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Key Idea: Have Fun

David said, "At Theatrical Lighting, we make money doing lights." The reason this is so powerful --  to him and everyone in the company, just doing lights is fun!   More...

Key Question:


Have fun doing the things that you have to do to make money.

David learned that people who love the concert scene can be recruited to do the work. They enjoy the excitement of setting the stage for the entertainers then running the lighting for the performance. This is David's personal background. However, as you get older you want to be able to buy a house and a car and go out to dinner. David and Janet decided they could build a company that actually makes money while having fun. Doing lights is easy compared to making money doing it.

Q:  How does David keep himself motivated now that the company does make money doing lights?

A: He says that, "business is a competitive sport." He is competitive and wants to win every bid and when they lose he works hard to figure out how they lost. The beautiful thing about David's attitude is, it is contagious. Everybody at Theatrical Lighting wants to win. They see David and Janet having fun. They don't take themselves too seriously. After all, there's no business like show business.

Think about it

Do you need to be more competitive? How could you have more fun? How can you turn your own competitive spirit into a game for everyone?

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

Have Fun

JANET: You've always heard this, the lean years are the fun years, actually.

HATTIE: Really?

JANET: But as you grown more successful, you have a little more...


JANET: Well, you kind of diverge a bit. Because your goal is not so strong. You've made it. You're not scared anymore. Because in the beginning, it takes both of you, and you have to pull together. It's like being two oxens pulling the same wagon, and you have to pull evenly or the wagon doesn't go.

HATTIE: I mean, you make money doing lights.


HATTIE: And if we don't make money in business, we're not a business.

DAVID: Correct.

HATTIE: OK. So we want to make money. But is that what wakes you up every day?

DAVID: No, not the money part. I don't think. Yes, the money is OK and fine. But what drives me is the competition, is the winning. And I guess in business, though, the winning--we keep score by money. But, you know, if we were keeping score and I was competing against Bill Gates, I'd give up because he's already won it all. So it doesn't matter. It's a different thing. I'm competing against my competition, and I'm competing in my arena. And I've got--you know, if I win $1--like, I have more satisfaction playing golf and winning $1 from my buddy than I do winning that $560,000 job. But it's the winning that gets me going.

HATTIE: All right. Do you think that that's a quality that all small-business owners need to have, a little bit of competitive spirit?

DAVID: Well, they'd better be competitive or they need to go find something else to do. Absolutely. Because I think business is definitely a competitive sport.

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