An Interview With Michael Ber of Lighting Inc.
 

Michael Ber, CLC, will be inducted into the ALA Hall of Fame on Wednesday, Sept. 22, during the Annual Banquet at the 2010 ALA Conference. Ber is President of Lighting Inc. in New Orleans and a second-generation ALA member. He has been active in association member since the 1970s, when the ALA was still known as American Home Lighting Institute.

Over the years, Ber has provided vision and leadership to the ALA in many ways. He served as Chairman of the ALA Board of Directors, Showroom Division, in 1987. An active member of the ALA Board of Governors from 2000 to 2008, Ber served as that group’s Chairman in 2005. Since attending his first ALA Conference back in 1975, Ber has had a hand in planning many subsequent Conferences, chairing the Annual Conference Committee in 1982 and 2003. He also chaired the ALA Long-Range Conference Planning Committee from 1995 thru 2002. He continues to serve on the Long-Range Conference Planning Committee and the Finance Committee. He was recognized as ALA Lighting Person of the Year in 1987.

When Residential Lighting spoke to Ber in late spring, the humble businessman said he was surprised to learn of the Hall of Fame honors. “I thought Stan Johnston was kidding me when he called to inform me,” Ber said. “I still cannot believe it.”

Residential Lighting: What has been the single most important change in the lighting industry since you joined ALA back in the 1970s?

MB: It’s tough to come up with just one major change in the lighting industry since the early ‘70s. For me there are two things that have fundamentally changed the residential lighting industry over the last 35 to 40 years.

One is our dependence on the Chinese for merchandise. This has been very evident during the world’s economic problems over the last two years as many U.S. manufacturers have been forced to discontinue popular items because Chinese factories closed or could not produce goods in a timely fashion.

The other change is how much we are affected by regulation of our own government, whether state or federal. In the ‘70s and early ‘80s, the problems that ALA concentrated on for its showrooms were programs to educate, such as certification sales training, and how to promote ALA member showrooms, as the place to go for lighting expertise and quality products. Today ALA must constantly watch for both state and federal legislation that could affect the lighting industry, along with the other things such as education and promotion that a trade association normally does.

If ALA had not made the change in the early ‘90s from an association being run by an outside management company, to an association with our own employees, I don’t think today’s lighting industry would be the same.

RL: What keeps you motivated to excel in business?

MB: That challenge seems to change everyday, whether trying to recover after Katrina, trying to keep your business and your employees during rough economic times, or fighting road construction in front of your store for the next 12 months. There is always something new to contend with.

RL: What would be your advice to the next generation of showroom operators?

MB: There are so many things to contend with in running a lighting showroom today. One of the ways to keep abreast of almost anything that affects today’s showroom is to be an active member of ALA and volunteer to serve in any capacity. Most people think they don’t have the time, but you will get many times more out of ALA than the time you put into it, and you may learn a few things in the process. One of the reasons that Lighting Inc-New Orleans is still here today after being wiped out by Hurricane Katrina is because of the time I put in on ALA business, and the friends and associations I made with fellow members.

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