15 Mar CEO Town Hall
Earlier this year SLG held a town hall meeting where our employees were encouraged to ask questions of our new CEO. Below are a sample of the questions submitted and the CEO’s answers.
Q: I have heard you say repeatedly in meetings that the agency principal is king and that our agencies are our first customer. Can you explain that to everyone?
A: Our strategy going into 2017 is to go to market by partnering with lighting agencies and sell to C&I electrical wholesalers. Every lighting agency is owned by an agency principal. Those agency principals can make SLG very successful in their market if we are easy to do business with and support their sales effort. We have set up our business strategy to make the agency principal king and the agency our first customer. All of us at SLG need to support and serve our agencies with fast and professional service. These agency principals do not always get the respect they deserve from manufacturers because the leaders of their other manufacturers have never walked in the principal’s shoes. I have walked in their shoes and I know what it is like to be an agency principal. Because of this, I am totally committed to making SLG the type of lighting manufacturer that every agency principal wants to represent and partner with.
Q: If SLG were to model itself after a fast food restaurant, who would you want us to model ourselves after?
A: Wow! Great question! I think McDonald’s has really transformed their chain over the last several years and you will more likely see a cup of McDonald’s coffee in my hand each morning than a Starbucks. With that said, I think Chick-Fil-A is really an amazing company. They hire great people, have great customer service and serve really great food. The founder of Chick-Fil-A was a truly remarkable man and I recently read a quote of his. He said “We should be about more than just selling chicken. We should be a part of our customers’ lives and the communities in which we serve.” I want SLG to be about more than just selling light fixtures. Don’t get me wrong…we need to sell our products to pay the bills and everyone’s salaries, but SLG can be about more than just selling LED lighting. That is why we launched our corporate citizenship initiative earlier this year. I have managed a lot people over the years I firmly believe that great people want to work for companies with character and that aren’t afraid to show they have a heart. Chick-Fil-A is that type of company and that’s why they have great people.
Q: What was the biggest thing that brought you to SLG?
A: Well there were a lot of things that attracted me to SLG but if you want me to just identify one I would say our products. SLG has really great quality products and because we are a vertically integrated manufacturing company, we have manufacturing cost advantages that most of our competitors just don’t have. I am very confident that with our quality and cost advantages that we can build SLG into a great lighting company in North America with a more effective sales strategy.
Q: I know you have been in the lighting industry for a while and I am brand new to the industry. What have you noticed as the biggest change since you first started in the industry?
A: Well I started in the lighting industry right before NAFTA was signed and at time almost all of the lighting products sold were produced in the US. Almost immediately after Bill Clinton signed NAFTA the lighting companies started building plants in Monterrey and moving production to Mexico. That “Giant Sucking Sound” that Ross Perot talked about actually came to be in the lighting industry. Fast forward twenty-five years and very little manufacturing is now done in the US and almost all of our competitors have huge factories in Mexico or are importing from China. Today we even have a lot of lighting companies representing themselves as “manufacturers” when they only have a handful of office employees and don’t manufacturer or design anything and import all of their products from China. It’s a little like the “Wild West” right now because there are so many lighting companies emerging and misrepresenting who they really are. We are living in very interesting times in our industry.
Q: We have come out with a product guarantee and a 10 year warranty. Is that really necessary to offer both and won’t it cost the company a lot of money?
A: I don’t know about you, but when I spend money on something I want to have confidence in what I am buying. I also want to know that the companies that I do business with will stand behind their products. I feel like we need to do the same. I know the quality of our products and also know that of our competition. I believe we have better quality than all of those guys, so I have no concerns about offering the product guarantee. As for the 10 year warranty, we manufacturer our own parts and components and I know the testing that goes into every product we ship. Because we use the highest quality components, I have no concerns about offering the warranty. Trust me, if we didn’t make great quality products I would definitely worry about the cost associated with offering both of these, but we make great products so we are offering both.
Q: I heard that we might relocate to Dallas. Is this true and why?
A: We are strongly considering opening a new and larger distribution center in the DFW market. We will still keep our warehouse in Houston, but this new facility would be larger and serve as our new HQ. We are still looking at sites and our goal is to be in a large distribution center by mid-summer.
Q: So would you consider SLG a Chinese company or an American company?
A: Considering that we are headquartered in Houston and pay US corporate taxes, I think we are definitely an American company and much more so than any US lighting company that is strategically headquartered off-shore to avoid paying US taxes. With that said, we openly acknowledge that we have manufacturing facilities in China but our HQ and North American operation is in Texas. Let’s face it our customer may not realize this but the truth is that almost every lighting company in the US is sourcing parts, components and/or finished products from China. The difference between us and them is that our products come directly from our own manufacturing facility and we are very transparent with our customers about it.
Q: Why did SLG pick Hidden Heroes as an organization to give money to?
A: When an American is severely wounded fighting for his or her country it totally changes their lives. It also dramatically changes the lives of their family members that now need to care for them. Hidden Heroes is an organization chaired by Tom Hanks that gives support to these military caregivers. It’s an extremely worthy cause and we are honored to support them by pledging 1% of our earnings. Could you imagine the impact it would have if every lighting company in the United States gave 1% of their earnings to charitable organizations?
Q: What do you want SLG to look like in five years?
A: I want SLG to be the type of company that every one of our agencies loves to do business with and where our employees love coming to work each day. I also want SLG to be a company that recruits and develops great talent into our industry. I want us to remain privately owned and in full control of our business and our future. I want us to remain steadfast and committed to our growth through the agency sales model. I want us to make LED lighting much more affordable so that price is no longer a reason for a customer to go with outdated technology.