Like many in the lighting industry, Michael Estrin of Estrin Zirkman Sales in Manville, N.J., Estrin grew up in a family that had multiple generations involved in the electrical supply business — and like many of his peers, he never thought he’d be in the industry as a career. However, once he gave it a try, he realized he had a true passion for the business.
How did you get involved in the lighting industry?
I am third-generation in the electrical and lighting industry. My grandfather owned a supply house, my father owned two showrooms, and I had an uncle who was a rep. When I needed a career change in 1988, there was an opportunity to break into repping —
after a short while, I knew it was for me! Although I grew up in a lighting showroom [environment], I never expected to be in the industry.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?
The two biggest changes in the industry are the importing of items from overseas, instead of manufacturing in the USA, and the other is the advances in lighting technology. I remember the old days when I mailed in orders or called them into the factories.
What has been the key to your success?
This is a very complex question because success means different things to different people. As reps, we essentially work for both the manufacturer and the distributor; however, the consumer and contractor are just as important. We take very seriously the concept of managing the expectations of everyone involved. My [rule of thumb] is to be helpful and honest at all times.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started out?
I have grown in my knowledge base every year, and keep building experience. [Looking back], I wish I had the experience.
Where do you envision your career in the next 5 or 10 years?
We are a different type of agency, we not only call on lighting showrooms and electrical supply houses, but we also are successful in the specification and hospitality markets.
We do envision growing our agency now and in the future. We are constantly looking for new talent to add to our staff as well as new opportunities. We believe in growing our staff to better service all our constituents.