enLIGHTenment magazine is proud to present the winners of our annual awards 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.
How did you enter the lighting business?
[Back story: Hinkley Lighting was founded in 1922 by Phil Hinkley, who later sold the outdoor lantern company in the 1930s to Stanley Wiedemer, Rick’s grandfather.] My father [Jim] kept his work separate from his home life and family; he didn’t really bring the business home with him. In fact, I never stepped foot inside the factory until the summer I finished high school. In the summers during college, I worked in a steel mill – and even had a job offer from the mill – but it was apparent that working for my dad’s company was also an option. One month after graduating Ohio University, I started full-time at Hinkley on the factory floor.
What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen?
Going from being a vertically integrated domestic manufacturer to a provider of lighting [made overseas] that is designed here. The company’s heritage was making copper outdoor lanterns — that’s all we made. Then we slowly expanded into pendants and some kitchen lighting. My dad was very involved in the business details, but he was more of a numbers guy, while I was more of a sales, marketing, and products guy. We complemented each other nicely in that regard. From early on, I became active in the American Lighting Association (ALA).
What do you think has been the key to your success?
My father instilled a good work ethic in me, coming from a father who had been through the Depression and World War II. In my first year at Hinkley Lighting, it was clear that [we] should be the first ones in to work in the morning and the last ones out in the evening. I mirrored everything he did, and was aware of everything he did, because I literally sit across the desk from him every day for 10 years.
Another key to success has been the abundance of relationships I’ve been able to cultivate on both sides of the aisle, as it were. In the areas where we did not have sales reps, I would handle those sales territories. I believe I’ve visited 75 percent of our customers in their place of business over the years and developed solid relationships with them. Through my participation in the ALA, I was also able to form friendly relationships with my competitors. I was involved with the rep show that pre-dated the Dallas Market and we were the third or fourth showroom to sign a lease at Dallas Market Center. I have fond memories of going to Dallas Market with my father in the 1980s. We’re one of the remaining independent, family-owned companies in the industry and we’re proud of that.
In raising my sons – both of whom are involved in the business – I’ve made an effort to balance the family and business aspects of our relationship. Eric, who is an attorney, is involved in product development; and as president, Jess is into operations, logistics, and technology. They complement each other well. Looking back, I don’t think I would have done anything differently. I believe I have a good reputation — and that’s important to me. I always try to do the right thing, and that’s something I hope I’ve instilled in my sons.
What do you think the lighting industry is headed?
There is concern about the different channels of distribution that have popped up. When home building came to a halt, our business changed. The internet has altered consumer buying habits. The consumer is going to shape the future of the lighting industry. We track consumers closely. We want to be where they are when they are ready to make a lighting purchase.