SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Orbit Industries announced the retirement of Bob Harrer, Factory Sales Representative covering California’s Central Valley region, effective June 30, 2022. Harrer served the company for more than 10 years, and he served the electrical industry at large for 48 years.
After graduating from Mason City High School (Iowa) in 1962, Harrer enrolled in Junior College but struggled to find direction in his life. “I was floundering around,” Harrer recalls of his first few years as a young man. In 1965, feeling directionless and eager to leave his hometown, Harrer enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. At this time, U.S. combat forces were being deployed into the Vietnam conflict.
After completing basic training, Harrer was assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, where he provided materials support to the air wing. By “the grace of God” he was not deployed to Vietnam. “Out of 45 people [from my basic training platoon],” Harrer reflected, “only 15 of them came back [alive].”
The military taught him a lot, and it forced him to grow up faster than his peers. But what he cherished most about his service was the importance of teamwork. “Communication with people around you is the most important thing,” said Harrer. “No matter who you are around, you have to realize that these people all have the same goal as you.”
After his discharge from active duty in 1968, Harrer enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa, graduating with a BA in Health in 1972. Shortly after graduation, he married his first wife and they moved to Southern California.
In 1974, Harrer joined 3M as an Inside Salesperson, graduating to Outside Sales in just a few years. During this formative period in his life, he found that business-to-business selling excited him, and that he might want to make a career out of it.
1980 was the year Harrer first entered the electrical wholesaling industry, taking an Outside Sales role with Appleton Electric Company (EGS). He loved the industry, the products, and the camaraderie. In 1988 he married his current wife, Susie, and they moved to Northern California in 1990.
Harrer continued to work for Appleton until 2003. During his 23-year tenure, he gained a deep understanding of electrical product application, as well as the industry dynamics at large. He had the opportunity to learn from several veteran salespeople. But his most valuable mentor by far was a man named Frank Warren. According to Harrer, “Frank taught me that ‘showing up’ matters more than anything else. Showing up means you care.”
In 2003, Harrer joined Ewing-Foley Inc., a manufacturer’s representative that carried Appleton among many other brands. While this experience broadened his knowledge of electrical products, a great deal of his time was spent “juggling different manufacturers.” He was spending less time visiting distributors and building relationships – the parts of selling he loved most.
In 2009, Harrer decided to retire at age 64. He just wasn’t cut out to be a manufacturer’s rep, and he grew tired of working for large corporations. Luckily, he had the means to retire comfortably, and spent the next three years traveling with family, and “playing lots of golf.”
Then in 2012, Harrer received a call from Mike Carew – an old colleague from his Appleton days. Carew was now working for Orbit Industries. “It’s a great little company,” Carew told Harrer. “And they need someone to cover your old territory.” Feeling a little stir-crazy in his early retirement, Harrer jumped at the opportunity.
Harrer served as an Orbit Factory Salesperson for the next 10 years, growing the company’s market share in California’s Central Valley. He stuck to the basics of selling: building connections with distributors and contractors in the region, and always “showing up”, even when he had bad news.
Orbit turned out to be a perfect fit for the veteran salesman. “I got so much support and encouragement from Inside Sales and [executive] leadership,” Harrer recalls. His style of selling blended perfectly with Orbit’s business model — both revolved around taking care of the customer. “You’re not just seen as a number here,” Harrer commented. “You are seen as a part of a team. And that team has the same goal as you.”
David Nikayin, Orbit’s President and Founder, stated, “We are going to miss his personality, drive & dedication. Harrer started with us during a critical growth period. And he’s responsible for introducing the Orbit brand name to a whole new market. We thank him for coming out of retirement for another 10 years of service. We wish him a long, healthy, and happy retirement!”
Blessed with a successful career and good health at the age of 77, Harrer plans on taking short trips and taking care of the house with his wife Susie.Tagged with Orbit