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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Turn Stress Into Strength

Janet and David Milly suggest that working together is not for married couples who do not already have a strong marriage.

Key Question:


Stay focused on the big, shared goal.

Q: How does this couple manage the personal and business relationship?

A: They never eat lunch together and Janet said, "we try not to take work home with us." This is probably impossible but the fact that they try is significant. Every couple we have studied here has their own set of coping mechanisms. What we see David and Janet doing that is common among all great companies owned and operated by a couple is: they respect each other, they admire each other and they stay out of the other person's specialization.

Q: Why are so many couples successful at growing a business?

A: Two heads are better than one. This has many implications. With a couple the company has two sets of natural talents and abilities that no one person could possibly have. Two people have twice as much time as one person. You may laugh at this but a business often requires a 24-hour daily commitment. With a couple, each person can give 12 hours and nobody dies. Two people can work for the price of one. A couple can live on one salary. A couple can live on one retirement fund. A couple can make it with one car. Starting and growing a business takes sacrifice. When the couple is in it together, there isn't someone at home complaining that there is no new furniture. You should know that Janet told us that the start-up phase brought she and David very close. And she warns that when the business gets strong and stable that you still have have to keep working on the marriage!

Think about it

If you work with your spouse, what can you do to have time away from each other?

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

Visit our web site:

Office: 256-533-7025

Business Classification:
Lighting Supplies

Year Founded: 1981

Turn Stress Into Strength

HATTIE: Any advice you would give a young couple--when I say young, going back to when you were 25 or 30, when you started this--starting a business? What would you say to them if you had a chance to give them advice about how to grow a company with your spouse?

JANET: I think that it's important that they have a strong relationship if they're going to work together because it certainly is trying on a relationship. But it is valuable, too. It's a valuable experience, and you're pulling towards the same goal.

HATTIE: There you go.

JANET: You're pulling towards the same goal, and that gives your life something unique. 

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