enLIGHTenment Magazine is proud to present the recipients of our annual awards series honoring those individuals in our industry who have been nominated by their peers for leading by example, standing out in their field, and inspiring others.
When you were growing up in your parents’ showroom, did you know that you wanted a career in lighting?
Since my parents didn’t join my grandparents’ business until I was a senior in high school, I wasn’t involved as a kid; I just worked in the family business a few summers when I came home from university in Oregon. As a student, I decided to try for a part-time job at a lighting showroom in the same city where I went to college — and ended up working there for six years! I really enjoyed the product and helping interior designers, contractors, and customers design the lighting in their homes. Only after it became clear that I had an affinity for the lighting industry did my folks start recruiting me to join them, so I moved to Modesto to do just that in 1999. It’s hard to believe that was 17 years ago! There’s a joke in the lighting industry that once you’re in, you never get out…it may be true!
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?
There have been so many changes! The one that is foremost is the changing habits of customers due to the preponderance of e-commerce shopping. It can be a blessing and a curse. There is no doubt that e-commerce is our biggest competitor, and showrooms have to be sharp and progressive to compete.
Maintaining a clean, well-organized and fun-to-shop store is a job that never stops, but getting that customer in the door is the hardest part. Consumers have less patience for order lead times since they can get so many things in two days from Amazon Prime! Thank goodness there are still people who appreciate customer service and the ability to touch and feel products in person before purchasing them.
On the flip side, one of the benefits of the Internet – for example Web sites like Houzz and Pinterest – is that people are educating themselves and pre-shopping before coming into the store. This can be a great opportunity for showrooms! Customers come in excited about something they’ve “seen online” and want help creating that look. If we’re paying attention, this is where we can really show off the breadth of our lighting and product knowledge.
We have continued to increase our regional online presence; we want people who are searching for lighting products online to know we are here. Our online marketing efforts have almost completely supplanted our previous print advertising — and it’s paid off as we’ve discovered that a large portion of our customers visit our Web site before coming in.
What do you think has been the key to your success?
I enjoy the variety of what I get to do every day in this business. The product is exciting; there’s always something new to learn, such as new designs, new technology, and new applications. That part is really fun! I also enjoy working with my great team here at the store, my folks, and with our customers. You have to have a happy attitude, work hard, listen well, and always be willing to learn something new — that’s what I think is key.
What is the best advice you received from your parents?
I wouldn’t say my parents have given me much direct advice per se. I think they have been most encouraging of me to try new ideas as I have slowly transitioned into a more primary role. We have spent a lot of time together, both personally and professionally, and we know each other so well. What I have gained from them is the culture of our company: Be kind, take pride in your work, and treat others as you would like to be treated.
Do you think how you sell to consumers will be different in the future?
I don’t have any new plans at the moment that are totally new from what we’re already doing. We have our Web site, which also has a mobile platform, and that serves us pretty well. We have already been building our online presence regionally through our Web site, Google Ad Words, retargeting, contextual advertising, Facebook ads, and the like. We will continue to fine-tune our approach as we go along. We have been working hard on making our showroom look great; changing out displays regularly, and cleaning up the presentation. I’d love to figure out the best way to minimize inventory while maximizing sales. If anyone has the secret formula, let me know!