A family connection coaxed Rick Seidman into the folds of the lighting industry in 1989. Nineteen years later, the 42-year-old President and CEO of Quoizel Inc., and the recipient of Residential Lighting’s 2008 Industry Leadership Award (chosen by popular vote of our readers), is still the first to credit family -- both real and professional -- as an integral part of his success.
Seidman, a finance grad from the State University of New York at Buffalo, has spent his career working for the family-owned Quoizel, climbing the ladder from entry-level salesman to company executive. Along the way, he also served as a Regional Sales Manager, National Sales Manager and Vice President of Sales & Marketing.
“I have truly always loved working for the Phillipses,” Seidman says of the dynasty that owns Quoizel. “I’ve loved that there’s no bureaucracy or hierarchy. Even when I was just starting out, if I had a great idea, I could bring it up at a meeting and be listened to and be involved in all aspects of the business.”
The Phillips family thinks just as highly of Seidman. For the first time in 2007, they sought outside leadership for the company, resting their sights on Seidman.
“I’ve never met anyone like Rick,” says Ira Phillips, who now serves as Chairman of Quoizel’s Board of Directors. “He first came in for an interview when he was in his 20s, and I was very impressed by him immediately. I hired him for less money than he was making [at the time] but [told him] within a year he could be making double. He took the job, and less than a year later not only was he making double, but he’d become our top salesman.”
Seidman, a self-proclaimed morning person, thrives on the buzz of life.
“I’m very high-energy,” he explains. “I get up early, and I bounce out of bed. I go the gym, and I shave and shower before a 7 a.m. meeting. I love a busy day, and I love that my job offers me a different challenge every day.”
His ability to multitask is almost as impressive as his desire to be involved with the industry and advance its agenda. In addition to running a 250-employee company, Seidman is a champion for the industry. He’s been on the board of Dallas Market Center for almost two years, and has chaired multiple committees for the American Lighting Association.
“He has an unbounded capacity for energy, and I think that’s very critical in this time, with what’s going on with the economic conditions of the world,” says Bill Winsor, President and CEO of Dallas Market Center. “He also has the ability to ask ‘what if’ without fear. ‘What if we did it this way? That way?’ He’s never complacent; he never wants to do things just because that’s the way they’ve always been done. He wants to reshape the future.”
Customers also appreciate Seidman’s forward-thinking view of the industry.
“He’s very strategic,” says Seattle Lighting COO Dave McKee, who has worked with Seidman for about eight years. “He always has the wheels turning [and] is always looking at where the industry is going and at the needs of the end-user. He’s very open to ideas.”
Carol Gressett of Carol’s Lighting in Houston, TX, who has known Seidman for the duration of his career, thinks of him as a great innovator who respects the unique perspective of showrooms.
“Over the years, he’s been really instrumental in keeping up with the times and bringing in various dealers to pick our brains, and he really listens to our ideas,” she says. “He’s spent a lot of time in showrooms over the years and understands different facets of our business.”
Seidman’s career shouldn’t be measured in length but by accomplishment, says Dick Upton, President of the American Lighting Associaton. “He’s young, but [he is] a true and total picture of a businessman,” Upton says. “I give him great credit for working with people. He’s comfortable and confident making collegial decisions. He listens to everyone and to all opinions. He’s a great visionary who doesn’t just stand up solo, as the boss, but has the great skill of getting everyone on the same page.”
Part of being the boss is following through on commitments to employees, something Seidman takes very seriously—so seriously that he recently spent a night on the roof of the Quoizel headquarters in Charleston, SC.
“I challenged our employees to raise enough money to build a Habitat for Humanity house, and in a few months our employees raised almost enough to build two homes,” he says.
The big results meant he had to pay up on his big promise of a night under the stars.
While his ever-growing resume is impressive enough, what really stands out to many in the industry is Seidman’s ability to balance work and family.
“We all try to have a life while making a living,” Phillips says. “It’s a hard thing to do, and not everyone can do it. Rick does it very, very well.”
Seidman’s college-sweetheart-turned-wife Karen and daughters Stefanie, 16, and Nicki, 13, are the center of his world.
“For as much as I work and travel, there’s no place I’d rather be than in the backyard with my kids,” he says.
Quoizel Director of Marketing Bobbie Pearsall nominated Seidman for the Residential Lighting award and is quick to point out that her boss’ family priorities are part of what makes his character stand out.
“His family is number one,” she says. “You don’t often hear that about an executive of a company, but he means it, and he lives it. He has this unbelievable balance of home life and work life.”
Even in the office, Seidman’s gregarious and warm nature shines.
“He has the utmost respect from everyone who works with him,” Pearsall says. “He doesn’t talk down to people; he talks to people. There are no levels with him, no ‘I’m the executive and you’re not’. He takes the time to talk with everyone, and he’s interested in everybody. He treats us like family.”