Ask industry members about Clark Linstone and a couple of recurring observations are likely to arise. The first is that he’s more committed to his work than most anyone else; another is that his calm and collected nature makes him quietly convincing in every situation.
With an impressive resume and an even more impressive roster of people who sing his praises, Linstone, President of Pacific Coast Lighting and CFO of Lamps Plus, says that more than anything, adapting to change is key to success in an industry undergoing such drastic advancements.
“I don’t think looking at the status quo is the right thing in an environment like today,” he says. “You have to be able to adjust and thrive despite the fact that conditions are changing. That is key.”
This mindset has no doubt contributed to Linstone’s successful 20-plus years in lighting. He has worked tirelessly for his company and the industry as a whole, going above and beyond the call of duty, particularly with his involvement in the American Lighting Assn. (ALA). And luckily for us, he’s not done yet.
Linstone got his start in the lighting industry in 1990. He earned his MBA in Finance from the University of Southern California and had an 11-year career in banking before Dennis Swanson, CEO of Lamps Plus, offered Linstone the CFO position at his company. Linstone says Swanson has been a mentor to him since that day.
“For my entire industry career I’ve worked directly for and with Dennis,” Linstone says. “I think he’s not only incredibly knowledgeable, but he’s willing to try new things and that’s made it very enjoyable for me.”
Swanson says that even in addition to Linstone’s important management roles at Pacific Coast and Lamps Plus, his genuine concern for and involvement in the industry is unmatchable. “In an era of increased government regulation, Clark has spent more time than anyone I know of trying to protect the ability of lighting retailers and lighting manufacturers to stay in business,” Swanson says.
Linstone has indeed made it his mission to help the industry in any way he can. He is heavily involved with the ALA as the 2014 Chairman of the Board of Governors and has also served on or been Chairman of six committees, including the vitally important Government Affairs Committee, and has been awarded with two Pillar of the Industry awards (2000 and 2008).
ALA President Dick Upton, who works closely with Linstone, praises his industrious and steadfast work ethic.
“In my 50-plus-year career, Clark has been one of the most committed and involved committee chairs with whom I have worked and partnered,” Upton says. “He’s helped us secure multiple ‘wins’ that have saved the industry from costly and grievous government interface.”
These “wins,” like the recent progress with the new potential Department of Energy ceiling fan regulations, don’t come easily. Weeks and weeks of research are
behind each step forward, and Linstone willingly devotes his time and effort to any cause that could jeopardize the industry’s well-being.
“This work is critical to the welfare of our industry,” he explains. “Proper decisions need to be made with correct implementation. It’s very hard to fix things that aren’t intended to happen.”
Fanimation President Nathan Frampton served on both the Government Affairs and Political Action committees with Linstone and says he is a critical industry advocate who leads by example.
“Clark is the most calm, cool and collected leader I know,” Frampton says. “It’s almost annoying to watch him handle difficult situations in such a peaceful yet assertive manner. I am a better person for knowing him.”
Linstone’s harmonious personality was mentioned by many of his colleagues and friends. He says, simply, that that’s just how he is.
“I look at problem-solving, and the first thing you have to do is understand as much as you can about the situation. I’m not somebody who’s going to get angry or excited or yell at people,” he says with a laugh.
Buddy Shaffer, a Pacific Coast Lighting rep based in Florida, agrees. “As our company President, Clark always has an open door and an open mind.”
That open mind surely comes from the changes Linstone has seen in his own lighting career. And he predicts that those catalysts — like LEDs, increased government regulation and even the Internet — will continue to shape our industry in significant ways.
”I think LED is really going to revolutionize how products are designed, even in terms of human well-being — control over color and the way it fits into the natural human circadian cycle is going to play a larger role,” Linstone says. “LED is also enabling companies that one doesn’t usually associate with lighting with the capability of making lighting products, so that will also be interesting, to see how the landscape of major players adjusts.”
Looking at all of these possibilities on the industry’s horizon, Linstone’s advice to young executives is to be open to change.
“I think it’s very important to try new things, even if some of those will end up in failure. You learn from it but the important thing is to keep trying,” he says. “The only way to successfully adapt to change is to be innovative, whether in product design or the way you go to market, for example.”
Linstone’s schedule is busy, between his positions at Lamps Plus and Pacific Coast Lighting and his involvement in ALA, but he still finds time for hobbies. He enjoys attending operas, plays, basketball and baseball games and says he also likes to golf, but unfortunately doesn’t get out very often.
When he is traveling for business he enjoys attending technology conferences the most. “I find the latest changes in technology fascinating,” he says. “Even though it might not directly affect our industry, it’s still interesting to learn about and it’s always in the back of my mind.”
Most colleagues and customers, including Max Lebersfeld, Co-Chairman of the Board at Capitol Lighting, would agree with that statement about Linstone as well — the industry is always at the back of his mind.
“Clark’s dedication to his company and the industry impresses me every day,” Lebersfeld says. “While we often share delightful time away from our businesses, Clark never lets up on his dizzying schedule of travel and meetings, particularly on behalf of ALA.”
All of the time and energy Linstone has given to the industry have made an impact with ongoing benefits. His leadership has been appreciated in this changing business and legislative landscape, and as ALA Chair, his vision is likely to continue to move the industry forward.
Kathy Ireland, whose lighting and home décor designs are licensed to Pacific Coast, has worked with Linstone since her brand launched with the company in 2004, a partnership that was recently extended to 2018.
”Clark always finds a way to grow — he breaks every barrier from economy to retail,” says Ireland. “We all have so much to learn from this man. He is one of the godfathers of our brand and an extraordinary human being. It is a privilege to call Clark my colleague and my friend.”