If you want to know what the future of the lighting industry looks like, check out the industry’s new networking group for young executives. Named the Initiative for the Future, the group already boasts some 60-odd members—all under the age of 40.
Max Cohen, a 21-year-old retail sales and lighting consultant for Meyda Lighting and one of the youngest members of the new group, believes lighting showrooms that utilize the talents of bright, hardworking, young salespeople will be able to tap into many currently unrealized opportunities.
“I think it’s a really good idea to hire young people in lighting showrooms,” Cohen says. “I think we are ambitious, and we have great knowledge about what’s new.”
When it comes to communicating with and meeting the needs of retailers, Cohen says he and his 28-year-old sales partner are able to relate to both younger and older clients effectively.
“We bring a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of new ideas, and we never say ‘no,’” Cohen says. “It’s sometimes hard selling, but we don’t back down. We are ambitious enough to go after the custom work that a lot of lighting salespeople avoid.”
Jason Coker of Florida-based lighting retailer Florida n’ Lighting, is another successful young industry member. At 30, Coker leads a staff that is skewed toward the younger side of the age spectrum.
“I didn’t set out to hire young people—it just happened because I’m young,” Coker says. Even so, he doesn’t believe the primary issue is age as much as it is ability.
“It comes down to the quality of people you hire,” he says. “It’s a matter of finding those superstar employees, regardless of age. But if you can find them young, you can get them in at the ground level and train them up. We try to [help people grow in what they’re doing], not just fill a job position.”
What's the Best Way to Get Young Talent to Work in Lighting Showrooms?
According to 27-year-old Brad Levkowitz of Arizona’s Sun Lighting, providing incentives that go beyond salary can be an important factor in attracting savvy, young salespeople to work in lighting showrooms. While money was the greatest motivator for many Baby Boomers, many of whom were willing to work 60-plus hours a week at the expense of their personal lives, Levkowitz asserts the generation now entering the work force places a higher value on time spent recharging, away from the job.
“Money is obviously important but time off is, too,” Levkowitz says. “We value time off to be with our friends and take mini vacations rather than money. Also, the more opportunities we get to learn and further our growth, the better; it’s another motivator.”
Levkowitz believes education is one of the best investments lighting showroom owners can make in young employees. To that end, he advises sending them to lighting industry events like markets and conferences where both formal and informal educational opportunities abound.
In addition to providing education, Levkowitz says lighting showroom owners and managers should realize that younger employees are motivated by the carrot and turned off by the stick. In other words, old management styles simply don’t work as well with this young group.
“It takes a lot of adjustment from the older managers in the industry whose management styles typically don’t work as well with the younger generation,” Levkowitz says. “[The younger generation] needs and expects more of a Dr. Phil type of manager, someone who will listen to them and be encouraging.”