Written by Marshall Bissett
It has taken 50 years for SESCO to become one of the largest lighting agencies in the U.S., and Marshall Graham has been around for 40 of them. "I have worked in every position in the company and I still show up bright and early every day," says Graham who recently stepped down as CEO to become chairman of this dynamic sales group that has 13 offices across the Southeast.
Starting in commercial lighting sales, the company has grown to nine divisions and over 200 employees. "Whenever we saw an opportunity in a sector of the market not being covered, we took it," explains Graham.
Rhonda Viveney who runs the 20-person Lighting Controls division jokes about its formation in 1985: "Bill Liento from Colortran, whom we were representing at the time, told our chairman that he would fire us if we did not create a Controls division." Now their focus is on keeping ETC products supplied to their market, which shows no sign of slowing down.
Regional Controls Specialist Bob Roach, a 33-year veteran of concert touring and a past regional manager for ETC, is sure of one thing: "It's all about relationships - in our business you get to know the customer, their families and their hobbies. If you lose that link, then you lose the customer." Roach is happy to find that many of his buddies from the bad old days of concert touring are now executives and customers.
The company's unconditional guarantees of satisfaction are refreshing in today's marketplace. They are not afraid to back this up with hard cash. In 2015, SESCO paid out a large sum to solve problems - most of which were not caused by SESCO. They work hard to live up to their own philosophy of "taking the ill out of illumination."
This shared vision makes them a perfect fit for ETC, and the comparisons do not end there. Graham credits SESCO'S creation of an ESOP to his company's success: "It's the best thing we ever did. It was a turning point in the way people looked at their jobs."
SESCO represents ETC products to consultants, theatrical dealers, architects and designers in Florida (excluding the panhandle) and East Tennessee. Viveney's approach to new building projects shows her practical theatrical background. 'What do you want the place to be and how do you want it to operate?' is her first question. Her department shows the same sense of theatrical order - Sales, Project Management and Quotations all "have their part in the play." With business at an all-time high, the company is on the hunt for sales talent with a background in theater or electrical engineering.
While theme parks are the obvious growth area, they have just completed the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in Orlando, Florida, with Barbizon, Broward County Performing Arts Center with Miami Stagecraft, Sharon Performing Arts Center with Mainstage, Telemundo Studios with Stage Equipment and Lighting, Ryman Auditorium with Bandit Lights, and the Loews Sapphire Hotel with Candela Controls. Roach is impressed by the way theatrical dealers have stepped up as integrators for these projects: "We need to give them a new name - the scope of their work is so much wider than before."
In a long career that has taken him from PAR cans on genie towers to complex network systems, he still sees a place for dimmer racks, but wants to rename them "power centers." He adds: "Let's face it - whether you're dealing with tungsten fixtures, LEDs or practical lights, you still need distributed power. We install a lot of
racks that only contain two dimming modules." The slow transition to an LED world has meant a lot of "missionary work" for the sales team, especially in the emerging architectural markets.
"We represent about a dozen theatrical lines and I'm often asked for my favorite vendor," says Graham, "and I have to say that it's the guys at ETC." With plans underway for a big 50
birthday celebration, it's safe to say that ETC will be on the guest list.