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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Educating Business on Energy Efficiency is Bright Idea

By THOM SENZEE Contributing Reporter Started in 1983 by two childhood best friends from New York with $5,000 in capital, Van Nuys-based Regency Lighting got its start when the company’s founders went door-to-door telling business owners how they could save money and the environment with better lighting solutions. “No one was going to them to explain different ways for them to improve the aesthetics of their lighting, or how to lower the cost of their energy use,” said Ron Regenstreif, Regency’s CEO. Founded in 1981, as former President Jimmy Carter’s business and residential tax credits for solar-energy investments were still in force (however, set to expire in 1985), Regency Enterprises was originally an energy-conservation company. But by 1983, as the energy-conservation movement of the late 1970s was rapidly losing steam, the company narrowed its focus and became Regency Lighting. But make no mistake; Ron Regenstreif never lost his interest in energy conservation, even if wide swaths of the business community had. “Even though the energy story wasn’t widely accepted, people still needed products,” he said. “You found out what a business owner was interested in. If he wasn’t interested in energy, you wouldn’t talk much about it. We stressed service at that point.” Thus, adapting marketing and sales strategies; providing a customized, service-driven product; and building of trust among clientele, were the ingredients Regenstreif and his business partner, COO, Mike Goldstone, used to grow their $5,000 initial investment into a $90-million company with 260 employees today. “I use the acronym “RISE,” Regenstreif said. “The R is for Relationship. What makes a good one? What elements cause a person to want to have a relationship with another person?” The answers, he said, are trustworthiness, honesty, responsiveness, and follow through. As for the rest of the acronym’s abbreviates, they are: Integrity, Service and Expertise. “There is some overlap in what those definitions mean,” Regenstreif said. “But basically, if a customer needs something at 5 p.m. on a Friday, you drop everything and get them what they need. If they get grouchy, you don’t get grouchy back.” Regenstreif said nowadays businesses are very interested in how to save energy by changing the types of lighting technology they use in their stores, offices, and other facilities especially when his company informs them that it can usually produce cost savings of about 40 percent. “There’s a whole new technology, LED, which could reduce energy use by 70 to 80 percent,” he said. “Hospitals are very interested in it. Right now, companies are literally throwing away money which could be of great use during these economic times.” Cost savings In addition to the cost savings Regenstreif said companies (Regency does not do residential work) can reap, the firm’s lighting systems make customers feel good, and allow them to claim bragging rights as good stewards of the environment. “There is no single action that can be taken to eliminate carbon emissions that will do more than going from a 60-watt bulb to a nine-watt bulb,” he said. “And, now, the technology is such that you can get about the same light out of a nine-watt bulb.” Design and aesthetics also play a major role in Regency Lighting’s fast growth. The company is now in five states, including California, Texas, Georgia, Florida, and New York. “We do a lot of store-lighting design,” Regenstreif said. “One of our designers is winning an award for lighting at The Children’s Place. Among the companies that have called on Regency for their lighting needs are the now-defunct Disney Stores, Washington Mutual, plus several hospitals and other well known, national retailers. Economic challenges Nevertheless, an immediate challenge facing the firm has to do with the economy. Specifically, the problem is getting paid as companies fold or change ownership. “Integrity is going to be a real issue in the next year,” Regenstreif said. “Companies will be going out of business and sticking us with the bill.” A case in point is WaMu, which was one of Regency Lighting’s biggest clients. “The company that bought them (JP Morgan Chas) is waffling on what they’re going to pay, and whether or not they’re going to pay it. They haven’t said no yet, but ” Regenstreif said the best way to respond to the challenge of potential losses is to pay closer attention to late-paying accounts and respond more quickly. REGENCY LIGHTING Van Nuys AHEAD OF THE CURVE No. 2 Fastest Growing Company Over $50 Million (41%)

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