and I realized that early on. Why would I want to go work anywhere else?”
As he looks back on 44 years with CES, Lawson has been able to see people he first hired succeed as well.
Many of those Lawson recruited to CES also continue to work for the company.
“The biggest thing for me is watching the young guys progress through the company. Helping them in their professional journeys and seeing them become managers and above ranks is my top satisfaction,” he said.
Lawson has confidence in the team he’s leaving behind. His advice for them?
“Don’t get away from the core values, but when you have to adapt, do it. Just because it worked 10 years ago doesn’t mean it will work today,” he said.
“The only thing in life that’s constant is that things are going to change,” Lawson said.
CES thanks Lawson for his time and dedication to growing the company footprint and maintaining a culture loved by so many.Tagged with Biggest News, City Electric Supply