Legend – Retailer Category: Alvin Lehman, Atlantic Electrical Supply, Richmond, Va.
How did you get started in the lighting industry?
This is a family business that I joined as an employee in June 1955.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen?
The industry used to be more personal – and that is true for the manufacturers as well as the customers. The competition has changed, with the advent of the big box stores and the Internet e-tailers. The independent lighting dealer cannot spend the same advertising dollars that other [larger entities] can.
What is the greatest challenge?
The Internet poses the greatest change, and the technology is changing so fast that it is actually in our favor because we are better informed.
What has been the key to your success?
My being a “people person” has enabled me to have a good reputation among my customers and resources (salespeople and suppliers). I always try to get to know my customer as a friend, not just someone who is trying to sell/buy something.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started?
My best advice is to enjoy the ride! Make friends and get involved with the community, which I did.
What do you think the future holds?
It is hard to predict what lies ahead since technology is moving so fast. Just think, when I started working in the business, we did not have fax machines, computers, cell phones, etc. When I called on an engineer or an architect, I saw him or her face to face and shook hands. We knew each other. Today it has become very impersonal. One aspect that hasn’t changed over time is that you must still go after the business.