by TLA Staff
Back in 1989 when CFLs were all the rage, Michael ‘Mike’ Barbalacci met with Bob Bullock over lunch one afternoon. Our founder Art Fisher and Bob Bullock were looking to bolster the TLA team and asked the up-and-coming distributor rep if he’d consider leaving his current job for the opportunity to become employee number 9 at The Lighting Agency. It took Mike about two seconds to reply with a resounding “YES!” And the rest will go down in TLA history as part of the 30-plus-years Mike spent with us here.
We sat down with Mike and Ryan Stewart— Principal of Outside Sales—a few weeks ago to talk about Mike’s career, plans for retirement, and how he has helped shaped TLA as it exists today.
Ryan described Mike as someone who consistently set the tone for the work hard, play hard company mentality that has come to define our entire team. In the quotes department, there is a deadline every day for what you’re submitting. You have to provide accurate and timely information for all jobs – no matter the size of the job. There’s a lot of pressure there, but there’s also a lot of fun.
Mike earned his reputation by always providing the most comprehensive quotes for every job he bid on. He further distinguished himself by his remarkable ability to build strong personal relationships with everyone he works with. According to Ryan:
“Since Mike came on board, TLA has grown into the premier lighting agency in Colorado and Southern Wyoming. Mike’s work ethic, perfectionism, and sense of joie de vivre helped set the bar for two generations of the TLA team.”
Mike enters into personal interactions believing he can get along with everyone. As a result of this philosophy, over the years, many of his clients and industry associates have become close personal friends.
Mike is adamant that fostering strong relationships with our clients makes it easier to work out any problems that may arise. In his own words:
“Construction is a business built on personal relationships – it still requires one-on-one relationships. This is something I strive to teach our younger employees. Don’t underestimate how important it is to work well with people: make friends, don’t burn bridges.”
When asked about how he has built such a long and storied career with TLA, Mike is very clear:
“Stay focused. There’s going to be good times and bad times, but it’s really all been good times in the end. If I had not gotten in with TLA, I probably wouldn’t be at the good place I am now. Stick to it and stay focused. Especially at TLA. It’s an exceptional company to work with.”
Reflecting on how his influence may have shaped the next generation of lighting industry professionals, Mike observes that the Millennials in the office are smart and eager to learn the complex, technical details they would need to succeed. He is particularly complimentary of Will, the quotes department manager – who he joked is so smart that only asks Mike for advice occasionally – and of Joey, Bob Bullock’s son, who Mike has known since (Joey’s) birth!
Around LoHi, Mike is something of a local celebrity – he’s a foodie, and all the restaurants and their owners know him. Mike smiles and admits that he’s been to hundreds of restaurants in Denver—he loves to eat but also loves to cook. In fact, one of his retirement plans includes enrolling in culinary school and then working his way up to sous-chef. Actually, Mike is a man of many intense and interesting hobbies—he is also a champion car racer, expert snowboarder, accomplished cyclist, and “that guy with the perfect yard that all the neighbors envy.”
Ryan reflects that along with Art and Bob, Mike has been instrumental in laying the foundation for growth and creating the company culture that has led the company to where it stands today.
TLA feels fortunate to have the pick of who we want to come work with the company. There are so many good people working at TLA, and we appreciate the unique contribution made by each member of the team. Growth has always been a top priority, and Mike has absolutely been at the forefront, paving the way for the company’s future.
For his part, Mike feels especially grateful for the generosity that the Fisher family has shown over the years to everyone that works at TLA. He believes that company culture, and the entire TLA family have made it possible for him to do what he’s done with his career and his life. Mike takes pride in knowing the many ways that he has been able to contribute to the growth and success of the agency since coming on board.
When asked what he will miss the most after he retires, Mike laughs, then says:
“Everything. This is what I do. I won’t miss doing long hours. But what I will probably miss most in the friendship and comradery. The majority of my friends are right here at the agency. This is the part that I will miss the most. Miss coming into the department each morning – the kids make fun of me because I’m older than they are. I make fun of them because they’re younger than I am…”
To conclude our interview, we asked Mike to think about a humorous memory that captured the essence of his time at TLA. One memory that sprung to mind involved Art.
“For everyone that knew Art, you know he had a crazy sense of humor, and that he always answered his phone—no matter what, he answered his phone…
Well TLA always has a company holiday party. One year Art was in the midst of an hour-long Christmas speech—we were all packed into a restaurant, listening… And then Art’s phone starts ringing, and of course he answers…
And it’s Shane calling him from the other side of the room!”
Thank you, Mike, for this humorous holiday memory, and all the memories over the years. TLA wouldn’t be who we are today without you!
A Message from Jason and Shane Fisher
It is with mixed emotions that we will be saying goodbye to Mike Barbalacci in his decision to retire from The Lighting Agency.
We have known Mike for over 30 years, ever since he started at TLA. He has been a loyal friend, mentor, and example to all of us on how to work hard, play hard, and how to win. Mike has a work ethic that is unmatched in our industry. But most importantly, Mike is an outstanding person. He truly cares about other people and is incredibly generous.
We are all happy for Mike in this decision but will miss seeing him every day at the office. This doesn’t mean, however, Mike will be a stranger to TLA. We know the friendships we have developed will stay strong moving forward.
The Lighting Agency congratulates Mike on an incredible career. We want to personally thank him for everything he has done for us through the years.
We wish Mike the best in his future ventures!
Jason & Shane Fisher
President & Vice President
As we wish Mike all the best in his new adventures and along his path to culinary excellence, we’d like to invite you to extend your well-wishes. Please email Mike here.