Leader – Manufacturer: Eric Borden – Kichler
How did you get started in the lighting industry?
My first experience dates back to a job with my uncle’s lighting components factory in Brooklyn, N.Y., where I worked summers and school holidays. During my employment there, I became familiar with manufacturers such as Halo, Juno, Thomas, Virden, AW Pistol, and others. After college and teaching for six years, it was time to make some career decisions. When I saw an ad for a local sales rep in Northern NJ for Halo Lighting, I jumped at the opportunity. I was hired by Pat Quinn (one of my early mentors) to join the Halo team. This year will officially mark my 37th year in the lighting world (not including my factory life). What a tremendous ride it has been and still is to this day!
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen?
When I began my life in lighting, once you knew lamps (i.e. bulbs) you basically knew lighting. With the emergence of SSL technologies we all need to stay current which, considering the speed of technological development, is an ongoing process.
My advice to all is the same that I give to myself: Stay in tune with what’s happening within the light source and related component world. Our incandescent sources have changed, fluorescent is becoming less relevant (although it will stay here for quite some time and for certain applications), and LED is developing at warp speed. Keep up with changes. Stay technologically knowledgeable and savvy. You will never regret it!
What is the greatest challenge?
One of the greatest challenges in today’s lighting environment is assuring that our colleagues stay current with the latest light source information and its application. As Chair of the Education Committee with the American Lighting Association (ALA), I have always been an advocate of staying relevant and in touch with the latest trends and technologies. We, as an industry, need to always keep informed of all aspects of lighting technology, its applications, and the related disciplines that integrate with our specialty.
As many will remember, I spent a good portion of my tenure at the beginning of this century traveling the country, educating our colleagues about sound lighting techniques and how to use lighting as art form by applying the science of it. Our industry no longer centers around selling pretty chandeliers. I urge everyone to continue their education and stay educated and knowledgeable about our changing technologies and their applications.
What is the key to your success?
I believe one key has been my leadership style. It may be viewed as a bit unorthodox at times in today’s business environment, however, it has worked for me in so many ways. Mentoring has allowed me to develop as a person and a leader. This has also helped me gain the confidence of many new and existing colleagues in the lighting industry. A leader is a motivator. In my view, effective leaders 1) lead and motivate through understanding and respect, 2) lead by example, and 3) lead by guiding and not dictating. Motivating, mentoring, and leading by example have been keys to my success. One more thing…..a little humor goes a long way, too!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
I’d advise everyone to “pay your dues.” Don’t rush into advancing your career before you are ready to do so. You have your whole life ahead of you with plenty of time for advancement. The best way to a successful future is to slowly develop.
What do you think the future holds?
I no longer can be concerned with what once existed; I can only look forward to an exciting future for the lighting industry. The advancement of technologies such as LED will act as a springboard for advanced products, application methods, and energy efficiency. Technological advancements will be a catalyst for an exciting future for all of us. This industry is on fire!