Find a way to delegate repetitive, time-consuming tasks. As a leader, you can’t do it all yourself (even if you think you do it better.) I like to do it first, set the standard, write a procedure and then get help.
Steve Brielmaier, entrepreneur and leader of LampsUSA.com, which provides American homeowners lighting solutions that they will truly love. LampsUSA specializes in helping customers narrow their choices of light fixtures and lamps that will endure and generate an emotional spark each time the switch it turned on. Steve is a proud alumni of UW-Madison and earned an MBA from Marquette University. He has been happily married to Laura, his college sweetheart since 1989 and they have 3 college-age daughters. He is a devoted golfer, runner and forgiven sinner.
Where did the idea for LampsUSA come from?
Starting from a small chain of furniture and lighting stores, we loved helping Wisconsin homeowners find lighting solutions that they truly love. In 1999, we thought it was time to help customers across the entire US, so we created LampsUSA.com to deliver designer lighting to America.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I am a grinder. I start early and stay late. No “4-hour workweek” here! I like to make lists of the important projects. It is easy to get side-tracked with emails and putting-out-fires, so I try to keep those contained when possible. We don’t have many meetings and everyone works well independently. There is no substitute for hard work.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We recently added a display showroom for all our exclusive lamps and shades. This really helps us develop new products and anticipate customer needs. We get input from our team and from our social followers.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m naturally devoted to reducing waste. In the lighting industry, LED is THE ground-breaking technology, because it saves so much energy. Few developments anywhere can show an 80% reduction in energy consumption. LED has the added advantages of reducing heat and allowing lighting designers to “think outside the bulb.” No longer are light fixtures constrained by having to contain traditional light bulbs. New shapes and thinner fixtures are very exciting.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Find a way to delegate repetitive, time-consuming tasks. As a leader, you can’t do it all yourself (even if you think you do it better.) I like to do it first, set the standard, write a procedure and then get help. (Don’t forget to follow up and verify results.)
What advice would you give your younger self?
Dream bigger earlier. I started in an era that required people in their 20’s to “pay-their-dues” and hit each rung of the ladder on the way up. I think young people today have a huge advantage because of their understanding of the technologies that are driving growth, their input is valued more at an earlier age.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Always be thinking how to “re-invent” your business. I think we are all attracted to our past successes and get lured by techniques that have actually worked in the past. The pace-of-change has accelerated and will only get faster in the coming years. Every business has to look forward and take the leap into the unknown because what worked in the past will not continue. We started as a retail furniture store and currently we are an online lighting store, so we are living testament to the importance of being nimble.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Everyday, work on both sales today and sales tomorrow. Never stop looking for the next expansion path. For us that means expanding to new marketplaces (like Overstock and Walmart) and developing new products to meet changing tastes. Find your “green field” that lets you expand into virgin territory next year.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Try to find the “next-big-thing” before it gets too expensive or competitive. We focused on SEO primarily in our early years. Then we jumped on Google Adwords from their first day. We missed the boat on Facebook ads and still have not really figured them out. You always have to be testing new marketing tactics so you can ride the early wave.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We stuck with our brick-and-mortar retail stores longer than we should have. We did not see the fundamental shift of the American consumer early enough. We have now been online-only for 7 years and have no regrets. Sometimes you need to re-invent your business.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
If you are out-going, you can earn real money by building a personal brand. You can be the next YouTube star or Instagram influencer if you are willing to put in the work and offer value to an audience. The tools created by the internet have made it much easier for a young person to rise quickly.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I paid $100 for a new sample of a sleek foldable wall lamp/reading lamp combination (called the SlipStream7) that we are debuting later this year. There is nothing like it in the US and we have great initial response from our customer preview network.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We love SEMRush for the SEO insights. We use it to identify opportunities and to improve our website to deliver customers more of what they are looking for.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I am a huge audio-book fan. I listen while running and while doing weekend chores. I just finished reading “Ask Gary Vee,” and I highly recommend anything from Gary Vaynerchuk. His insight into social networks and building a personal brand is unique. Plus he is such high energy you will be entertained the entire ride. I find him funny and very talented.
What is your favorite quote?
“Winning isn’t everything, but the will to win is.”
Being a good Wisconsinite, I love anything from St. Vince. Vince Lombardi understood how to motivate a team and the critical importance of will. He demonstrated that if the will is strong enough, anything is possible.
- Find a way to delegate time-consuming tasks. As a leader, you can’t do it all yourself
- There are no shortcuts for hard work.
- Anything is possible if you have sufficient will.
- Get audio books from your local library and listen to books instead of listening to music during workouts or chores.
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