How did you enter the lighting industry?
To make a long story short, I met my husband. He owned a busy lighting design firm and I wanted a change from law enforcement. While we were dating, I frequently attended client dinners with him and our conversations included so much of his work that I naturally started to learn. At that time his firm was extremely busy and he needed help in a bad way. It just made sense for me to jump on board and help.
When we decided to dissolve the design firm, I joined a retrofit contractor selling lighting upgrade projects. This was something new as our firm had specialized in financial institution designs to comply with ATM regulations. The retrofit world had – and still has – so many opportunities and I soaked in the education that I was able to receive.
After attending a manufacturer’s lighting course with one of my electrical distributor partners, I was offered – and accepted – an opportunity with that distributor. This allowed me to continue project sales, but from a distribution perspective.
My goal from the beginning was to end up working for a lighting manufacturer. I was thrilled when I came on board with Progress Lighting.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?
Even in the (relatively) short amount of time I have been in the lighting industry, I have seen a lot of changes. Lightfair has pretty much become LED-fair as LED is quickly becoming the predominant light source and the advances in that technology are ongoing. Generations of fixtures and lamps are being quickly replaced by the next improved generation, and customers are still getting used to the differences. There is a lot of information out there, but actual application knowledge is still on a learning curve. Next, we will be explaining TM-30 and the concept of human-centric lighting.
Internet purchasing is huge, and every year it seems to get more and more popular. All one has to do is look at retail stores numbers versus Internet purchasing to realize the impact. Consumers want to be able to order something immediately.
The Internet also allows for entry into the market from many other sources than were traditional. Due to the electronic nature of LED, I’ve even heard of people purchasing fixtures put together by folks in their garage! Also, as much as it’s always been a problem in many industries (think designer bags), the volume and sources of knock-off products seem to be increasing all the time. Any time something is hot, like LED is now, everyone wants a piece of it. However, just like opportunists who slap a magnetic sign on their truck advertising roof repair after a hail storm, it doesn’t mean they provide the same quality and service as the roofers who have made that their business from the beginning. I always say the lighting industry continues to change “at the speed of light.” It does. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
What has been the key to your success?
Number one, my husband. His practical lighting knowledge goes beyond anyone’s I have met — and that’s not just because he’s my husband. His career started by digging ditches for electricians as a teen. He became an electrician himself and subsequently worked for an agent, electrical distributor, owned his own design firm, and now works for a major manufacturer. Having him as a resource of knowledge and to answer questions is a gift that most people just don’t get. Due to his experience and teaching, I learned from the very beginning to always consider what’s best for the application, ease of installation and cost factors, proper design considerations, ease of maintenance, and energy consumption.
Secondly, I’ve always been a very driven, “all in” kind of person. Once I decide to do something, I want to learn all I can and give it my best. I have made it a goal to learn everything I possibly can about the industry. I’ve been taking courses on my own initiative for years now. I don’t have to do it, I want to learn it. Last year I finally took (and passed) both the NCQLP LC exam and the LEED Green Associate exam. Every day I set aside time to keep up with what is going on in the lighting world. I actually love to keep learning so I’m glad lighting is always evolving. It keeps things exciting!
It probably also helps that I’m a huge people-person and connector. I think that everyone brings value to the table and you never know when you will cross paths with someone again. I’m also happy to help people out, even if I get nothing out of it. Therefore I have developed a very large network over the years that I enjoy expanding and helping put good people in touch with other good people. I’ve always been in a type of “service” career, which suits me. I enjoy making a difference. Besides, when my husband first suggested I get into lighting, I told him that I could never have as much knowledge as him so I’d have to be more popular. It’s been our little joke for years.
What do you wish you knew when you were first starting out?
I was blessed to know a lot more of the good, the bad, and the ugly about the lighting industry early on because I’d tag along with my husband. In the beginning, everyone I met said the same thing, “You know, once you get into lighting you can never get out,” and I would laugh, but it’s true! I can’t imagine not being in the lighting industry anymore. In fact, I wish I had discovered lighting sooner than I did, but everything happens in its correct time, right?
What do you envision the lighting sales agency of the future to be like?
I think lighting agencies will continue to be educators to the many disciplines that rely on them. As technology changes, they will be the ones with the information that others need. Things like the Internet of Things (IoT), connected homes, and the expanded requirement of controls, TM-30, and tunable lighting are just a few areas I see as emerging areas in the near future.