By Shane Fisher
From the early days of the pandemic, The Lighting Agency recognized that we would feel real impacts on our business and team. We sat down with our Vice President Shane Fisher to talk about how TLA has reacted and been proactive in adapting to the changing situation in the construction industry.
Hi, I’m Shane Fisher, Vice President of Outside Sales at The Lighting Agency. If you’ve read my brother Jason’s post Leading a People-Centric Small Business in the Time of COVID-19, you’re already familiar with some of the pivots we made as a leadership team to ensure the health, safety, and productivity of our team. For my part, I oversee both internal operations and client projects as well as partnerships within the construction industry.
Beginning with the COVID-related school closures last March, we immediately knew that this was an evolving situation that would impact our lives and business.
Today, I’m here to talk about the real impacts we’ve seen on the lighting and construction industries, as well as what we’ve done as a company to pivot and push our business forward during these uncertain times.
From a managerial perspective, our most urgent challenges, once the decision was made to work remotely, were how to stay in touch with our customers, team, and manufacturers.
Internally, the daily in-person interactions really fostered ideas, strategies, and problem-solving. As a company, we were able to leverage technology to keep our key communication lines open and efficient.
We started using Teams amongst all TLA teams, and with clients and manufacturers, we hired a third party IT company to support remote work, and bought everyone a company laptop. We doubled-down on our investments in CRM, digital marketing, and instituted more mandatory meetings between departments to foster facetime and connection amongst our team.
Personally, I’ve spent more time reviewing bid jobs with both the quotes department and sales team, and have also been actively requesting feedback and suggestions from our people on how we can better connect with customers and continue to give them the service they deserve while we are working remotely.
Zoom and Teams became our go-to for virtual presentations and large remote meetings.
The past twelve months have been a crash course in how to make the most of technology for communication.
As someone who has always worked in a very relationship-driven and “in-person” industry, I have been impressed by how this abrupt IT/communications pivot has improved workflow and management efficiencies as compared to how we had always run meetings and communicated with our clients and teams.
Another great example of how we’ve pushed our business forward is the dedication and innovation of CSG (Connect Solutions Group). CSG was the only TLA department that was not able to transition to remote work due to the hands-on/in-person requirements of their jobs. CSG works within the controls group and pre-programs products that are ready to be installed on job sites.
I’ve got to give a big shout-out to Zach Navarro, who heads up this team, for being so proactive in following all the latest COVID-related safety guidelines, and keeping his group healthy while continuing to produce exceptional results for our clients.
Here in Denver and the Front Range region, we are somewhat cushioned from the recessionary impacts affecting other markets. The local economy was robust before the pandemic, so TLA has been able to work off our project backlog over the past year.
However, we have experienced some negative impacts on the construction industry, including project cancellations and postponements, and increased project costs due to heightened health/safety regulations and delays.
Specifically, we’ve seen this in the health care and hospitals sector due to the cancellation of elective surgeries and on projects involving office builds or schools due to remote work and learning. We don’t typically work on single-family homes, so I cannot speak to the status of that market directly; commercial construction of multi-family dwellings has continued to be strong in our area despite the pandemic.
I tend to lean toward being an optimist, so predict that despite the 5% drop in commercial projects nationwide, our region will continue to see growth and measurable recovery starting mid-2022.
The way we work with our construction industry partners changed in 2020. Specifiers did not allow people in their office, so virtual presentations from manufacturers have been a great resource.
Our marketing and events team has partnered with manufacturers to host “Lunch and Learns” and AIA and CEU accredited presentations, which have been impactful.
Ryan and Dawn are heading up these initiatives. We have never been a marketing-focused company, but this is something that we will continue to invest in moving forward.
On the products side, to date, there has only been a minimal impact on our supply chain and lead times with the majority of our manufacturers maintaining pre-pandemic lead times for most products. Due to the breadth and depth of our manufacturer roster, our sales team is able to steer clients to the best products for their applications that meet their project deadlines, including US-made, North America-made, and quick ship or stocked items.
And on a positive note, this past year has brought incredible ingenuity and advances in technology to the lighting industry, including germ-killing UV products that will help people get back to work and school safely.
UV lighting has become more in demand and we’re seeing it specified on a growing number of projects. Acuity Brands specifically has partnered with several UV lighting companies, including PURO to develop UV Angel and Care 222. These UV technologies, including VioletDefenseTM technology, apply different spectrums of the UV spectrum to kill different types of germs.
New products have been developed for use during times when rooms are occupied, or when they are vacant. Products that use a combination of UV light, and air movement to create a multi-layered and safer way to get rid of germs. There have also been innovations in flexible lighting solutions for offices that allow businesses to easily reconfigure lighting and/or furniture to meet their evolving staffing and/or space demands.
As I reflect on life in 2020 and what I’ve learned already in 2021, I have to circle back to the amazing TLA team.
During good times, it’s easier to take working with a strong team and in a dynamic industry for granted. Our company has always prided itself on being a people-centric family business, but I can tell you that I’ve never been more appreciative of this until now.
These past twelve months have been an uncertain time for all of us, both personally and professionally, but the incredible people here at The Lighting Agency have risen to the challenges and surpassed all expectations.
It’s been a conscious effort by a group of dedicated, determined, and talented people. Our team has provided superior customer service, and the type of forward-thinking innovation we need to remain the premier lighting agency in our market.
A BIG thank you to everyone at TLA and especially our managers: Rob Pries, Nick Berry, Zach Navarro, Michael Smoot, Will Cobb, Angela Leroux, Kathryn Lovda, and Evan Malkin. Each one of you has stepped up and self-directed while staying in sync with your teams.
Thanks for reading today, and I hope you’ll join me and everyone here at TLA in taking a positive outlook on what’s to come for 2021 and beyond!