My grandfather was a key figure in my life. He instilled in me a hard work ethic, often enlisting my siblings and I to help with heavy-duty cleaning chores at his house. He also taught me many life lessons. As a child, one lesson he tried to drive home with my siblings and I was: let your yes be yes and your no be no. It sounds so simple, right? Apparently a lot of business people didn’t have someone like my grandfather to teach them about integrity, because I see a lack of it in the business world today. However, I’m thankful for my grandfather’s lesson. I attribute my success in the lighting industry to always trying to do right by my customers. Whenever I tell my customers yes or no, I mean it.
As I expanded my business to include designing and manufacturing light fixtures through the formation of Sterling Lighting, I tried to follow this same, simple principle in all our dealings. I want to be upfront with my customers and tell them how it is.
So when a manufacturer offers a low quality product at a cheap price, I couldn’t care less. Many manufacturers have been doing this for years. While it may save money in the short term, I think it’s a dangerous practice to buy from manufacturers who market their products to the general public.
Imagine going out and giving an estimate for a 100 fixture system. If your estimate includes your design time, proper installation, and follow-up service, one would expect the cost to be over $20,000. However, most of your customers are not savvy enough to understand that product costs should be between 20-30% of the overall expense. So while they are researching landscape lighting online, ads from a manufacturer or direct lighting store lure them into purchasing 100 fixtures for $25-55 per fixture. Suddenly, you’ve become a commodity. Instead of your customer relying on your knowledge and expertise, you’ve simply become labor. It might have saved them a few bucks, but they’ve traded that for a quality lighting system.
A company that sells their products to homeowners are offering a DIY solution, not a professional-grade service. If you are a professional lighting company and you’re using a product like this, you do so at your own peril. You’re helping commoditize the industry.
At Sterling Lighting, our focus is to enhance the livelihood of other lighting professionals. I know how difficult this business can be. I’ve spent many evenings away from my family, adjusting a fixture to make certain everything we installed was perfect. The last thing we want to do is commoditize your efforts and disrespect your expertise. We’re here to help you thrive, and one of the ways we do this is by having integrity and making the choice to only sell directly to lighting professionals.
- Patrick Harders, Co-Owner