I recently met with an established and successful lighting contractor who introduced me to ‘the circle of light,’ as he so aptly called it.  He was referring to the regular cycle of lighting retrofits that his long-term customers engage in every few years as they attempt to improve energy efficiency in their lights.  The math in this process works for both of them – the customer gets incrementally better energy efficiency with each upgrade and the contractor has a steady and predictable flow of business.  But that ‘circle’ is getting ready to change.

The mainstreaming of LEDs will be a major disruptive force in this cycle.  In fact, because LEDs last 10 years+, they break ‘the circle’ completely, eliminating both the 2-year re-lamping cycles and the periodic retrofits that have been staples of his business these last many years.  Does that mean ‘game over’ for the lighting contractor and his colleagues?  Not at all. It will be a new game, though.

LED-based lighting – used in a range of applications – has a number of qualities that will help this contractor and others extend their businesses in new directions. He won’t be retrofitting the same customer every few years with incremental fluorescent upgrades.  Instead, because LEDs are at their most effective and efficient when coupled with control systems, this contractor will redefine his long-term relationship with his customers around servicing and tuning the system, and working as an efficiency partner with his clients.

The customer’s goal isn’t changing — they will always be looking for the best lighting to meet their needs, while improving energy efficiency.  And this contractor will still be on-call to meet those needs, but will be using a different set of tools and services to meet those needs.  As for the name of this new relationship, I am not sure yet.  Suggestions welcome.

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