Spotlight Blog

The Lighting Agency: Leading a People-Centric Small Business in the Time of COVID-19

Feb 26, 2021 | 40th Anniversary, News

A conversation with our President, Jason Fisher

by  Jason Fisher

 

Hi, I’m Jason Fisher, President of The Lighting Agency. I’ll start with a short introduction for those of you who don’t know me or the history of TLA.

My father, Arthur Fisher, founded our company in 1980 along with his business partner at the time. When the partnership ended in 1988, Art retained distribution rights for Denver North to Southern Wyoming, while his former partner covered the southern part of the state from his office in Colorado Springs.

Within a few years, Art grew his business to the point that he could re-acquire the southern part of the state and bring the Colorado Springs office and team back to The Lighting Agency. I joined TLA in November of 1994—as the 12th employee.

 

This will be my 27th year with the company, and I have been at the helm, with my brother Shane as Vice President, for almost 12 years. Together with TLA Principal, Ryan Stewart, Shane and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to lead our family business, and act as the conduit to implement all the brilliant ideas coming from our team of talented industry experts.

 

As a leadership team, we pride ourselves on our collective ability to recognize talent and finding people that we know will mesh well with our established teams.

 

Open communication and being receptive to hearing everyone’s input and feedback has made it possible for us to maintain personal relationships with everyone here at TLA.

 

Because of our established company culture, open communication lines, and flexibility, TLA has experienced a relatively smooth transition to remote work and has been able to pivot our business strategy to meet the challenges of the pandemic. I think it’s equally important to recognize that Art ingrained his forward-looking and fiscally conservative approach to running the company into Shane, Ryan, and myself.

 

This strong foundation, along with a commitment to investing in, and improving our IT capabilities and infrastructure, has put us on a strong footing to grow our business and team—even during these unprecedented times.

 

On March 12th last year, we were just wrapping-up a showcase event when the announcement was made that all public schools would be closing due to COVID-19. We immediately recognized that schools closing would cause a domino effect, with parents being forced to stay home with their kids for at least a few weeks.

We quickly decided to transition our entire team to remote working for at least the short term while we waited to see how the pandemic would play out. We made this decision based on historical context from previous public health emergencies, concern about the safety and well-being of our people, and the need for parents to be home with their families.

TLA had already made a big investment into the infrastructure and technology we would need to support an emergency work-from-home model for our entire team.

Our most significant challenge was the psychological transition from having everyone together in the same office spaces and missing the daily interpersonal connections with our team and business partners that have always been part of our work lives.

 

Flexibility, with the structure to allow for productivity while maintaining company culture has been key. We are a tight-knit group, even during the pandemic.

 

Over the past several months, I have observed a balancing act between embracing the flexibility of working wherever and whenever you need to and maintaining structure and continuity in the virtual workplace.

Because TLA has always had a strong work hard, play hard culture, and well-established team relationships, losing our collective company identity has not been a concern. However, we had to establish regularly scheduled meetings and check-ins in our new remote reality that were never part of our routine when we were all in the office together.

Again, the technology piece is crucial. We are using Microsoft Teams and several other programs to keep our people connected. Weekly video meetings with each of our department managers and live virtual events such as our Holiday Party have become part of our new normal.

 

Beyond our internal workflows, digital marketing has come to the forefront for both company-wide initiatives, as well as how our salespeople connect directly with their clients.

 

Under Ryan’s guidance, we’re growing our website and social media channels, and our Sales Coordinator Dawn Webber has been hard at work expanding our virtual events offerings.

Beyond what has happened internally at TLA, I’ve observed a shift in the industry overall as we become more cognizant of our health and what it means to maintain healthy indoor spaces. Many of our clients are asking us to specify and use new technologies like UV light and air filtration systems for their projects. Product offerings from Acuity, Puro, and a few of our other brands have been crucial in this venture.

We also have seen a shift away from in-person demonstrations and sample-seeing, which have always been a large part of how we did business.

 

Many companies are looking for ways to increase flexibility for employees, maybe downsizing their workspace and continuing to support remote work, or maybe it involves re-conceptualizing their existing office space to be less ridged. Within the industry, and with our clients, we’re seeing more interest in the flexible workspace.

 

This concept includes entire lit ceilings, flexible furniture layouts, creative lighting designs, and even lighting fixtures that can be integrated into the furniture (such as those offered by our newest partner Tambient Lighting).

From a performance standpoint, the bar is set very high at TLA, but there is also a lot of trust within our organization. Our salespeople have always had some levels of flexibility, even before the pandemic.

 

We believe that it’s better to be efficient, smart, and realistic while trusting that our people are doing what they need to get their work done.

 

Looking forward to 2021 for TLA, I foresee a gradual process of moving back into the office based on everyone’s health needs, concerns, and overall comfort factor. I believe many companies will follow the same trajectory of having a small number of people return to offices gradually. Specifically, the most important thing that the last year has taught me is the importance of always thinking three or four steps ahead.

We, of course, didn’t see the pandemic coming, but we did recognize our IT build-up as a key to growing our business and making it possible for our team to work as efficiently as possible. We are still investing in the company, our people, and looking forward to what’s next – even during the pandemic.

 

My father was a believer in the “rainy day” approach for fiscal planning, and saving for unforeseen difficulties—this mindset has certainly helped us weather the COVID-19 storm.

 

Since I joined TLA, we have added more than 55 people to our team, including new hires in 2020. As the pandemic winds down, I expect we will experience significant growth in Colorado, and we’re already planning ahead to meet these demands and exceed expectations.

Like many companies, we are in the planning stages of renovating our offices while they’re relatively empty to improve our overall workspace. When our people are ready to come back to work in person, we want them to feel confident knowing that we’ve taken the necessary steps to promote a safe, healthy, and productive work environment.

 

In 2021, we plan to add more team members to our existing groups, continue building our business, and explore new avenues to take TLA to the next level.

 

I hope that you’ll join us on our journey and take some time to explore the professional resources available on our website, such as our Quick Quote Tool, the Spotlight Blog, and our EVENTS page. Our team is working hard to give you the tools and knowledge needed to make your next project a success. You can subscribe here to the TLA Newsletter for a bi-monthly digest of news, events, trends, and technical insights—delivered straight to your email inbox.

And be sure to tune-in next time for everything you need to know about TLA—straight from my brother Shane.

Take care,
Jason

 

 

We want to hear from you!  Do you have questions about upcoming events or have an event that you’re hosting that we should know about? Email information to Dawn at dwebber@thelightingagency.com. 

 

Be sure to bookmark our EVENTS page, where you can access and register for scheduled and on-going virtual presentations, seminars, and trainings for a full spectrum of lighting topics ranging from controls and design to products.

 

Check out our new Quick Quote Tool to help designers stay on budget. If you haven’t tried it yet, put it on your to-do list for 2021!

 

Are you looking for an efficient way to stay current on all things lighting? Subscribe to TLA’s bimonthly newsletter here.

 

The Lighting Agency is a local construction allied company representing the premier lighting and controls manufacturers for Colorado and Southern Wyoming. We strive to be an integral part of the design process through our work with lighting specifiers, contractors, suppliers, and owners to create brilliant yet budget-sensitive results for projects big and small.

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