From understanding the pros/cons of evolving IoT protocols to navigating the convoluted world of e-commerce, this might be the most up-to-the-minute resource tool for the lighting industry available.
[dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]I[/dropcap]magine an engrossing conversation with a well-rounded lighting veteran who has in-depth knowledge of OEM component parts and electronics as well as first-hand experience establishing highly successful and award-winning lighting companies from the ground up. What would you ask him? Chances are good, the topic is covered in this book.
Wondering what the differences are between the various safety listings such as UL, CSA, and ETL? What are some effective ways that companies handle overages? What’s involved when tapping into the specifier/light commercial market? How do you determine an exit strategy in advance that is fair to you and the business you built? These subjects and more – such as why EBITDA isn’t the only important metric you need when evaluating a company, how to develop a pricing strategy, and why the rep network will never become obsolete – are detailed at length.
Two outstanding qualities that make Lighting the Way to North America unique are its conversational tone and the personal examples that author Steven Parker provides, including business mistakes he’s made as well as the successes, and what others can learn from both.
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“Today more than ever before in lighting, you have to continually improve just to stay still. Not keeping pace with industry technology advancements has negative consequences.” —Steven Parker
Parker wrote every word of his book over the past year, and without the help of a ghostwriter. “I had never written a book before and first had to learn how,” he explains. “I set a goal to write 1,600 words per day, 3,500 words per chapter, and 35,000 words for the total book. By the end, it ended up being more than 42,000 words.”
The impetus for the putting his thoughts down came from years of serving as both a formal and informal business consultant to lighting peers across all categories who would seek his advice. “I realized there wasn’t any type of troubleshooting guide or research book out there about how to start a lighting business in the U.S. market,” he remarks.
Since Parker has helped successfully establish North American divisions for European and other overseas companies – an aspect of his experience that he is asked most about – he thought creating a guide would be a helpful resource for others. “I didn’t write this book to make a profit; I believe in giving back,” he states.
“My main concept was to explain the steps in starting a lighting business in terms that are easy to follow for all levels,” he says. The 19 chapters are a step-by-step approach, from how to start from scratch all the way to how to improve and measure the multiple of EBITDA at point of exit. The book covers building a team, compensation plans, logistics, where and how to source, financial reporting, safety and code compliance, evaluating product performance, going to market, plus working with reps, media, and trade shows.
“Today more than ever before in lighting, you have to continually improve just to stay still. Not keeping pace with industry technology advancements has negative consequences,” Parker cautions. “To survive, we must evolve. As I attend trade shows and conferences, I see many new company names and faces entering the lighting industry. The bar is rising every day. As a long-term lighting geek, I never thought I’d see Cisco and Sony as innovators in lighting. Times have changed, and we must learn to embrace it,” he adds.
“So how does a lighting company thrive in this challenging time? The answer is simple: collaboration,” Parker states. “In my opinion, lighting will always be very technical and experts who understand how to deliver lumens will always be required.”
Today’s challenge lies in integrating software (aka controls), according to Parker. “I love the advances in technology [and what it means for] the future of lighting. So many lighting companies are embracing and investing in controls. We were one of the first beta testers for the Amazon Echo, and I have luminaires in my home that can change chromaticity using the Echo. I also have a Harmony remote that works with the Echo.
Voice commands are the future and there are several viable platforms,” he predicts.
“While I wholeheartedly believe in controls, I do feel that collaboration may be a better choice for many companies rather than them investing so heavily in controls,” he notes. “There are only so many engineering dollars to go around before the financial picture is not as healthy as it could be. Collaboration would allow the luminaire companies to focus on what they do best — which is delivering lumens, controlling the light produced by the luminaire, optimizing efficacy, plus ensuring performance and life,” Parker explains. “The control companies can focus on ensuring the systems communicate with all platforms as well as keep up with the updates in operating systems and new hardware options. The control companies are interested in code — not illuminance, lumens, watts, beam spread, and chromaticity.”
Along with the professional advice, Parker concludes his book by emphasizing a life balance in one’s personal life. Parker is an avid fly fisherman and a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain who donates his time to veteran causes such as Project Healing Waters by providing trips to take veterans fishing. He also donates his time as a chairman of the advisory board for Stay in Step (www.stayin
step.org), a spinal cord injury rehabilitation center that was founded to help combat wounded veterans but is open to civilians for the treatment of spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and paralysis therapy.
“To quote entrepreneur and best-selling author Daniel Priestley, ‘The book that changes your life the most is not the one you read, it’s the one you write,” Parker comments. “This is so true. I think that we all have a great book or more in us that others would love to read. I would encourage all to write a book and share your knowledge, experiences, and advice.”