Meet The Team: Brian Rhea

This month’s Meet the Team Q&A is with our newest team member – a veteran in the lighting biz, Brian Rhea. With nearly two decades of experience in the industry, Brian joins the SDLA family as one of the agency’s principals. His range of experience from specification lighting sales to new product development make him an invaluable asset to our team. Ready to get to know this SDLA newcomer?

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

BR: After growing up in Ohio, I decided that after college it was time to venture to warmer weather. I graduated from Miami University of Ohio and took a job at what is now Acuity Brands in Atlanta. I quickly found myself immersed in the lighting industry – and loving every minute of it. I was eventually transferred to California (still in lighting), and I have never looked back.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?

BR: Being the point of contact for the design community is my favorite part. I love helping clients solve challenges. I pride myself on being resourceful and providing top-notch service in order to solve any and every challenge.  Equally as exciting is having the opportunity to lead a team of extremely talented specification professionals.  I am a coach and teacher at heart and am looking forward to mentoring them while also learning from them as well.  We are a perfect yin and yang team of 4 (and growing!)

Q: What brought you to SDLA?

 BR: Both the people and the opportunity. Danny Cortez and I had worked together in the past, and our work really complimented each other. When we conducted joint presentations, we just fed off each other’s energy.  I also have been working with Kristin Miller since 2006, and really respect the ambition and inspiration these two possess – could not ask for better business partners! Moreover, this agency is cutting edge! They are well established in the market and are experts in the traditional business, but also have the foresight into the future. SDLA has been recognized in the market as a leader in technological expertise.  From general illumination recessed lighting, to IoT and BMS unification solutions, and everything in between, our goal is to utilize all of the tools and knowledge we collectively possess and share it with our entire client base to ensure their design meets the clients’ goals – no matter how simple or complex!  So when the opportunity arose to join SDLA, I knew this was not an opportunity I could pass up.

Q: What is unique about SDLA?

 BR: SDLA is reinvigorated organization and despite the incredible success this agency has experienced, we are never satisfied with status quo. It’s a close-knit, family-oriented workplace composed of driven employees who all want to succeed and most importantly genuinely care about the total satisfaction of our customers. That same drive has led to tremendous growth in the past year… we doubled in size and are truly the premier lighting agency in San Diego. We all have our own areas of expertise, which as a whole makes us the perfect one-stop shop for all our customer’s needs.

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.