Photo by Jim Lucy
Bernie Ericson and Bill Attardi

Transitions Are Always Messy

March 2, 2015
The author has a different take on the impact of LEDs than his friend, Chris Brown of Wiedenbach-Brown, who sketched out the lighting market’s “Illumigeddon” in last month’s issue.

The lighting industry is going through a transition, to put it mildly. We have all been though transitions in our lives. Think about it — in most cases, it’s just plain messy, whether it’s in your personal life, a company, an organization, or, as we see, in an industry. There’s conflict. Conflict between those that don’t like change in any form as change is in conflict with who they are, in conflict with their behavioral DNA. They don’t want change, they like it the way it is. Most likely, they are successful people that see change/transition as a threat to their success.

Then there are those that work well in a changing environment. Change is a steroid that drives them to higher achievement. (No A-Rod jokes, please.) Many are never satisfied with the status quo. On the other hand, they may be unsuccessful people that need a change to get them back on track.

I would like to comment on the popular Illumigeddon blog by my good friend, the Sky-is-Falling Chris Brown, of Wiedenbach-Brown, Hawthorne, N.Y.  (Editor’s note: You can see Brown’s thoughts on what he calls the lighting market’s “Illumigeddon” in Electrical Wholesaling’s February issue, “Lighting’s Coming Storm,” p. 13.)   No question, there is conflict between us tepid prognosticators. The comments he has gotten on my EnergyWatchNews blog at are priceless. They show many industry executives in the lighting market feel there will be more and tougher competition, low-cost producers, suppliers selling direct online, a limited aftermarket, challenges in selling Smart Lighting. LEDs are too disruptive, they say? Blah, blah, blah. The philosopher emperor, Marcus Aurelius said, “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” Let’s hope today’s challenges with LED lighting do not lead to the Fall of the Lighting Empire or Illumigeddon.

Where do you come down? We all agree though that change/transition has many faces. A lot of uncertainty. But one thing is certain, it will happen, whether you like it or not, whether you can adapt or not, whether you transition with the skill-sets necessary to reposition your company to thrive or not. During any transition, there will be winners and losers, and great opportunities for many companies and devastating losses for some.

Solid-state lighting is the most dynamic change many lighting veterans have ever seen. We are transitioning from the traditional/legendary lighting industry into the digital/electronic lighting era. This is out of our control. Whether you want change or not, whether you can survive this transition or not, whether you have the desire to learn new skills to successfully participate in this new era or not, it will happen with or without you. You must decide what you can control and reposition your company to make the changes necessary to continue to serve the electrical industry during this transition.

I do agree with Chris’s comment that, “The Internet of Things and the integration of Smart Lighting products into building systems have enormous potential, but for whom? Traditional electrical distributors and lighting distributors will need new levels of high technical competencies and new services/solutions to elbow their way to the table.”

Disintermediation can only happen if you let it. We have talked about this for years. Think about all the distributors you who worry about manufacturers going direct. The answer is always the same: Add to the process, they will never do it better than you.

Fifty years from now, let’s talk again as we will know by then how all of this turns out. And don’t be surprised if we are not transitioning into another new dynamic era of lighting. You don’t think LED is forever, do you?  

Bill Attardi is celebrating his 50th year in the lighting business. His first full-time job after three years in Army security was as a sales rep for Westinghouse Lamp in New York. Humble beginnings led to executive positions with Westinghouse, Philips, USI Lighting and a position as part owner in Wellmade Products.  In 1994 he founded Attardi Marketing, a strategic marketing and training company. He has an MBA in marketing and is an adjunct professor at Monmouth University and Brookdale Community College in N.J. You can reach him at [email protected]