Georgia Trend 2014 FAMILY BUSINESS AWARDS
Atlanta Light Bulbs Inc.
While devising ways to brighten Atlanta Light Bulbs’ future, brothers and company leaders Doug and Jesse Root also recognize the legacy of their family business.
Their father, Gary Root, began the Tucker-based business in 1981, selling lamps and ballasts to commercial and industrial customers. Since the sons entered the business, they have dealt head-on with changes in retailing, such as the growth of online sales and the evolution of the lighting industry with the introduction of LED and energy-efficient choices.
Their actions have led Atlanta Light Bulbs to be selected as the 2014 Cox Family Enterprise Center Family Business of the Year Award winner in the small business category.
After Doug graduated from the University of Georgia in 1997, he joined the company full time. Back then, online shopping was “this weird thing people were hearing about,” Doug, now CEO, says. “We built a little website and put some product out there.”
Since then, online sales have grown from $20,000 in 1998 to roughly $4 million in 2013 – about 40 percent of Atlanta Light Bulb’s revenue of $10.5 million.
But the Roots are not relying solely on online shoppers for growth. The business is expanding into the lighting solutions market to consult with customers about how they can save energy and cut power costs.
In those ways, the Roots are heeding their father’s advice: to focus on what’s next rather than past successes to maintain the company’s growth. The brothers grew up in the business, starting in the warehouse and working their way up to leadership positions. Another brother, Jimmy, is also involved in the company.
“Really for us, it was just looking at the past of what we’ve done and using that to move forward into this new area,” says Jesse, 31, Atlanta Light Bulbs’ account manager.
Doug, 40, took on the top role about two years ago from his father, who remains majority owner but is not involved in day-to-day decisions. He’s honest about the pressure to succeed for his family and their 30 employees.
“That’s what keeps me up at night,” he says. “At the end of the day, it’s on somebody’s back for the company to succeed. At the end of the day, it’s on my back. The worst thing anybody can do is do nothing, and that’s one thing I’m not going to do.”
As the company explores new ways to increase revenue, Doug says he wants to entrust employees with decisions that could lead to business and career growth. He considers Atlanta Light Bulbs a family business that extends beyond the Roots.
“All of our employees have families, and they are part of the family as well,” he says. “I want them to be successful. I want them to be able to take care of their families and to personally grow and all that good stuff that you want to give.”
As the Root brothers settle into their new roles and look forward to the next phase of their family business, it’s not surprising they can’t stop talking about Atlanta Light Bulbs.
“With other family members, we try not to bring that up,” Jesse says. “When we’re together, most of the time we’re talking about business.” – Lori Johnston
From December 2014 Issue of GA Trend Magazine, Click here to download the full version.