By TLA Staff
The Lighting Agency is honored to announce that Rob Pries and Michael Smoot have been officially appointed Associates of The Lighting Agency. We would like to recognize Rob and Michael for their years of dedication and hard work in helping make TLA and TLAS the highly successful companies they are today.
Michael has spearheaded the growth of The Lighting Agency South in Colorado Springs since joining the office in 2010.
Michael quickly displayed his broad business talents and dedication to the company early on and was promoted to manager in 2011. Along with our terrific TLAS team members, he has helped take the Southern branch of TLA to the top of the territory. We have high ambitions and exciting plans for the TLAS team in the upcoming years, and we are looking forward to having Michael lead the way in its continued growth and success.
Rob joined TLA in 2009 and has built our industry-leading Controls Department from the ground up.
He is extremely intelligent and has had a significant impact in bringing in a talented group of Controls team members. Through Rob’s leadership, we are proud to be recognized as the top Controls Agency in Colorado, if not the entire Country! Rob was also a crucial member in the concept and creation of Connect Solutions Group (CSG). This has been a unique business with an outstanding group of people that our competitors have yet to emulate or even compete with today. The future for TLA Controls and CSG is bright and limitless.
In recognition of their new roles, TLA Principal Ryan Stewart joined us for a conversation with Michael and Rob to talk about their experiences as managers, how TLA’s company culture and core values has supported their success, and what lies ahead.
Michael and Rob have done an incredible job – essentially running their businesses like companies within a company. Jason, Shane, and I are sincerely appreciative of their years of dedicated service to TLA’s clients, the company, and our growing team. As we steer TLA into the future, having their input on strategy and key decisions will be invaluable.
– Ryan Stewart
Keep reading for highlights from our conversation.
How has working at TLA been different from your previous experiences in the lighting industry?
Michael – I immediately felt the team atmosphere when I joined TLA, driving collaboration and creativity between our two offices. Our team has doubled in size from 5 to 10 employees since I onboarded, but more importantly, we have significantly grown our market share as our focus has evolved to proactively collaborating with architects, engineers, and contractors rather than just responding to quote requests. I’ve worked hard to grow our team from a satellite office to the Colorado Springs counterpart of the full-service agency that Art Fisher envisioned and implemented in Denver.
Rob – Prior to joining TLA I owned a high-end audio-video integration business, so my time with TLA has been my only experience within the commercial lighting industry. However, I can say that there were two things that immediately impressed me about TLA and their team – first that all the employees possess very detailed product knowledge that they use to proactively earn clients’ trust in the business, and second – in my opinion, there is a right and a wrong way to run a family business, and the Fishers are doing it RIGHT.
What are the three things you appreciate the most about working for a family-owned, people-centric company?
Michael – First the company’s commitment to employees, Second, the pride I feel working for a Colorado-owned and operated small business, and third, the relationships amongst team members and the knowledge that we are all more than just cogs in a machine.
Rob – TLA founder Art Fisher made his sons learn the business starting from entry-level positions. Because of this experience, Jason and Shane understand every nuance of what everyone does and know their people and company from the inside out making each of us feel visible, valued, and respected.
TLA is a values-driven business whose executives emphasize loyalty, personal relationships, and sales results. How have these core values shaped how you lead your department and team?
Rob – A lot of my leadership style has been developed from how TLA treats its employees. More asking than telling and people will buy in when they have input. Giving people a voice to feel that their ideas are being considered. Conversations drive improvement. Loyalty is earned – both with customers and employees. Same with respect. Art was good about getting multiple opinions and input and Jason, Shane, and Ryan have built on this “open door” tradition.
Michael – Having clear core values helps to maintain a productive, performance-driven office environment, recognize the value of individual team members, and empower all of us to take the ownership of making independent decisions while knowing that the executive team is there to support us as needed.
Ryan has described your department and team as being like a “company within a company” due to the amount of responsibility and autonomy that TLA has entrusted you with over the years. How has this trust and freedom enabled you to grow and succeed within your role and drive your area of the business?
Michael – Building off my response to the previous question, their trust has given me the confidence knowing that they have my back but also knowing that I have access to the resources I need to work independently. This autonomy allows managers to nimbly pivot according to specific situations and market conditions to best serve our clients.
Rob – Because they’ve entrusted me and the department with so much freedom, I’ve been able to independently address challenges in ways that are beneficial to both the company and our customers. Often, the Controls Team is tasked as the filter for project communication and negotiation amongst multiple parties – distributors, electrical contractors, and designers. We are the pivot point for trying to make everyone happy. And while we all know that you can’t make everyone happy all the time, the latitude that he has been given has made it possible for us to make all the people we do business with happy most of the time.
When onboarding new team members, how would you summarize your department’s mission statement?
Rob – In controls, and in the lighting industry in general, there are lots of pressure points and moving parts. As I mentioned before, our goal is to make all the people we do business with happy most of the time. My role as a manager is to make sure my team has the tools and support; they need to do their job to the best of their ability, while continuing to build our “best-in-class” organization.
Michael – TLAS is the only autonomous full-service lighting agency in Colorado Springs and our mission is to be a leader in the local market by providing full lighting and lighting control services. The Colorado Spring’s customer puts a high value on working with a local company and personal relationships are paramount. We serve the 2nd largest city in CO, and 39th largest in the nation – growing and adapting our business to better serve our clients has been very rewarding.
What advice would you share with your team regarding how to build their career at TLA and succeed within the lighting industry?
Rob – Embrace the company culture. Stay curious and grow your knowledge base and skills. When you’re invested in your career and the company, there will always be opportunities for advancement, enrichment, and growth.
Michael – Success in this industry is all about consistency and celebrating the small wins. Recognizing the importance of your everyday activities and working towards building long-term relationships is paramount to building your career. Consistently winning every day in small tasks is what has helped me grow. When your clients can count on you showing up for them, you’ll get more facetime, trust, and business.
What do you love most about your job?
Michael – While I’ve grown to love lighting and how it affects mood and space, what really drives me is helping our clients and team find solutions to complex problems. Lighting codes, controls, aesthetics, pricing – finding the right balance for each project and situation.
Rob – I love that every day is different. I’ve never been bored for 1 minute in 13 years. I thrive on challenges, problem-solving, helping clients, and my entrepreneurial instinct to build and improve things. But really at the end of the day, it all comes back to my colleagues. They are the best people I’ve ever worked with.
Finally, looking forward to your new role as an Associate, what are your goals and/or how do you foresee yourself contributing to the future success of the company?
Michael – My goals as an Associate will be the same as my time as a manager – to run a full-service, autonomous agency that drives a thriving spec-driven business in a growing market. Beyond this, I look forward to supporting my colleagues by guiding and mentoring them to achieve their own goals. I am excited to be involved with more “big picture” business decisions with Jason, Shane, Ryan, and Rob.
Rob – Being an entrepreneur at heart, I am excited to build this company into its future iteration. I’m honored to join the executive team in planning for all the possibilities for what comes next.
Rob and Michael will be instrumental in shaping the visions of TLA, TLAS, and CSG moving forward. Please join us in congratulating them on their new TLA Associates roles!
— Jason, Shane, Ryan, and Team TLA