Whether or not they know (or like) it, rep team BJ Ferber and Barbara Jordan of BJ Ferber & Associates are as alike as they are different.
There has always been a soft spot in my heart for Texans, and much of that has to do with their larger-than-life personalities, their generosity, and their keen wit. Therefore it is no surprise to me at all to learn that Bill Ferber Jr. (BJ) and Barbara Jordan were born and bred in the Lone Star state.
These two personal and business partners have worked together on and off since 1974, when Barbara took on a part-time job working for BJ’s father, Bill Ferber, Sr., at his rep firm’s permanent showroom in the World Trade Center of the Dallas Market Center while she was in college. As so many in the industry know, once one starts in this business, they cheerfully stay on for life.
After the June market, BJ and Barbara took me on whirlwind road trip through Fort Worth, Dallas, and Austin. Together in a car with them for all whole day and night, I got to see these dynamic duo in action as we called on Fort Worth Lighting, Meletio, Porter Lighting, Lights Fantastic, Passion Lighting, and Legend Lighting. All the while, both of them were working their cell phones, helping customers with requests, trouble-shooting complications, and multi-tasking like crazy. This is the life of a rep – and for a Texas rep, that means a lot of time on the road driving on and on. Over the 24 hours I got to see them work together as well as independent of each other, it was clear that they are one dynamic team.
Life on the Road
BJ’s dad knew a lot about traveling – and that was before he was a rep. The late Bill Ferber Sr. was a performer on the Vaudeville circuit, but after the War, Vaudeville ended and Bill Sr. turned his great communication skills and hard work ethic into a successful career as a rep.
BJ, too, felt the performance bug and wanted to try his hand in Hollywood, but his father cautioned him on the fickleness and fleeting nature of the entertainment business. Upon graduating from NTSU (now University of North Texas), BJ joined his dad’s firm and began a career as a sales rep, initially covering West Texas and Oklahoma.
“We repped framed art, original European-style oil paintings, table lamps, accessories, and decorative furniture,” BJ recalls. “Our main line for many years was Turner Mfg. Co., which was one of the largest framed picture and mirror companies of its time” Over the years Bill Ferber & Associates represented Donelle Pictures, Franklin Picture Co., Shoal Creek, AA Imports, Fine Art Limited, Flambeau, and Van Teal.
“In the late 1970s, I moved to Southern California and represented Westwood Lighting, calling on department stores in Southern California and Hawaii,” BJ says. “This was a great experience that I truly enjoyed. In the early 1980s, I moved back to Texas with Westwood Lighting (so I could be closer to my parents, who were getting older and ready to retire) and continued calling on department stores throughout the U.S., which was a primary source for lamps.”
“Both my dad and mom decided to step down and retire in 1987,” BJ remarks. “For me it was a very scary time, trying to fill some very big shoes. My dad was well-liked and respected as one of the best of his time. To this day I still do not feel that I could ever be as good a salesperson as my dad. He was and always will be in my mind the best!”
After Bill Sr. retired, he would still visit the Dallas showroom almost every day. “He loved the people and our business,” BJ says. “He did realize about that time that business was changing in many ways – and he continued to give me great advice and make the proper decisions as Bill Ferber & Associates, Inc. continued to grow. My main regret is that when I won the Arts Award for Best Salesperson that he was not there to see me accept that honor. I know in spirit he was with me.”
All the while that BJ was covering West Texas, Oklahoma, and the state of California, Barbara Jordan was helping Bill Ferber & Associates at its Dallas showroom – which was its company headquarters – working alongside BJ’s mom and dad.
One could say that BJ and Barbara grew up in the business together and their friendship eventually became something more 10+ years ago. “Barbara has been with Bill Ferber & Associates for more than 35 years,” BJ remarks. “Her continued dedication and love for selling our product lines and making sure that our office is run properly is above and beyond. When it comes to helping our customers, there is no one better. Her love for selling and interacting with our customers is what she looks forward to most.”
At first, Barbara needed some convincing that she had the skill set to be a rep. The Ferber family saw her potential and encouraged her to take on the role – and she hasn’t looked back since.
The Turning Point
“Our direction completely changed 12+ years ago when we were fortunate to become Savoy House Lighting representatives,” BJ explains. “Although we were the rookies on calling on lighting showrooms (as opposed to furniture and department stores) it was a great new experience. The lighting retailers gave me the opportunity to bring Savoy House into their showrooms, and thanks to Savoy House, Mr. Troy Lee, and our customers, Bill Ferber & Associates continues to grow,” he states. “Today we represent some very important lines that our lighting customers embrace.”
“I believe our customers would say that what sets us apart [as a rep firm] is our relationship with them,” Barbara says. “We believe in more than just a transactional relationship. We guide them through the decision-making process from start to finish, and we are always there for any further support required. We truly care about the outcome, it is a true partnership,” she affirms.
That spirit of partnership is apparent in the rep firm as well. “One person’s strength is another person’s weakness,” Barbara explains. “I believe that we balance each other well. BJ brings to the table a ton of heart and a great vision for how we achieve our goal. He’s a ‘big picture’ kind of guy,” she quips. “On the flip side, I revel in the details. I keep things organized, ensure the business is running on all cylinders, and make sure that we stay organized and always have a plan. Between the two of us, we make a great team and can make anything happen.”