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Key Idea: Do One Thing Well

Being the best at one thing is a branding strategy and more.  Founder of Theatrical Lighting, David Milly, has never been tempted to veer from his mission which is, "We Light The Stars."

Key Question:

A: 

Stick to your knitting and this isn't the only time we have heard this advice. Andy Murstein of Medallion Funding said his grandfather taught him that there are, "riches in niches." From the outside looking in, it seems as if David is missing a big opportunity. He has lighting equipment and trucks arriving at the same scene as we found sound equipment and trucks owned by other companies.

Q: Why would David leave money on the table when he has customers who trust him? He ought to be able to provide sound and sound engineers along with the lighting packages, right?

A: To the uninformed, equipment and trucks all look alike. David says, "Lighting and sound are completely different technologies and employees don't cross over." The way David earns profits on sound is by outsourcing it. When a customer wants David to provide lights and sound, he delivers his own gear with his own employees to provide the light. He delivers a sound company he has contracted with to do the sound. This way Theatrical Lighting doesn't have to own sound gear or hire and train sound engineers but David can give his customer a turn-key result. Theatrical Lighting and its favorite sound companies and engineers know each other and do business with each other. They serve as centers of influence and sources of referrals for each other.

Think about it

Do you need to say "No" to work that distracts you from your core competencies? Do you need to shut down parts of your business? Is it time to clean out the products and services that don't thrill you or make you money?

Clip from: Theatrical Lighting

Huntsville, Alabama: Meet David Milly.  When he was a student at University of Alabama at Huntsville, he earned money booking entertainment and dances for his school. From his first booking, Earl Scruggs Review, a country-bluegrass band (of Deliverance fame), he knew this was what he wanted to do.

To book the lighting package for the show, he engaged Luna Tech, a sole proprietor, and they struck up a friendship. By the time he graduated in 1975 they had a partnership and then they formed a corporation to protect themselves from the liability involved with manufacturing and creating pyrotechnic special effects. David was initially a 25% stockholder in the business, yet by 1981 he negotiated a buyout of just the lighting division to be on his own.  That's a story, but this one just gets better.

At that time there was no trade association for the lighting industry. In 1987 a few of the fellows started one, Theatrical Dealers Association, and David was quick to join and serve on the board. He initiated a Small Business Development Committee. Today this national association is known as ESTA or the Entertainment Services and Technology Association. 

David has also been an active member of the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau for three decades. In this episode of the show you will meet all kinds of people who love Huntsville, who love Janet and David Milly, and love the stuff of making their community a great place to live.

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Theatrical Lighting Systems

David Milly, CEP / founder

1221 Jordon Lane
P.O. Box 2646
Huntsville, AL 35804
256-533-7025

Visit our web site: http://www.tlsinc.com

Office: 256-533-7025

Business Classification:
Lighting Supplies

Year Founded: 1981

Do One Thing Well

HATTIE: (Voiceover) It just seems like a natural add-on; that you started in the lighting business and people loved you, they fell in love with the work you did. And in small business, it's about service. So they'll say, `Dave, if you're doing my lights, please do my sound.'

DAVID: (Voiceover) We always felt--and maybe me not understanding sound and having an OK understanding of lighting, but we've always tried to focus and do one thing well and not try to do a bunch of things mediocre. And I think in the long run, it's paid off to have specialized that way.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Theatrical Lighting has three revenue streams: it sells equipment to churches, schools, arenas and nightclubs; it works with architects to design light packages for permanent installation and it provides lighting packages for road shows with and without personnel. You've been doing this for almost 20 years--or more than 20 years. You're in a trade association, right?

DAVID: Yes.

HATTIE: And it's called...

DAVID: ESTA, Entertainment Services and Technology Association.

HATTIE: All right. This looks a little dangerous, meaning...

DAVID: (Voiceover) Stuff could fall. The sky could fall, yeah.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) And when we saw the setup, we saw heavy equipment. Has your association been active in working on the safety issues for employees?

DAVID: Absolutely. That was one of the reasons the association was set up, to establish standards so that we could essentially self-regulate 'cause a lot of--before the association, there was not very many standards. There was--people in one part of the country were doing things this way, another part the other way. So we've established standards in what's safe and what's not safe. Because in the old days, people would crawl trusses with no harnesses or anything, and people would fall off occasionally.

HATTIE: Who are these people, David? Did you used to do this?

DAVID: I used to do this. Yes, I did. A mission statement. Well, it may be a little funny, but it's, `Making money doing lights.' That's the mission statement.

HATTIE: `Making money doing lights'?

DAVID: Correct. So it keeps us focused. We want to run a profitable business and we want to focus and just do the lighting part of it. And, you know, we've had companywide meetings and we've made sure everybody understood that and what that meant. We came from the little customer, and we don't ever want to forget them. So if anybody locally, or in Huntsville or north Alabama, needs something, we've got the stuff they need for the little deejay, the party, the small church setup, the little theater thing. (Voiceover) In addition, we also do the larger things but we never forget the little guy. Study your competition, 'cause I learn so much from them. You know, steal good ideas. It's simpler to see what's been successful to them, to go out and make your own mistakes to figure it out.

HATTIE: Right.

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