Residential Lighting: What will you talk about at the Dallas Total Home & Gift Market?
Bill Rancic: My goal is to inspire and motivate and entertain throughout my presentation. I plan to talk about some of the keys to being an innovator, my journey as an entrepreneur and my journey competing on the very first The Apprentice and working with Donald Trump.
RL: What advice do you have for retailers coming out of a very difficult economic period?
RS: Certainly, I’m optimistic. All the leading indicators are there that things are coming back. But, I think there are three key elements that you have to have in order to survive. One of them is agility. The fact that they are still around, and that they’re coming through that dark period, means that they were agile. They were able to adapt and react to the changing environment around them. That’s how you succeed.
RL: You mentioned three elements.
BR: Yes. But, I don’t want to give them all to you. I want people to come and listen to me speak [at Dallas Market].
RL: How can business leaders be motivating?
BR: It’s important that you stop and look from the outside in. A lot of business leaders think they’re leading a certain way and that’s only in their mind. I always use the analogy of when you were a kid and the first time you talked into a tape recorder and played it back. You said, “That’s not me.” In your mind, you thought you sounded differently than you really do. Oftentimes, when we’re at the helm of the ship, we think we’re leading the team the way we want in our minds to lead the team. But, that isn’t necessarily reality.
BR: That’s what I’m going to share in Dallas.
RL: What’s happening with the real estate market?
BR: I think we’re seeing a complete shift in how retailers are positioned. The shopping mall in its traditional form is becoming passé. Different regions are creating these almost village-like environments. I think that’s important. But, I think real estate as a whole is on the uptick. Inventories are low, demand is coming back. People are starting to build again. The fear is still there. But, it’s making developers like me make better decisions as we progress and move forward and grow from the losses that many of us have taken.
RL: What kind of input has lighting made in your developments?
BR: Lighting sets the tone. It can certainly make a residence look larger or smaller depending on how you light the place. I’m currently working on a mixed-use development right now. We’re doing some great things with the lighting — I have someone framing the kitchen with lights. I’m glad I’ve got someone like that. I always say that in order to be a good leader you have to be a conductor and you have to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
LEDs are important. Not only do they save energy, but they have a long shelf life. So, you don’t have to change the lights as often. We’re always looking for ways to save money and if that’s reducing energy costs, not only is it saving money but it makes you a better citizen in the corporate arena.
RL: You featured Chicago's Lightology on one of your reality TV shows. What’s been your experience working with our stores?
BR: I’ve done a lot of work with them. I’ve also done a lot of work with Circa Lighting, with Gail, the owner. She just finished a project for me in California. I like when people give me ideas, when they’re not afraid to tell me when something isn’t going to work. I don’t want to deal with someone who’s just going say, “Yes, yes, yes.” That doesn’t help me at all. I want to know if it’s not going to work, why it’s not going to work, and what I should do instead. Gail tells it to me straight. And, she’s not just giving me the same thing that every other developer has. She gives me things that are unique, that are real selling features.
RL: Where can the lighting industry improve?
BR: Sometimes when you go into the big box stores, they have people that aren’t knowledgeable. I’m not trying to badmouth the big box stores, but I like a bit more of that personal touch. I like people that know the business in and out and are going to be able to provide me with knowledge. Sometimes it’s hard to get that when you purchase lighting in the big 500,000-sq.-ft. stores that sell everything from lighting to candy bars.
RL: How important is lighting for you and your wife?
BR: Lighting is, as my wife likes to say, “Like the earrings on a fancy dress.” It really accessorizes the property. Bad lighting, I think, can devalue the home significantly where people don’t have the vision to see what it would be like with different lighting options. Oftentimes, that’s why a home will sit on the market.