Not even 10 years have passed since Nathan Frampton started working full-time at Fanimation, and only four since he took over as the company’s President, but that hasn’t prevented him from putting his mark on his business and the industry.
“Nathan Frampton is a true mover in our industry,” says Jack Fleischer, President of Hermitage Lighting Gallery in Nashville, TN. “He has a broad focus on improving our industry to help us become more progressive.”
Others in the industry agree that Frampton has demonstrated remarkable leadership in his relatively short career — so much so that our readers voted him the winner of this year’s Residential Lighting Industry Leadership Award, an honor he accepted at September’s American Lighting Assn. (ALA) Conference in Palm Beach, FL.
“It couldn’t have gone to a more deserving person,” says Shelley Wald, President of WAC Lighting. “Even though he was up against some really iconic individuals in our industry who have made some great achievements, for the industry and his own business, Nathan’s the truest kind of leader who’s willing to take risks not only for his benefit but for others’.”
The Family Business
Fanimation is a family affair for Frampton. The business was originally started by his father, Tom, whose influence Frampton acknowledged in his acceptance speech.
“The person that is most critical to the success of Fanimation is our founder and CEO, my father Tom Frampton,” he said. “My dad, without question, has played a major role in the evolution of the ceiling fan industry. In my book, he is already in the Lighting Hall of Fame.”
Frampton first started working for his father when he was 12 or 13, doing everything from assembling ceiling fans to sweeping floors, and he continued to work there part-time through college.
“When I was in high school and college, Fanimation wasn’t as big as it was now, so I never thought of it as a career option,” Frampton says. “I went to school not knowing what I wanted to do, but I was interested in business and interacting with people.”
This passion for interaction led Frampton to take on leadership roles in school, where he enjoyed organizing dances, fundraisers and other events. Once in college, he earned degrees in business and accounting before getting a job in Indianapolis, while still doing some consulting for Fanimation.
“That was right about the time Fanimation was starting to explode, so it was a great opportunity to see not only how a business works but also the transition from a smaller to a larger business,” Frampton says.
In 2002, Frampton started working for Fanimation full-time in its new Indiana headquarters, where he helped set up a new inventory management system. Five years later, Frampton took over as the company’s President, and today, he says he enjoys being part of a family business.
“I like the fact that I get to see my dad and uncles more than I would otherwise,” he says. “My dad and I get along really well. We agree on strategy, but we know our different strengths. Everybody in the family has different roles, so it works out well.”
Others in the industry say Frampton has excelled at putting his own spin on Fanimation.
”Nathan’s taken a solid foundation and built upon it while still making it his own, and that’s a hard balance to find,” says Bulbrite President Cathy Choi, who also took over her family’s business. “At Fanimation, there’s a nice meshing of the old and the new. There’s a fan museum, but you also see new designs and new ways of doing business.”
David White, Global Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Swarovski, agrees.
“It’s not easy working in a family business, but he’s done a great job of bringing new ideas and perspective to Fanimation,” White says. “For a young person, he’s a very aggressive businessperson, and he’s always willing to try new things and think outside the box.”
A Passion for Change
Outside of Fanimation, Frampton has also been influential in the industry as a whole. He’s been an active participant in ALA, serving on the Government Affairs Committee, the Political Action Committee (PAC) and the Young Executives Task Force. He also served as the Membership Campaign Leader for several years and recently joined the 2012 Conference Committee. And it is in these leadership positions that Frampton’s enthusiasm truly shines.
“I love being on a committee with Nathan. You never know what to expect next,” Fleischer says. “He brings a real passion and energy that is contagious.”
On these committees, Frampton is known for promoting change.
“He’s always looking to change,” says Ryan Ranzino, National Sales Manager at Crystorama. “He appre-ciates the industry and wants it to change for the better, so he’s always looking to what’s around the corner.”
Quoizel President Rick Seidman says Frampton is always trying to help the industry evolve, through his work with ALA and the Dallas Market, and that his youth is a boon to the committees on which he serves.
“He brings a point of view from someone who’s younger than a lot of people on industry committees,” Seidman says.
White, who has served with Frampton on several committees, says it’s Frampton’s passion that helps those groups get their message out.
“On the PAC, he’s very creative on how to make sure key subject matter is always in front of the ALA membership,” White says. “He does a great job of reinforcing to the industry how important it is for ALA to help with political issues that affect our industry.”
In all of these forums, Frampton isn’t afraid to voice his opinion, even if it’s contrary to the status quo.
“He doesn’t always say what people want to hear, but he does it in their best interest, and he does it in a respectful way,” Wald says. “He inspires people to approach their businesses differently and helps the industry move along as well.”
And it’s this honesty that’s part of what makes Frampton a great leader, according to Choi.
“He’s well-respected because he’s open and honest,” Choi says. “He’s not afraid to voice his opinions, and I respect that about him. People hear him because they know he’s honest and not just stirring the pot.”
Another of Frampton’s passions is getting to know his industry peers.
“One of the things I admire about him the most is he’s genuinely into networking for the good of industry, not just to collect business cards,” Choi says. “He’s genuinely interested in developing a business relationship and seeing what we can do to improve the industry.”
Indeed, the relationships are one of the main things Frampton says he enjoys about his job.
“I like the people. Not only do I have good relationships with Fanimation employees past and present, but I’ve developed relationships with customers, reps, even competitors,” Frampton says. “I don’t know if that’s normal for other industries, but that’s really cool.”
It’s this passion for relationships that makes Frampton stand out in the industry, White says.
“I would say his most important accomplishment in the short time he’s been in the industry is he’s really gotten to know so many people and is respected by so many,” White says. “He’s really out there at the forefront of our industry, getting to know everybody.”
One tool that helps Frampton in his quest to make contacts is social media, which he describes as ”networking on steroids.”
“I like people and networking with people and social media is just a tool to advance that,” Frampton says. “The concept’s not going away, so every business has to see how it vibes with their identity. Everybody’s going to use it a different way.”
Frampton is known for being a strong proponent of new tools like Facebook and Twitter, and integrating them into his business.
“A lot of people in his position aren’t nearly as comfortable with social media,” Seidman says. “He’s an example of someone running a company who understands this new method of communication and utilizes it better than others.”
This passion for new technology is just another way Frampton is helping to revolutionize the lighting industry.
“He’s contributed a lot to the industry, because he’s such an early adopter of technology,” Choi says. “You always hear about how to do business more effectively with technology, and it always traces back to Fanimation and him.”
Outside of work, Frampton assists his local chamber of commerce with economic development, and helps out with charitable efforts like fundraising for the H Foundation’s Goombay Bash and leading Fanimation’s Relay for Life team. He has also run a marathon and is currently learning to golf.
When asked what he’s most proud of, Frampton cites his involvement in ALA and his work at Fanimation, as well as his family: four-year-old daughter Avery, 20-month-old son Dylan and his wife Tania.
But Frampton, whom Seidman describes as “a bundle of energy,” still has plenty left to accomplish on his so-called ”bucket list.”
“I want to go to the pyramids and go to Fenway Park in Boston,” he says. “I want to learn to play the drums and get better at golf. In the long run, I’d like to be involved in a foundation, because I think it’d be cool sit around and figure out ways to improve world conditions. That kind of stuff interests me.”