By Joe Nowlan
Richard Harris started working immediately after graduating from high school in Phoenix.
“I just started working,” he laughed. “I never went to college. I just went straight into the workforce.”
He was working in Arizona at a Discount Tire branch when a friend took him to lunch one day.
“He had just gotten a job selling light bulbs [with Voss Lighting in Phoenix] and said to me, ‘We’re hiring and this is right up your alley. You should come and interview with us.’ I did and it happened,” Harris said.
His first reaction to the new job was enthusiastic—a feeling that has really never faded.
“I was drawn to the sales aspect of it and to learning a new industry,” he explained. “I could see it was definitely very viable, long term. As I got into the industry and got to know it, I started to really like and enjoy it.”
After working for Voss for eight years, Harris accepted a position in Phoenix with Facility Solutions Group. About a year later, he was promoted to his current position as division manager at FSG’s Denver branch.
Harris and his wife Michelle have five sons and two daughters.
“We are a very outdoors family—half marathons, hiking, road biking,” he said. “So when Denver opened up, we just said let’s go. We knew we wanted to be here and when the time came, we jumped.”
FSG originally specialized in selling light bulbs as well as ballasts and fixtures. But soon they began getting into electrical contracting, “to install the stuff we sold because we saw there was a need for that in the marketplace,” Harris explained. “And it just grew and expanded immensely to where our electrical contracting division has now grown to be one of the 15 largest in the nation.”
“Our unique ability is that we can take a lighting package, design and specify it, supply the materials and then install it,” he explained. “We can also troubleshoot it after the sale. And we can be the company that retrofits it 10 years from now.”
Finding talented employees and training them is among Harris’ main responsibilities. But due to the changes in the industry over the years, an experienced candidate is not always what Harris is looking for.
At his FSG branch, Harris has four sales people and three of them have been in the business for less than two years
“You want people to know the industry. But with things constantly changing, I’d rather have a blank slate and get a guy right out of college, or a guy changing industries who doesn’t have much experience…. If you take somebody who has been in the industry, but stopped learning five or 10 years ago—that is not attractive to me,” Harris explained. “What I look for in my candidates is enthusiasm, work ethic, honesty and integrity. I can teach you the industry.”
New employees at FSG will find a supervisor who has an unabashed enthusiasm for the industry.
“The next time you walk into a building that doesn’t have lighting needs and doesn’t have the needs and opportunities for the things we do here, call me and I’ll buy you lunch!” he laughed. “[Our] market is everywhere.”
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at email@example.com.Tagged with tED