Barry Hackett Celebrates 25 Years at CES
Most people don’t work for the same company for 25 years, but CES Orlando West Operations Manager Barry Hackett isn’t like most people. He worked with another electrical distributor for 18 years before finally joining City Electric Supply in 1995, and ever since then, he hasn’t looked back.
“I guess you could say I was pretty much raised in the electrical distribution business,” Hackett said. “In 1995, I already had 21 years of experience in the industry, so when I came to City Electric Supply, I was just looking for a new opportunity.”
What Hackett didn’t expect was the culture shock of working for a young, up-and-coming distributor at the time.
The Early Days
“City Electric Supply didn’t operate like most distributors,” he said. “Here we were with a lot of little warehouses throughout Florida, unlike our bigger competitors that had huge warehouses attached to their storefronts.”
“But we had to have done something right,” he admitted. “Because after 1995, we really started growing.”
When Hackett joined CES in 1995, there were only 37 branches in all of Florida. Now, there’s nearly 100 in the state, and over 500 nationwide.
“When I started, we were mainly an operation in Florida,” Hackett explained. “Then, from 1996 through 1998, we opened branches in Georgia and North Carolina. Then TAMLITE got up and running. All of a sudden, we had 40, 50, 60, 70 branches in Florida. Doors started opening up to us inside the branches that we never thought we’d have.”
Those new opportunities? The chance to work with any vendor they wanted to. That wasn’t always the case in those early years.
“Back then, only two or three lighting vendors would work with you,” he said. “As we expanded, slowly but surely, lighting reps came on, and new customers would come in with a lighting job, and the vendors would agree.”
“They quickly found out that CES is always good about paying their bills,” Hackett laughed. “Lithonia was one of the first major lighting manufacturers to start working with us. And as we kept growing, more customers and more vendors took notice. It wasn’t long until we were able to work with anyone.”
Not long after Hackett joined City Electric Supply he took over his own branch in Florida: CES Orlando Central. Combined with the record-breaking growth that CES had in neighboring states, Hackett felt a little bit of pressure and a lot of responsibility to continue the success.
“It can be scary at times, but it’s also exciting,” he said. “You think, ‘If I do this wrong, it could be a huge loss, or we could lose a customer.’ But then again, you’re the boss. You go in every day and you get to see how successful you can be.”
Hackett also had a chance to make a direct impact, not just on his branch or his customers, but also on his team.
“Promoting people, hiring people on, and just going out and dealing with customers. Those were my favorite parts about being branch manager,” he said. “I could give people the opportunity to take on new challenges, see how much money we could make, and see how successful we could be.”
And even though he’s an operations manager for CES Orlando West, Hackett still sees a lot of his regular customers.
“I’ve been in the business for almost 50 years,” he said. “You can’t beat the experience that comes with all the years I’ve had in this business. To this day, some customers only like dealing with me. It’s very enjoyable knowing that every day you walk in, you have the experience to help somebody.”
The Reason Why
Barry Hackett spent 18 years with an electrical distributor before. Now, he celebrates 25 years at City Electric Supply. What has motivated him to stay and build his career for such a long time with not just one distributor, but two?
“You’re working for more than just a paycheck,” he explained. “When you’re treated right, you like the people you work with, you like your customers, it motivates you to stick around.”
And Hackett is the first to admit that he could’ve made more money jumping around, but it wasn’t worth it to him.
“You can always make a few dollars more somewhere else, but at what trade-off? If you enjoy going to work every day, that’s where you want to stay. Add in the benefits, the job security, the opportunities — no one comes close.”
How Barry Hackett Stayed Motivated
Like we said, Barry Hackett isn’t like most people. He’s worked in the same industry for almost 50 years, and he’s never stopped learning. It’s just one of the reasons he’s been able to stay motivated, even when the market changes in the blink of an eye.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t learn something,” he said. “When I first started in 1974, the GE Lamp catalog was 60 pages. Now it’s a whole book. Today, you have Lutron, you have Nest, you have other very new technologies coming out.”
Hackett goes on.
“The way business is done. The way credit is handled. Delivery schedules even. Everyone needs something now, and distributors have had to react to that,” he said. “The way we’ve marketed has changed. There are all these different ways of marketing. Before it was outside sales, now we market ourselves through the internet.”
And at every step, the market has been shaped by innovation.
“The code changes, and you have to learn to deal with all of it, especially when new products come out. You have to learn what it’s used for, how they’re used, and what product your customer actually needs.”
Then Barry Hackett followed it up with this.
“Spend a week with me and I could show you a million examples.”
So, what has Hackett learned at CES over 25 years? Just about everything.
Barry’s Best Advice
If you think Barry Hackett has a couple things he could teach you, you’d be right. Like other long-time CES employees, he has some great advice of his own.
“In this industry, you’ll have ups and downs, good days and bad days. But remember this: if every day was perfect, everyone would be doing it,” he laughed. “We wouldn’t have contractors to do any work.”
But he continues with some advice that anyone can use anywhere.
“First thing, stay patient,” he started. “You can’t learn everything in a day. It’s an ever-changing process. Work with other people. Be the team member. Know what you need to do, do it, then double-check what you do.”
With most of his career behind him, what does he want people to remember the most? Just everything he’s taught them over the years.
“I want people to say I knew my stuff,” he said. “To pass that knowledge onto someone else and let them carry it forward, that’s a really proud moment.”
Now that he’s made it to this point, did Hackett ever see himself here?
“I never knew I’d be here 25 years later,” he answered. “I appreciate everything the company has done for me and the opportunities given to me and the respect I’m shown now. Going to work, doing my job, working with other employees and customers and vendors — I enjoy everything about what I do.”
“It’s very rewarding,” he added. “It’s more than just a paycheck.”