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Our Mission

This article is the second in our series on the building blocks of a successful business. You can read the first article here.

If purpose is your business’ “Why,” then mission is its “How.”

As you may recall from our last issue, purpose sets your business’ direction. It is the driving force behind some of the most important decisions you’ll make as a business owner. However, purpose is not something that can be fulfilled or accomplished. That is why discovering purpose is only the first step. Next, you must craft your company’s mission statement.

Mission is what you use to measure how well you are moving toward your purpose.

Think of purpose as a cardinal direction, such as “West.” You can travel west for an eternity, but it is not a final destination. What measures your success and your impact is not reaching your purpose. Instead, it is the pace at which you travel. Just as you can travel towards West at 1 MPH or 1,000 MPH, your business can move towards its purpose at a slow or fast pace.

Mission is what you use to measure how well you are moving toward your purpose. For example, let’s say your purpose statement is, “We will dazzle our customers with outstanding lighting designs.” Although you have a lot of leeway with that purpose statement, it sets confines and kickstarts discussion about how well you’re doing. Although you’re moving toward your purpose if you work all year and end up dazzling two of your customers, your business won’t be around for long at that pace.

You want your mission to stretch you. This is where your BHAG comes into play. Your Big Hairy Audacious Goal should be something that’s achievable, but also challenges you to work harder and smarter to obtain it. It could include a dollar amount (“Our mission for 2018 is to make $1,000,000 in sales”). It could include a number of installations (“Our mission for 2018 is to complete 300 installations”). There are so many possibilities, but it’s up to you to figure out what’s right for your company.  

Once you have your mission set, you are better equipped to plan out the steps to achieve it. In order to fulfill your mission, you may need to hire more technicians, buy a new truck, or launch a new marketing campaign. After you’ve come up with three or four actionable steps, you’re on your way to effectively completing your mission and pursuing your purpose.

There may be bumps along the way, but when you set goals and you have a clear idea of where you’re going with your business, you’ll be able to achieve more.

Damien Sanchez – Co-Owner

This article appeared in the sixth issue of our newsletter. If you’d like to read more articles like this, visit our NEWSLETTER PAGE and sign up to receive our free newsletter in the mail! 

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

Co-Owner

Want to read more articles like this? Contact sarah@sllights.com and we’ll sign you up to receive our monthly newsletter.  

Lessons From My Grandfather

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 5 years ago 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

Three Reasons Our Mini Flood Light Shines

If you haven’t already added the SL04 Mini Flood Light to your design repertoire, we think you should. Here are three reasons we know you’ll love using the SL04 just as much as we do. Some of our reasons may surprise you!

The not-so-standard flood light

Even though it might look like a standard mini flood, it’s anything but standard. With a 140° beam spread and five adjustable lumen settings*, it just goes to show that not all lights are created equal. This mini monster of a light is a prime example.

Brighten dormers and gables with ease

Second and third stories on homes can be challenging to illuminate. Larger fixtures with more light output are heavy and unsightly, while lighter, smaller fixtures lack the appropriate output. But the power behind the SL04 means it only takes a few to light a large space all at once. Its compact size and weight means mounting it won’t be a chore, so mount it on the roof, in the gutter, or above a portico, and watch it shine!

A path light In disguise

The SL04 is amazing at highlighting vertical surfaces. But pair it with a 6”, 12”, 18” or 24” brass extension stem, and it transforms into a single direction pathway light! Who knew it could be so versatile!

SL04 illuminating a walkway



Do you have any creative ways you’ve used one of our fixtures? Have another topic you’d like to see us address? We’d love to hear about it! Give us a call at 703-454-8207 or send us an email at Sarah@SLLights.com.

*Adjustable lumen options: 400lm, 320lm, 240lm, 180lm, and 100lm. 

The Pros and Cons of Design Demos

In the lighting business, a design demonstration is a double-edged sword. It can be a fantastic tool to secure a project, but it can also be a waste of time and effort if nothing comes of it. So, how do you know when you should do a demo? We’ve broken down some pros and cons that could help!

PROS:

There’s nothing else like it

It’s hard to beat that moment when you flip the switch to show your client their beautifully illuminated home. Pictures or explanations just can’t compare. Seeing the design come to life can be an emotional experience, and it helps homeowners get excited about the beauty and security that lighting can provide. There’s no doubt a demo is a very helpful sales tool.

What they see is what they get

A demo helps the client get a concrete understanding of exactly what their lighting system will look like – from the fixture placement to the color temperature. This can prevent post-installation changes if expectations were not communicated well.

It gives the client control

Lighting demos make the design process much more fluid. Often, the homeowner will make requests to add or move lights, eventually creating their ideal layout. This is especially helpful for less experienced designers (though, it’s great for the experienced as well!) because the customer will have more control and can make requests easily.

Before… and After!

CONS:

It’s inconvenient

Honestly, spending an evening showing a customer lights without a guaranteed sale isn’t the most appealing proposition. We all have things we would rather be doing after the workday is done.

You could be giving away your expertise for free

A demo is a great way to showcase your design skills, but if you have a lighting-savvy client, they could potentially just take your ideas and install the fixtures themselves. Plus, if you leave flags in the ground to mark lighting locations, you could be giving tips to your competition!

An incomplete demo looks worse than no demo at all

If your lighting demo kit doesn’t have enough lights to show a complete design, then your final product won’t be very impressive, and you may actually hurt your chances of getting the job.  
 

If you decide that a demo is worth it, here are some of our suggestions to ensure yours is as successful as possible:

 

  • Find out your client’s budget and make sure your design fits it beforehand.
  • Ask what they hope to accomplish with their lighting project. Increased curb appeal? Improved safety and visibility for dark walkways and steps? Added security on the property? Make sure your demo addresses all these needs.
  • Determine their desired timeline. If they’re not ready to commit yet, a demo may not be your best move.
  • Be direct about the business relationship. It’s important to know your client’s intentions before you invest your time. Politely ask, “If I’m able to accomplish what you are looking for within your budget after performing the demo, will we earn your business?”