30 Under 30: Jeffrey Izower, Ricci Sales Agency

How I ended up in lighting: I was introduced to the lighting industry through a family member. I was 14 and looking for my first summer job. My hometown had three lighting showrooms and I was pointed in the direction of Paramus Lighting. I interviewed for the position of a warehouse associate, and after a few weeks was moved to the showroom floor to be a salesperson. It was tough, yet I was introduced to what it’s like to work retail sales. I learned bulbs, flush-mounts, and vanities. In my mind, selling chandeliers was the toughest of all because of the larger investment to the walk-in customer.

Looking back, I remember wanting to sell one of the high-end chandelier brands. Luckily, to my surprise, I had the opportunity to sell a Schonbek to a walk-in customer off the floor (ah, the small things in life!). For a summer job, it was an enlightening experience. I hold many fond memories of the people I was able to meet, some of whom still work in the lighting industry today.

Afterwards, I heard of an opening at Capitol Lighting and fell into the position of assistant shop manager, where my primary job was to build new product and maintain the current displays in the galleries. I also helped the warehouse staff organize inventory and pull orders for customers when they experienced times of stress during the nights and weekends. My time there introduced me to what feels like the graduating class of current reps within the industry.

Further, after graduating high school and during my interim breaks in college, I would join the rep agency Ricci Sales as a service manager. This gave me the opportunity to meet many of the same customers I currently call on. These experiences helped lay the foundation for me to understand the larger scope of the lighting industry today.

What I would be doing if not in the lighting industry: Administration in public or private education. While attending college in Albany, I managed an after-school program at the New York State Museum. After graduating, I went to a post-graduate program for K-12 education and special ed. The classes were at night and I worked as a sales representative during the day. Finishing my first semester in post-graduate studies left me discontent with more schooling. At that point, I wanted to invest myself fully into work. If I didn’t choose a career in the lighting industry, I would have taken further administrative courses while teaching to continue the path of becoming a principal or superintendent of a school system.

Job accomplishment that I am most proud of to date: There have been several moments over the course of my time spent in the industry where I have taken on more responsibility, and that my role in the agency has become a greater contributor to the whole. It’s hard to pin down exact points that I can say are my most “proud moments.” There have been great sales, unbelievable feats of visual merchandising, and certain situations that have required creative problem- solving. These moments have left me with the feeling of accomplishment when completed. Yet, with all the different aspects of my job, it takes others to help collaborate and contribute to these goals. To be part of a team of unique individuals and be able to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks is what I find to be the most rewarding accomplishment. (Please note:  Thank you to the Ricci Sales office staff, as well as all the customer service representatives in the lighting industry!)

What I like about the industry: The Lighting industry offers several things I thoroughly enjoy. First, the people. I’ve met some incredible individuals and complete characters. To get to know people from a plethora of diverse backgrounds is great. In my personal life, I enjoy traveling and getting a local’s perspective or insight on places I want to go has always been something I love to chat about as well as learning from others and sharing experiences about the industry. Second, I love the day-to-day travel and scenery change. I’m fortunate it doesn’t allow much monotony in my days. I don’t know if I could have a normal desk job at this rate. Lastly, I like how there is change taking place every year, so there are always new things to do and learn — from new technology being introduced, trends being brought into the market, and new ways to go about last year’s business. The lighting industry stays stimulating, challenging, and rewarding.

What I wish were different about the industry: I believe the lighting industry would benefit from the implementation of a common consensus on warranties of new technology being introduced to the market. More of our products do not offer a plug-and-play open box experience. They consist of complex systems and moving parts. An implementation of a standard three- to five-year factory warranty would strengthen and reaffirm the confidence in said product to an end-user. There should also be a standard length of warranty established on all our products so that end-users find going to a lighting showroom a more viable alternative than a big box store.

Another common concern I receive feedback on is IMAP holidays. Hopefully, I can formulate all the conversations I’ve had into the next few lines. IMAP holidays are here to stay. So how can we, as a diverse industry, work with the internet to reinforce the brick-and-mortar portion of our supply chain? A conservative approach would be to have less IMAP holidays, as well as a higher IMAP for product. This would go a long way in helping showrooms work with – and be competitive against – the internet. I believe this would correlate to establishing a higher inherent value to lighting rather than the continual race to the bottom.

Further, establishing these ways in which the brick-and-mortar showroom could be more competitive against the home center and internet would then help the faces of our industry, or more so the frontline of our marketing efforts, survive and prosper when traditional retail has suffered. Being from the land of malls (Paramus, N.J.), it baffles me how I can drive on Route 17 and see retail space empty right next to the Garden State Plaza [one of the largest destination malls in the tri-state area], a mall more heavily attended than Disney World! Moreover, I believe strengthening our retail portion of the supply chain is what will keep our industry healthy and competitive.

Where I hope my lighting career will take me over the next 20 years: For the immediate future, I will continue growing the business I am in and supporting the industry at large. Being in a smaller business allows me to wear many hats on any given day and, like my career goals, I would like to be a part of as many aspects of the industry as possible. This may come in the form of working as the principal of an agency or president of a company. Whether it be design, marketing, or sales, I enjoy it all.

At the LIGHTOVATION market on the fourth floor of the Dallas Market Center’s Trade Mart, there is a glass case depicting the photos of those industry members who have been inducted into the American Lighting Association (ALA) Lighting Hall of Fame. I’ve always wanted to get my photo in there one day. I know I have a long way to go, so I’ll continue to grow and work on the qualities that got those men and women there. Thank you.

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