While working as a lifeguard on summers off from school, Brian Slater of Slater Lighting Solutions in Boca Raton, Fla., met lighting industry veteran Alan Katz of Quoizel and formed an enduring friendship with the Katz family. When he was looking to enter the workforce, Alan Katz suggested lighting — and the rest is history! Slater also received the ARTS Award for outstanding Sales Representative in the East this year.
How did you enter the lighting industry?
Through high school and college, I was a lifeguard at a lake in my hometown and also taught swimming lessons. Charlie, Kate, and Jackson were some of my favorite swim students and I also became very friendly with their parents, Alan and Karen Katz. Alan and I would always talk about business, weight lifting, sports, and all sorts of stuff — and we still do! He was always telling me I should give lighting sales a try, but I had already accepted a full-time position with PriceWaterhouseCooper when I graduated college. I started the job and almost instantly knew it wasn’t the right fit for me. I reached back out to Alan to see if he could help get me an interview with Quoizel and the rest is history. Quoizel has been so good to me over the years and I love working for them.
The other story I like to tell, which definitely is not true is, “When I was 5 years old, I looked up at a dining room chandelier and said, ‘Mom, that’s what I want to do with my life! Sell lights!’”
What have been some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?
The biggest change I’ve seen is a huge swing towards contemporary styles and that doesn’t seem to be slowing up.
The other big change is that everything is going LED and I believe that trend will only continue. I happen to really enjoy LED and I’m very proud of our team members for the way they have embraced it and continue to push themselves with training and education.
When I first started my career, the biggest challenge was actually learning lighting. I naturally enjoy people so the sales side came easily, but I didn’t have a clue about lighting. I would build lighting fixtures, attempt to wire them, and ended up shocking myself multiple times. At Brothers Lighting in Fort Myers, I actually blew 10 breakers trying to assemble a bath tower! Chuck and Andy are the best though; they forgave me and we are great friends.
What has been the key to your success?
Jesus, my family, and my friends are the keys to my success. Unconditional love and support seems to be the cure for just about anything. Life isn’t easy — and business isn’t either. I would have quit a long time ago without the support and love of these people. The list of “Thank yous” would take up a lot of room in the magazine.
If you ask our customers, I think they would tell you that our agency genuinely cares about them. I always tell our team, we don’t just sell lighting; anybody can do that. We need to put ourselves in their shoes and show a level of care and love that is based in genuine friendship and not just a dry customer interaction. As Heather Thomas at Ferguson would say #LightingLovesYou
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started out?
It’s important to keep spare protein bars in my briefcase! I’m a bit of a health nut and I eat as much as a teenager just hitting puberty. If I’m “hangry,” I can’t think straight or sell anything.
Where do you envision your career in the next 5 or 10 years?
Our vision is continue to grow our showroom channel, but also really increase our business with the hospitality and commercial channels. However, we are certainly not waiting 5 years to make it happen; the time is now!
We recently changed our agency name to Slater Lighting Solutions and our goal is to be a one-stop-shop for all of our customers’ lighting needs. Whether they need decorative lighting, technical lighting, LED conversion, or AGI photometric layouts, we want to be their resource. With that goal in mind, we continue to selectively partner with the right manufacturers to round out our product offering. Additionally, we have really invested in building out our firm’s internal infrastructure by bringing on additional team members and improving our technical systems. We are really excited about what the future holds!