Meet The Team: Shareef Stratton

This summer when Shareef Stratton wasn’t eating burritos with his coworkers, he was eating his way through Italy with his new wife on their honeymoon! It’s been an exciting summer for the newlywed who has been helping launch our new Quick Quotes department along with relaunching our softball team to the top of the leaderboards! Shareef loves living in San Diego where he takes full advantage of the beach and, on the weekends, is constantly on the go. He and his wife Michelle love to hike, camp and travel every chance they get. Did you get all that? Let’s dive into this month’s meet the team with our all-star distributor salesman, Shareef!

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

SS: Seven years ago, I was in my hometown, Ventura, working in law enforcement, where I quickly learned that that career path was not for me. A friend living in San Diego offered me a position in sales at CED Carlsbad – a local electrical distributor- and my first thought was, “Who wouldn’t want to move to San Diego?” So I accepted the position and made the switch where the beginning of my lighting career began. Having a background in distribution has helped me a lot in my current role, especially since SDLA works closely with CED Carlsbad. Prior to my transition from an electrical distributor to a manufacturer agent, I was lucky to have insight into how the company operated and I was able to get to know the some of the team members before accepting the position here. Since I’ve joined the team, the last year and a half has been really incredible for me. And as an added bonus- with the growth of the company- I’m no longer the new guy!

Q: What’s your day to day like in the office?

SS: Each day I’m presented with a new opportunity in this role. Either out in the field finding the best solution for our clients, or in the office, problem-solving with the SDLA team. As a Distributor Salesman, it’s my responsibility to help our distributor customers stock and sell the right products for their contractors. It’s exciting to negotiate and work with our distributors on stocking agreements and design-build opportunities.

Q: Do you have a favorite/most rewarding project you’ve worked on? 

SS: The last few months, I’ve been helping launch our new quick quotes department and that’s been extremely rewarding. Creating a new department has challenged us all creatively, and it’s been exciting to see how effective and helpful the team has already been to our clients. Jessica and Chelsea, our quick quotes specialists, has improved my side of the business tremendously by reducing the time it takes to provide pricing and placing small orders for my customers. As I said, the addition of this department has significantly improved the way we are operating and we’re all eager to see where we can take the Quick Quotes Department.

Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

SS: The environment Danny, Brian and Kristin created here encourages creativity, togetherness and teamwork. We all are working toward a similar goal while also independently being pushed to be better. It’s inspiring working with a team that is driven and is passionate about challenging one another in order to find the best solution. One thing I think that is extremely underrated in the corporate world is amazing coworkers. I can honestly say that this team is more like a family to me, and that makes coming into work each day that much better.



Meet The Team: Chris Bale

Chris Bale doesn’t mind being reminded that he’s the “old guy” in the office because he loves the chance to be a mentor in the industry. Chris is a born and raised San Diegoian, and when he’s not out in the field as a contractor/distributor sales lead, he’s taking life one wave at a time on his paddleboard. Chris also loves to spend time with his daughter, who is a freshman in college right here in San Diego. Are you ready for a far-out meet the team with one of San Diego’s favorite soul surfers?

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

CB: Initially I didn’t think I’d end up following in my father’s footsteps but as fate had it, I was an electrical distributor for 30 years. I was born into that field and was lucky to find a job in that industry. Two years ago, I decided it was time for a change and SDLA was always my first choice to work with when I was on the electrical distributor side, so it made perfect sense to come work for them as a lighting contractor/distributor sales lead. I’ve known the owners for over 40 years and knowing they take customer service seriously, it was easy to take that leap of faith to leave the electrical industry for the lighting industry.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

CB: I love having the opportunity to give back to the industry. I have no problem being known as the “old guy” in the office because I love mentoring some of the up-and-comers. Things are always changing in this field and I have the best of both worlds because I can help a new professional navigate the industry while also getting to hear their fresh perspective.

Q: What does a work day look like for you?

 CB: Customer service is at the core of my job, so my day is dictated by what the customer needs at that time. Some days I’m in the office preparing a quote or proposal for a client and then the next, I’m out in the field connecting with contractors and distributors. It’s such a great balance; I have the chance to immerse myself in the field with new experience but always have a place to call home here, back at the office. In the past as an electrical distributor, it was difficult to feel as part of the staff because I was always on the road, but in this position, I’ve always felt as a member of the team.

Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

CB: Everyone here gets along fantastically; we are all focused on servicing the customer, which centers us all on one common goal. I can definitely echo the idea that we are one big family. Coming to work is like going to a family get-together, your weird Uncle Gary is here, and we definitely have dysfunctional fun.

Meet The Team: Matt Gallardo

San-diego-lighting-associates-matt-gallardoThis month’s Meet the Team is with Matt Gallardo, a valuable member of our distributor sales team, and our respected company softball coach and team captain. When Matt isn’t running around town working magic with our distributors, he’s on the field running the SDLA softball team around bases at the ballpark. He’s a hardworking team player both on and off the field. Ready to meet Captain Gallardo? Let’s play ball!

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

MG: I always knew I wanted to go into sales. After college, I started working for Verizon. Then one day a family friend and former SDLA employee called me about a sales job opening here. I was ready for a change of pace and happily took the distributor sales job. After working here for about 2 ½ years, I can definitely say I made the right choice.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

MG:  With my job, I am sometimes in our distributors’ offices more than my own. It’s pretty cool to get to be part of multiple offices and work with our distributors so closely. We have a blast both at work and on a personal level – working hard to get our jobs done, and done well, and maybe getting some golf in too. My job is also really rewarding, our office recently placed at the top in stock sales for our region. It was a big deal to finish in front of everyone, and it was a great feeling knowing that working together as a team made that happen.

Q: What do you like about the culture at SDLA?

MG: The culture is pretty awesome.  A lot of the staff are about the same age, and we hang out at work, as well as outside of work. We love to joke around but we also make work our first priority. We’ve had a company softball team for about six seasons now, and I’ve taken on the role of captain for our team. We love getting everyone together on the field for some real teamwork action. It makes it even better when we win. After all, we are two-time champs.

Q: As 2018 approaches, is there anything work-related you are looking forward to?

MG: I am really looking forward to how much we can grow as a company in 2018. We moved into our new office coming up on a year now and we are constantly adding to our team. We recently hired one of my good friends to work right along with me, which makes coming to work that much more enjoyable. We really do have a great office and I am looking forward to the future.

Meet The Team: Daniel Cortez

Every month we’ll be sharing a Q&A with a team member from SDLA. This month’s profile is an interview with one of SDLA’s principals, Daniel Cortez. Known as Danny to many, his background is Lighting Controls and nicknamed by some of his customers as the “GURU” of T24.

Daniel CortezQ: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

Cortez: I started in our industry working for Graybar Electric, starting in the warehouse in the shipping department. I had no idea what the Electrical Industry was or even if there was an opportunity for a career. After two years in the warehouse, I moved to counter sales and in just six months, moved up from there where I eventually became a project manager. I was handling jobs that cost up to $5 million.

Q: How did this start shape your career?

Cortez: Building my career from the ground up has really given me a good perspective on all aspects of the industry. I always say to my self-stay humble, talk with everyone the same from the guy driving the forklift or the PM giving you a job worth $1.5 million. Always lead by example, if you want your team to be at a job at 6 am, then you better be willing and able to do the same. Understanding everyone’s role gives me the ability to understand a bigger picture and helps me come up with the right solutions for our customers.

 Q: What lead you to outside sales?

Cortez: Graybar gave me a great insight on outside sales, the ability to build a relationship with a customer, come up with a solution and see the project get designed and built was exactly what attracted me to sales. I took a job at Lighting Controls & Design (LC&D) as a District Sales Manager covering Southern California. That company grew and was acquired by Acuity Brands, who then hired me during the acquisition and expanded my territory for Acuity Controls and promoted me to a Controls Sales Manager. My focus there was to become the “Subject Matter Expert” in California’s T24.

Q: What is your role at SDLA?

Cortez: When I was approached about becoming a principal at SDLA, I was excited about taking on the challenge of helping an organization grow. I knew SDLA had a great foundation and always heard great things about Ed Musbach, the founder of SDLA. I felt I could reinforce the agency’s vision that he had on service to our customers comes first above all else. That’s true from the products we represent and recommend, to the guidance we provide in the planning and installation process, to the training we design and deliver for our customers. We make it our personal agenda to ensure they understand the state of the industry, the technology, and the practical application of products in their own spaces. My role at SDLA is to guide this strategy and create value for our customers in SDLA solutions.

Q: What’s is your favorite part of your job?

Cortez: Helping the EC in the field, being challenged with a problem and coming up with the most cost-effective solution. Let’s not forget teaching, whether it’s teaching one on one or presenting to 50+ attendees on T24. I actually learn more and it always gives me insight on the new curriculum we need for our customers.