How did you enter the lighting industry?
This is actually my second career. After I graduated college (with a degree in Business Administration), I was enjoying a great career working in property management. At one point, I had a custom builder friend ask me to go to a lighting showroom and make selections for him. I was hooked [on lighting] from the moment I entered the showroom. I think a lighting showroom is a feast for the eyes; I was immediately drawn to it. Three months later, and after many discussions with the owner, I was managing that showroom (plus a total of two more)!
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?
The way we, as showrooms, are challenged every day by how our customers buy product. It was not too long ago that customers came in to a showroom and chose from what was on display or in a catalog. Now customers are exposed to a whole world of ideas, and they are much more educated on trends and price points.
What has been the key to your success?
I have been fortunate to have been able to assemble great teams that challenge me to be a better leader, and who truly understand that if we do not take care of the customer, someone else will. Whether in my previous career or in lighting, I like to hire thinkers (not yes men). I want to surround myself with people who challenge me — that’s what makes me better at my craft. For example, when someone questions why something is done a certain way or why a certain decision was made, it ups your game. We all need someone to challenge us in order to grow.
What do you wish you knew when you were first starting out?
Although I enjoyed my first career and learned so many valuable traits concerning customer service, I wish I knew about the lighting industry as a career choice when I was in college. It’s such a great career — it incorporates design, it’s creative, and you’re helping people feel great about their living spaces…what could be better than that?
Where do you see yourself & lighting showrooms in the next 5 to 10 years?
I’d like to continue growing as a manager/leader and help take the lighting industry into the 21st Century by getting lighting showroom owners to realize that today retail is all about the customer’s “experience” when shopping with you. We need to establish ourselves as the experts. That’s a big job —
we’re basically taking the [decorating/lifestyle] dreams out of people’s heads and putting them down on paper for them. They are bombarded by so much information from Pinterest and Houzz and shelter magazines and DYI shows and need someone to help sort it out. People don’t trust their inner voice! We have to help them choose what they like and not settle on something because it’s what their neighbors like. If, after the room/home renovation is completed, the customer can look up at the lighting fixture and smile, then I’ve done my job.