Our new member feature called “12 items or less” gives us an opportunity to sit down with our members to discuss their services and products and what makes them shine in the industry. Our first interview features Michael Cataline, national account executive, with Facility Solutions Group (FSG). FSG, based in Houston, Texas, joined PFMA as associate members in March.
Can you share more about your role with FSG? Sure. At Facility Solutions Group, I’m a national account executive. I deal with large C&I projects and multi-site national accounts across the nation.
Can you give us one sentence that describes FSG? FSG is a 40-year-old privately owned company. We are a lighting distributor and an electrical contractor that focuses on LED lighting upgrades on a national basis. We couple the distribution side, the install side, and couple that together to be an efficient LED upgrade company.
Can you tell us more about your coverage area? We cover the entire United States—we have about 40 branches. We also cover Canada, Puerto Rico and we actually have an exciting federal project out in South Korea that we’re doing, so it’s new for us, but we keep on growing and expanding. It’s an exciting time, for sure.
Why did you join the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association? I followed you guys on LinkedIn for a while with the pandemic, trying to find new ways to get in front of new customers and users. The way your posts were informative, and the way you guys went after education, I felt that’s what we do at FSG. We don’t sell a certain bulb, a certain manufacturer. We like to sell a solution. We like to consult more than sell, so I felt like that was a good match. You guys had the same vision as us. It made me excited to join and get in front of some of your customers.
What are three things that differentiate you from your competition? One of the main points is margin stacking. FSG being a national lighting distributor and having in-house electrical contracting allows us to source either product or labor direct.
As big as we are—I think we’ve been over 700 million over the past few years—it’s important that we stay lean and be able to compete locally. The margin stacking is absolution a pain point for a lot of projects.
On top of that is just our 40-year-old history. A lot of things we do well, it’s because of our history, and that separates us as well. Being able to last through some tough times and continue to pivot and expand and grow, that gives us the unique advantage as well, as far as implementing a project.
What is a recent milestone or accomplishment you can share from FSG? Something we’re proud of is the fact that during the pandemic we were able to help our partners open up safely. It’s one of those things where we had a business to run but we also knew the times we were in. We stopped with the selling, we stopped, more or less, with the consulting, and we were kind of trying to find out our partners’ pain points and helping them with that with our connections and our size.
One of them was disinfection through ionization or UV lighting. Obviously, that’s our area of expertise in a way. We really dove in and held monthly educational webinars, not to necessarily push a product but to educate everybody and let them make an informed decision based on our webinars. I thought that was something we did very well over the past year or two.
What issues are important to your company? Obviously, we play a large part in companies’ sustainability goals. But we also took a look inside as well, to help ourselves play a role—outside of helping companies we also wanted to help ourselves. We really wanted to make sure the trucks on the road, the resources we use, how we go about it, just being smarter, so we can partner with these companies and also let them know what we’re doing so they can also help their sustainability goals. I think that’s the biggest part, not just helping companies but helping companies by helping ourselves at the same time.
How do you connect with customers? It’s back to the local feel, the mom-and-pop feel. As big as we are, it can get really lost with a company our size, but we do a great job with having teams assigned to accounts, one point of contact. You’re not calling a 1-800 number hoping you’re getting the same person. As big as we are, you will feel as though we are small, and that’s on purpose. That’s attention to detail, the experience that you need. The customers, they’re spending a lot of money with us, so we need to make sure we repay that favor with that intimate feel and that local touch.
What is your most frequently asked question from customers? There’s a series of questions circled around one topic. What that is, is FSG is a turnkey provider. We handle everything from the sales, audits, rebates, installation, design, and more importantly, we see it through to the warranty. Everybody asks, do we do rebates, do we have in-house labor, can we source material? All those questions circle around our turnkey approach. That’s what we pride ourselves on. That’s what the company has built itself to today, is being able to handle everything in-house with that one team concept that we touched on. So, not a specific question, but those questions all circle around that turnkey approach that we offer.
What advice would you go back and give yourself in the year 2020? After working from home like everybody else and being distanced from everybody, just being more conscious of having a normal day-to-day conversation with our peers, our coworkers, our customers. Not everything has to be business, sometimes it’s just nice to have a conversation. Looking back, maybe I could’ve done a better job there. It’s one of those things, you live, you learn, you work to fix it. But, for sure, just making sure you reach out, no matter who it is, just have a phone call. It gets lonely when you’re working from home and you’re used to being in the office.
Last word—what is one thing you want listeners to remember? We stick by our projects. We have many case studies, many stories, where, once a project is done, we’re still involved three or four years later. I think that’s the biggest thing we do well. We are a massive lighting company, and we work with the manufacturers on a warranty basis. If you have a 10-year warranty, a five-year warranty, making sure you’re with the company that will be here and also be able to help you with any replacement parts. That’s the one thing I would have to say I want people to remember the most. It’s very important to the process, and what’s the point of a 10-year warranty if nobody’s going to stand behind it?