tED’s 30 Under 35: Meet Rexel Holdings’ John Gerber

By Joe

In April, the editors of tED magazine sent out a call for
the industry’s “rising stars”—electrical professionals 34 years old or younger
who have the initiative, drive, integrity, and creativity to move the industry
forward in the decades to come. The call drew nominations from all segments of
the industry—distributors, suppliers, rep firms, software/services providers,
and VARs. Here on, we will post a new, full interview with one of
these impressive young people weekly; coverage of all of the honorees can be
found in the July 2012 issue
of tED
. Watch for information about our next “30 Under 35” competition  in
early 2013.

It is
reasonably safe to say that among Rexel Holdings’ various managers and
executives, John Gerber is the only one who has sung for two U.S. Presidents,
run and completed marathons and triathlons, and lived in Shanghai and Budapest.

He was
raised in Rochester, N.Y., and attended Purdue University, as did much of his
family. While at Purdue, he was a member of the university’s varsity glee club.

“The glee
club was great. I sang for two presidents, [George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton]
and got to tour Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji,” Gerber said.

He majored
in marketing and finance, but admits that he didn’t know much about electrical
distribution at the time. Nonetheless, he accepted a position with what was
then GE Supply for pragmatic reasons. (In 2006, GE Supply was purchased by

“GE was a
big brand, obviously. It enabled me to work in a very solid, large
organization, [which was] well-known and a fantastic brand,” he said. Gerber
was also thinking down the road career-wise.

“I saw I
could get some P & L [profit and loss] experience early in my career. So
from a long-term career perspective and for building my skill sets, it seemed
like the best opportunity,” he said.

The earlier
stages of Gerber’s career are reminiscent of the old slogan: “Join the Navy and
see the world.” In a fairly short period of time, Gerber lived in China as well
as in Europe.

He lived in
China for nearly four years, and oversaw “about a $45 million operation based
in Shanghai,” he said.

One part of
his China base included Macau, which is a special administrative region of
China that has its own government, Gerber explained. Maccau was in the early
stages of building an array of casinos when Gerber arrived.

“I was
standing in swampland when I first got there,” he laughed, “and today it’s
almost larger than Las Vegas in per capita casinos. They’ve had amazing growth
over a short period of time.”

Gerber was
later offered the chance to work in Europe. During this time, his customers
included companies in Italy, France, and Hungary.

Gerber is an area manager, and oversees seven Rexel locations—five in the San
Diego region and two in the Los Angeles area.

At these
locations, Rexel’s business is roughly 50 percent industrial and 50 percent
commercial construction, meaning small and medium-sized contractors.

In the last
few years, Gerber has become a marathoner and has even participated in some
Iron Man triathlons. He enjoys the challenge and the fun of those pursuits, and
uses them as an escape from his business demands.

“You’ve got
to have hobbies and interests outside of work otherwise you can become less
productive and less excited about what you do every day,” he explained.

Music will
always be a passion for Gerber, even though his glee club days are behind him.

He grew up
in a musical family, he explained, and while “I knew I didn’t want to make a
career out of singing, it is something I love to do.”

He still
sings in San Diego church groups, he explained, calling it “a great way to
connect to the communities.”

He also accompanies
himself on guitar one night a week, he explained. Among his favorite performers
to cover: “James Taylor, Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, and Maroon 5,” Gerber noted.

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

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