Our Purpose

This story was published in the June edition of our newsletter. It is the first installment in our series on building an intentional company culture.  

Your purpose is one of your company’s most valuable assets.

While this statement may seem like hyperbole, I’ve personally seen the enormous impact of purpose in my own company. It’s foundational to your business. Your purpose dictates and guides how your company runs and how far it will go. It’s your compass telling you what to take on and what to say no to. It provides everyone in the organization a direction to work towards. You support your purpose with a common set of values shared by you and everyone on your team. Ultimately, your purpose and your core values will shape your company’s culture.

It took us a number of years to find our purpose as a company. We had trouble articulating it, but it just needed to be discovered. We asked questions like “why did we start the business,” “what do we enjoy about the business,” and “what motivates us to continue in this business?” For us, we realized it wasn’t about what we do, but how we can positively impact others.

However, even after that realization, it took some time for Pat and I to work out how we could form a cohesive purpose when we owned three very different companies: a manufacturing company, a mosquito control company, and a lighting installation company. So, we began to try and answer the “why” questions of our businesses by listing out what we wanted to accomplish: good stewardship, building others up, providing for our families, and helping others.

From there, we were finally able to discover our purpose statement. Now, everyone who works at Sterling Lighting knows our purpose well: We practice faithful stewardship over everything that is entrusted to us, and we positively influence all those who come into contact with us. It’s why we exist as an organization. It also prevents people from working here that do not share our vision, and it gives us a unified direction we’re all committed to moving toward.

Understanding and articulating your purpose statement is difficult enough, but applying it takes even more creativity and effort. However, we’ve worked hard to be intentional about living out our purpose and letting it guide how we run our business. Our purpose gives us a yardstick to measure our decisions against. Either consciously or unconsciously, we always ask ourselves: Will this decision make a positive impact on the lives of our customers, employees, family members, or friends?

So, when we design and manufacture high-quality products, our purpose underlies our choice not to cut corners to save 15% on a product that will fail in two years. Poorly-made LED fixtures that need repair work after a couple years will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. However, by using quality materials and cutting-edge technology, we’re able to offer you a product you’ll feel confident installing.

When we decided how we would sell our fixtures, our purpose guided our choice to sell directly to contractors instead of distributors. While this may have slowed our growth because we’ve had to build our brand from the ground up, it has also saved us 20-30% on our fixtures. We’ve then been able to pass those savings along to you! Selling directly to contractors has also allowed us to form stronger relationships with you, our customer.

Finally, when we asked ourselves what else we could do to positively impact our customers, our purpose underlay our decision to create marketing programs, such as Sterling Storefront. We wanted to help our fellow small business owners with an aspect of their business that, because of the time and money involved, often gets put off to the side. Our hope is that by offering affordable, easy-to-use marketing solutions, you’ll be able to more effectively get the word out about your company.

Other marketing programs are also in the works. Just last month, we went and visited a couple of our customers down in Florida, Tim Pleasant and Tim Salopek, to shoot company videos and testimonials for them. In the future, we hope to continue to use our video and marketing resources to help even more of our customers.

Ultimately, I believe that when we fulfill our purpose, we help your business thrive. This, in turn, gives you more time and energy to positively impact the people in your own life. This is why I encourage all entrepreneurs to form and embrace a purpose.

Once you know your purpose, you can form your core values, which determine how you act. With purpose influencing your decisions and core values influencing your actions, you begin to form an intentional culture in your company. You will spend so much of your life working in your business, why create an accidental culture that doesn’t align with the vision of what you want your company to look like? Purpose is just the first step, but it’s an important one.

Damien Sanchez


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Simplicity is the Key to Successful Lighting Design

If you’re in the business of outdoor lighting, you can sometimes feel like the man with the spinning plates at a carnival. In any given job, you have to balance an overwhelming number of variables: the exact placement of each and every fixture, the style of the lights, the installation team’s work orders, marketing and advertising for your business, providing customer service, trade alliance management, and more! The last thing you need is an unnecessary complication that screws up a simple task. For instance, we can all relate to how frustrating it is to send a service technician on an hour drive across town to fix a minor issue, only to have him turn around because he doesn’t have the right part.

When we used a variety of insert LED bulbs, that problem would happen constantly. To suit our homeowners’ needs, we had to carry three different types of 200 lumen bulbs – narrow, wide, and very wide beam spread. We also had three bulbs for the 400 lumen bulbs, and we were brave enough (or dumb enough), to have a 600 lumen LED bulb that had three different types as well. That meant that each truck had to be stocked with a minimum of 9 different LED mr16 bulbs at all times. We then had to deal with updating inventory whenever manufacturers upgraded the bulbs, which was an additional challenge.

To complicate it even further, we also offered 3000k, 2700k, and 4500k bulbs. Our trucks looked like the light bulb aisle at Home Depot! Couple this with the fact that many of our homeowners needed halogen bulbs, the G4, bayonet single and double contact, and a variety of other specialty bulbs, it was all too easy to slip up and send a guy out unprepared. As a business, we needed to focus on providing great service and landing new jobs, so the amount of time wasted on these repair trips was maddening.

Our solution to this nightmare was to simplify. We did this by creating a fixture that was as close to perfect as possible. We spent many long nights with our engineers designing an LED fixture that does not fail, and we are very proud of how well it performs. However, we all know that there will be times when a service call is needed, but those service calls are a whole lot easier with this ideal fixture. The SL01 Up Light LED insert has five different brightness settings and five different beam spread settings. That’s like carrying 25 different LED inserts in a single box! With a long-lasting bulb and an incredibly versatile replacement insert, we accomplished our goal of simplifying a complicated issue in a way that would make repairs easier for lighting technicians.

What we didn’t expect was that this simplification didn’t just make repairs easier, but it also made installations easier. In the past, when we had a homeowner who wanted their system a little brighter after the install was finished, we would have to change out every bulb. We then ended up with tons of spare light bulbs rolling around in our trucks. Now, we’re able to make that change with the flip of a switch inside the fixture! How much simpler can it get?

This solution is also a win for homeowners. When we’re consulting on a design, we can comfort them by explaining that we can easily change the brightness or beam spread after the install. We can even adjust brightness over the years as their trees grow and the appearance of the lighting system is altered.

In business and design, we always try to keep things simple, so you can focus less on service calls and stocking your trucks and more on growing your business and providing excellent service to your customers.

Patrick Harders


The Benefits of Trade Alliances

Generally, a trade alliance is a partnership between two companies in complementary trades with the goal of mutual growth. And the green industry especially offers unique opportunities for lighting professionals to develop such partnerships. Finding a few good ones can be unbelievably beneficial.

However, creating trade alliances can be very challenging. They aren’t as simple as attending a business-networking meeting and handing out a few business cards. If you’re serious about long-term trade alliances it will take time to set expectations and to build trust. Still, if you’re diligent, these partnerships can grow your company in ways you will not find elsewhere.

Here are some key things to keep in mind when pursuing trade alliances.

  1. Seek out companies that have a good reputation. There’s nothing quite like working alongside a company with a good name. You’re more likely to have a great experience with a homeowner who has had a great experience with a partner company.
  2. Give first. Once you’ve found other, good companies, find ways to introduce them to your customers. The best way to gain referrals is to give referrals.
  3. Setting up a referral fee agreement is a great way to show partner companies you value the hard work it takes to garner new customers. It’s nice to know they’ll get a little bonus when their customer becomes yours too.
  4. Keep it simple. Most contractors don’t want to add your landscape lighting to their own contract. Make sure they know that you’re happy taking care of the consultation process, initial installation, as well as future service calls, so they won’t have to.

We know that there are other things to take into consideration, but if you have ever considered pursuing trade alliances, we know these suggestions will help give you a head start. While the process can sometimes be challenging it is definitely worth it.

Our 2017 Photo Contest is Under Way!

Photos are rolling in for our 2017 Photo Contest! Check out these beautiful lighting designs from our Sterling Lighting customers!

From Dusk to Dawn St. Louis

From Radiant Exterior Lighting

From Radiant Exterior Lighting

From Radiant Exterior Lighting

From Radiant Exterior Lighting

From Radiant Exterior Lighting

From Radiant Exterior Lighting

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to win a professional video marketing package for your company! For more information, visit our Photo Contest Page.

To vote for your favorite photos, look for #SterlingLighting on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram!

The contest ends July 1st, so go ahead and send your photos to!

Maintenance Agreements 101

Now is a great time to contact your customers and remind them of the value of routine maintenance on their lighting system. Regular maintenance will ensure their lights look great for years to come. And, of course, it’s a great way to stay in front of your customers, it provides extra revenue over the course of the year, and it can be a great opportunity to offer discounts for new work!

Why should your customers sign up for a maintenance plan? Here are some key service benefits you can offer them:

Averting system problems early.

Maintenance can reduce the possibility of a breakdown. While it is impossible to avoid all repair situations, preventive care can save a lot of money on unanticipated landscape lighting emergencies – especially those last minute service calls just before a big, backyard BBQ!

Clearing away the junk.

Over the course of the summer, grass clippings, mulch, silt and growing plants can block or limit light output. Uncovering fixtures, trimming plants, and cleaning lenses can ensure the system shines.

Improved efficiency.

This is specifically for the customers who still have halogen systems in place. Did you know that if one halogen bulb fails that the other bulbs on the system are put under greater stress and could fail prematurely? Keep the bulbs up to date and keep your customers delighted.

Identification of faulty parts.

During the summer, a system can experience wear. Even when using high quality products, lights can get bumped out of alignment or wires and connections can be exposed or broken. A quick trip allows for parts to be repaired or replaced as needed.

In the end, maintenance visits don’t just keep a system looking great all year long, they also help you avoid unhappy customers. So, when preparing your agreements, these are a few specifics you can include so you’re sure to be the hero!

  • Inspection of all parts, noting those that may need to be replaced or repaired.
  • Inspection for moisture intrusion.
  • Inspection and adjustment of tree and cable mounts as needed.
  • Inspection of fittings and connections.
  • Inspection and cleaning of LED components.
  • Cleaning of all fixture lenses.
  • Cleaning all fixture finishes (we recommend WD-40 for our brass products)
  • Adjustment of fixture positioning to ensure proper illumination.
  • Minor plant and tree pruning around fixtures to optimize night effect.
  • Testing and re-setting of system controls (timers/photocells)
  • Testing amperage at the transformer.
  • Evaluation of overall system performance.

With all these things in mind, you can go out there and keep your customers happy with their outdoor lighting for many years to come.