Healthy Distribution Channel

Let me put my biases aside, and write this from two perspectives. I sat on the electrical distributor side of the table for the majority of my career, I also took a gigantic leap of faith 10 years ago to be one of the first to introduce LED lighting to the market.

I’ve chosen a path for our company, and that is to sell and support one channel…..electrical distribution. Going back three generations in my family, this has always been a loyal, straight forward, honest, and talent rich channel. Electrical distributors and manufacturers have generally worked well together, the majority of the business written on both sides came from this alliance.

Perhaps the largest disruption in decades, LED lighting enters the market. I look back at the first 4 years in the LED business and view it as a time wherein I did more educating than any other single task. I made wild predictions that the traditional “Big 3” lamp companies would not remain on top, and that they’d experience massive change in the coming years. I was asked to participate on a panel at Lightfair several years ago, speaking to investment professionals with Piper Jaffray. The panel consisted of executives from Philips, GE, Sylvania….and me? I was the odd man in this scenario, and I was the lone man as I disagreed with their premises on almost every point. It was a lot of fun for me, and when time had ended, I spent another hour with the audience in the hallway answering questions and explaining why I thought the market would be dramatically different in 5 years. No need to elaborate here, we’ve all seen what has happened.

The general formula for a good relationship in the electrical distribution channel is balance. The manufacturer provides products and services at a consistent and fair price; the distributor provides the access to the channel for the manufacturers, through the product, service, pricing, and wide market coverage. Both sides rely on quality product, relationships, performance, continued growth, and most importantly profitability for both. This formula can only work with one intangible, trust.

It is a healthy process, that healthy distributors engage in often, and that is evaluating your suppliers. The basics of these evaluations cover a lot of data driven discussion, and not as often is there communication with the supplier. It’s common to review turns, service, sales, profit, product issues, warranty claims, ROI, etc. Note I did not include the intangible….trust. With all of the LED lighting suppliers that have sprung up over the last several years, it may seem as if it’s murky waters. Many times we’ll see distribution try “xyz” supplier this time. Next time it might be “abc” supplier, and again it maybe “123” supplier. But is there any review of these lines, wherein a cohesive bond and trust are fostered? My experience would tell me that while Salesperson Joe may like “abc” and Salesperson Diane may like “xyz”, the only time these lines are discussed is when something goes wrong. And many times “management” doesn’t even know what companies its salespeople are buying from. The so called “Manufacturer” may, or may not be available to talk when the problem occurs. He or She is off with a new Company (or calling on another distributor or maybe no longer in the job), and out of the loop. Now the problem is in the distributor’s hands, and it’s costing them money and damaging trust with their client.

So, should those lines be reviewed? Yes! It is vital that the distributor understand the basics of working with a “new” LED lighting manufacturer. As more and more Asian companies set up businesses in the U.S. selling LEDs (lamps and fixtures), understanding their approach to business is critical. They don’t follow the typical model, they are happy to sell it direct to your customer, sell it to your competitor down the street, or sell it to the end user. They don’t care or respect the model which has existed in the electrical channel for many decades. They are not going to change their “immediate sale” mentality to foster a long term partnership model.

Here are the five questions I’d ask any new “manufacturer” wanting to do business:

  1. How long have you been in business? – If the answer is less than 5+ years, I’d be concerned on how they plan to warrant their product for 10 years?
  2. Can you give me a list of distributors you have an active vendor status with? If they can’t produce any, that’s a red flag. I’ve had many LED companies ask me, “how can you afford the insurance that these distributors are asking for?”
  3. Do you go to market through manufacturer reps? If yes, ask the agents about the company and the positioning on their line card. If no, how do they market and support the distribution channel?
  4. What is your support structure? Who do we contact for sales, project management, quotations, technical support, and warranty claims? Most of these companies don’t have infrastructure built out to support distribution.
  5. Where is your manufacturing and/or warehouse located? If the answer is anything short of brick and mortar in the U.S., how can they supply and fulfill your orders?

Not all LED lighting companies are playing on the same field, as I mentioned previously.  Most don’t understand the role of distribution, or how to support it. These are the same companies selling on Amazon Business, E-bay, Build.com, etc. The key to success is trust, and if they aren’t squarely in your corner, then there is no way that trust can be built.

Perhaps you’ll give me a call and let me earn your trust?

NEMRA logo

START Lighting Becomes Member of NEMRA

Denver LED Lighting Manufacturer Becomes Approved Vendor for National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association; Opens Channel for New Business

DENVER, Colo. – (Sept. 26, 2016) – START Lighting, a Denver-based manufacturer of high-quality LED lighting products for the commercial electrical industry, today announced that they have been accepted for membership to NEMRA (National Electrical Manufacturers Representatives Association).

Founded in 1969, NEMRA is a global leader in promoting and developing independent reps as an indispensable channel to market for the electrical industry. The organization offers regional events and vetted databases that help manufacturers and independent agents connect and do business.

“We’re excited to join the NEMRA fold,” said Jason Barbour, START Lighting’s CEO. “Being a participating member of this esteemed organization gives us not only improved credibility and visibility in the industry, but a faster path to finding the right representative in the right regional market.”

“We are very pleased to have START Lighting as a new member of the NEMRA Manufacturers Group,” said Kenneth Hooper, president of NEMRA. “They join a growing list of lighting manufacturers who are benefitting from being a part of NEMRA and our network of professional representative firms.”

About START Lighting

START Lighting manufactures high quality LED products for the commercial electrical industry. Producing both off-the-shelf and customized solutions, START Lighting provides innovative solutions to commercial lighting challenges. By cutting product development time from months to as little as a week, we can produce custom-made lighting products faster than competitors while still meeting our rigorous performance and quality standards. To find out more, please visit www.start-lighting.com.

 

start-lighting-website

START Lighting’s New Website Signals Ambitions in Niche

Commercial LED Manufacturer Refines Online
Presence and Brand in Preparation for Growth

DENVER, Colo. – (May 31, 2016) – START Lighting, a Denver-based manufacturer of high-quality LED products for the commercial electrical industry, today announced the launch of their new website.

The new website was an opportunity to refine the company’s online brand presence and visitor experience in parallel with the addition of new board members, new business development muscle and the imminent expansion of its product lines.

Electrical distributors and energy service companies (ESCOs) can now more easily find and spec START Lighting’s wide selection of energy-efficient LED fixtures and lamps, get ideas from the company blog and locate agents to facilitate sales.

“We’re positioning for next-level growth and needed a more compelling way to communicate our quality and breadth to current and potential clients,” said Jason Barbour, START Lighting’s CEO. “The new website will showcase our bid to be an even more formidable player in the staid commercial lighting arena.”

About START Lighting

START Lighting manufactures high quality LED products for the commercial electrical industry. Producing both off-the-shelf and customized solutions, START Lighting provides innovative solutions to commercial lighting challenges. By cutting product development time from months to as little as a week, we can produce custom-made lighting products faster than competitors while still meeting our rigorous performance and quality standards. To find out more, please visit www.start-lighting.com.

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For more information please contact us.

 

Denver Lighting Manufacturer Adds Two to Board

Bob Grant, Robert C. Hawk to Help Guide Commercial LED Light Maker

DENVER, Colo. – (Jan. 26, 2016) – START Lighting, a Denver-based manufacturer of high-quality LED products for the commercial electrical industry, today announced that Bob Grant and Robert C. Hawk have joined the company’s board.

Bob Grant brings more than 25 years of experience as a senior executive to his new role with START Lighting. Mr. Grant’s experience spans a wide range of companies, from Fortune 100 to start-ups, with a focus on services and technology. He has held executive roles in sales, marketing and business development in high-tech companies including EagleView Technologies, Alliente (acquired by Ariba), Ligos Corporation, Covad Communications (IPO) and US WEST (merged with Qwest). Bob Grant is an angel investor and advisor to several high-tech startups in the Denver area and holds a Masters of Science in Management from the MIT Sloan School of Management (Sloan Fellow 1988). He has served on the board of several companies and non-profits.

Robert C. Hawk is president of Hawk Communications, whose mission is to help develop high technology companies. In 1997 he retired as President and CEO of US West Multimedia Communications, Inc., where he was responsible for the Media 1 cable business and the Time Warner partnership. From 1986 until 1995, Hawk was president of the Carrier Division of U S West Communications, Inc. From 1997-2002, he served as a Special Limited Partner of Crosspoint Venture Partners, helping take 16 companies public in board and advisory roles. He is currently a Special Limited Partner of DCM capital management and Miramar Venture Partners and serves as a director of several private high technology companies.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome these two accomplished and gifted businessmen to our board,” said Jason Barbour, START Lighting’s CEO. “As we aim for a new era of growth, I know their wisdom and knowledge will be a major contributing factor to our success.”

About START Lighting

START Lighting manufactures high quality LED products for the commercial electrical industry. Producing both off-the-shelf and customized solutions, START Lighting provides innovative solutions to commercial lighting challenges. By cutting product development time from months to as little as a week, we can produce custom-made lighting products faster than competitors while still meeting our rigorous performance and quality standards. To find out more, please visit www.start-lighting.com.

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For more information please contact us.