For all those who saw Captain Sunshine and my pictures in NAILD magazine, alongside our recent ‘debate’, no, I wasn’t in a boot because I injured my foot kicking Bill’s butt all over the internet, just recovering from achilles surgery. In fact, while my Illumigeddon arguments about the end of the traditional lighting industry are already coming true, I do agree with part of the Captain’s view of Fortuity (being in the right place at the right time). Yes, the SSL revolution presents amazing opportunity for some, the question is for whom? And there we disagree, although some of the disagreement may be semantic only. Bill’s optimism seems to lead him to believe that fortuity/opportunity is just waiting for everyone involved in the current lighting industry food chain.

On the other hand, I’m convinced that unless a business is already evolving to a 21st century business model, the influx of high-tech companies into our business and then the introduction of Smart/Intelligent Lighting absolutely demand innovation and evolution of existing business models. And this applies to everyone in the food chain…..specifiers, manufacturers, reps, distributors, contractors……and even end users. (Check out for real world innovation guidance).

Two phrases using the same words come to mind thinking about which companies will survive and thrive to take advantage of the Captain’s Fortuity……Good is the Enemy of Great, and conversely, Great is the Enemy of Good. And I’ll add that in this new era, Good is not Good Enough! I’m thinking of these phrases in terms of at least 6 key areas of a successful 21st century business in the age of Illumigeddon:
1. Technological excellence
2. Technical excellence
3. Logistical excellence
4. True corporate mission statement and value proposition
5. Social media presence
6. Company culture and employee enthusiasm

I’m sure there are other key areas to discuss, but for purposes of figuring out what companies will be ready for Fortuity whenever and wherever it presents itself, let’s explore these 6 areas.

1. Is a company’s web presence good or great? If the company’s C Suite execs are challenged to go to their site, search for a product, check inventory, get pricing, get delivery information, place and track an order and they (the execs) are happy with the ease and intuitiveness of the process, that’s a great website. Remember, your client decision makers will soon be the much maligned Millennials who have grown up with Amazon and other intuitive, easy to navigate, fast and clean websites. How will yours compare? Good ain’t good enough.

2. Is a company’s sales and support team easily conversant with the latest technological developments in lighting? Do they understand and can they explain the new language of lighting……IoT, IoE, LaaS, POE, Smart Lighting and Intelligent Lighting and the difference between the two, for example? Are the team members up to date on accreditations (LC etc) and industry association memberships? Are they active in industry communities? Do they write and speak about the industry? Are they great?

3. Is a company ready to compete with Amazon and Jet and other already great lighting distributors? And how will the company compete with same day delivery when a supplier teams with Uber or Lyft or another startup for 2 hour delivery? And while it is fun to think about Bezos’ plan for drone deliveries, don’t ignore Google’s driverless cars and robot delivery men. Bottom line, great companies must have great logistics.

4. Great mission statements and value props may sound great….but do they truly reflect the shared experience and goals of the entire company team, or are they a result of the marketing department’s wordsmithing? Great copywriting that doesn’t reflect the company’s real world is not only not great, it’s not even good. (And the bs aspect is easy to recognize.)

5. Social media cannot be ignored! And a company’s social media efforts that aren’t great and true are not worth the effort. Again, the next generation of decision makers at a company’s clients are the famous millennials. They’ve grown up on social media….Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., etc. And their expectations of suppliers’ web presence will not be met by ‘good’ or ‘good enough’. Social media maintenance should be a full time job, including monitoring of clients, vendors and competition’s web presence. And finally, the more team members have a presence online (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc), the more credible the company becomes.

6. And finally, great company culture and employee enthusiasm are critical to surviving and thriving in the face of Illumigeddon. The leap from employees considering their company a good place to work to becoming a great place to work is huge. How many companies actually have ways to gauge employee satisfaction, loyalty and enthusiasm for their job and for their company? Great companies do. And good companies might, and for them, good might just be good enough. But not good enough to survive and enjoy the fruits of Captain Sunshine’s Fortuity! (See Bridget McCrea’s recent four (4) part series on Corporate Culture)

One more thing, I’m reminded of the words Lee Iacocca of Chrysler fame took from someone else, but still rings true: “Lead, follow or get out of the way”. Truer today than ever before in the Illumigeddon era of the lighting industry! And now just getting out of the way may result in going out of business!

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  1. David Mintz says:

    Chris, as usual I agree with everything you have said. Planning, training, educating are all very necessary to compete going forward. What I haven’t heard is what the distributors are going to sell. Service, certainly, but doing what? What exactly are they going to provide?

  2. David Gordon says:

    chris – you’re right on many points. The model is quickly changing. Last week there was an article in the WSJ re lighting. The only 2 lighting companies mentioned were Digital Lumens and I believe Greenleaf (I may have the name wrong but it was Green??? – I’ve never heard of them). And the article was on LEDs and energy efficiency. No mention of mainstream lighting manufacturers nor distributors. To your point …, information gets to the buyer many ways and they have options on how / where to buy.

  3. Chris,
    As usual your insights are right on the mark. I think the Mission Statement is more critical than may companies realize. The owners must first decide what they want to be, and what role they want to play in this new world of techno/lighting. Not every company may be able or willing to meet all the criteria for what you consider to be a “great” company. They may decide to choose a select market or customer base and then serve that market as well as possible, utilizing those tools they can afford. A key element of this process is to make their sales force recognized experts in the products and services they choose to offer. The confidence this builds with the customer base cannot be overstated. With all of the logistical advances you so eloquently describe, less might be good enough when the business relationship is high.
    Make your company into a source of expertise and your customers will accept an additional day for delivery.

  4. Kim Pedersen says:

    Your going to need much more the following
    1. Technological excellence
    2. Technical excellence
    3. Logistical excellence
    4. True corporate mission statement and value proposition
    5. Social media presence
    6. Company culture and employee enthusiasm

    In addition you will need highly competent in house web developers, marketing experts, well staffed art department including photo and video equipment with trained personnel and every department must be lead by highly competent leaders crossing all the T’s and dotting the I’s. Not to mention a bank role for inventory. But there much more!

  5. Great vision is also required. As the manufacturer of the GENISYS PoE Lighting Solution, we find many traditional electrical/lighting distributors do not understand the Network Industry is going to co-op their lighting segments. There is a turf battle forming and many are unaware.

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