The venerable window treatment manufacturer remains focused on its family culture By David Gill
The reception area for the offices of S. Lichtenberg & Co., the vendor of window treatments, says it all about the culture and focus of this 81-year-old business.
On the walls are plaques that celebrate the company’s 25th, 65th and 75th anniversaries, along with one that lists members of its 35-year club, for employees who have lasted that long with the company. Each of these plaques, in one way or another, mentions employees who have contributed to the success of the business over the decades.
Lichtenberg is a family company in both the literal and figurative sense. Key executives of the company, which was founded by Sam Lichtenberg in 1933, include Chairman Ric Lichtenberg, son of its long-time chairman, the late Alan Lichtenberg; and CEO Scott Lichtenberg, son of the company’s late president, Herb Lichtenberg.
The company’s family, however, has extended beyond those individuals who share its last name. Now serving as the company’s president is Scott Goldstein, son of Carl Goldstein, its vice chairman and long-time head of sales, who died in October. Both Goldsteins have been Lichtenberg veterans—Carl was with the company from 1976 until his death, and Scott joined the company in 1989.
In some ways, Lichtenberg is changing. Goldstein, who became president last year, is the first non-Lichtenberg to hold the president’s title. The company is also in the midst of a major renovation of its offices and showroom, which is slated to be completed by this month’s New York Home Fashions Market.
In other ways, the company has remained the same as it was under its founder. Except for a brief foray into bedding a few years ago, it has focused all of its energy and resources on the window-treatment business. “Window is our core competency,” Goldstein said. “We know the industry, and we know how business has to be done in the industry.”
Philosophically, Lichtenberg has remained the same as well. “Number one, and this comes from my grandfather, is no debt. We are debt free,” Scott Lichtenberg said. “Number two is, find good suppliers and listen to them. They’ll never steer you wrong. Number three is, work with your customers to help them understand what they’re selling and how they should sell it.”
Lichtenberg’s family orientation has been a strong point for other key employees. Amy Hanlon, who joined the firm in 1999 as an intern while attending the Fashion Institute of Technology, is now executive vice president and oversees the company’s design and marketing functions.
Hanlon attributes her rise in the company to its family culture. “Being in a family-owned company has been a true reward in my life,” she said. “It has allowed me to learn an industry through the eyes of many years of experience, family generations and a successful point of view.”
It has also given Hanlon a sense that she is a major contributor to the company. “With this, I am able to pursue my own ideas and visions for the company,” she said. “I have always been made to feel a valuable asset to the company even though I am not one of the boys.”
One of Hanlon’s achievements at Lichtenberg is the development of its design area. “We have built up our design department, all with designers who graduated from FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology),” Goldstein said. “They have had an amazing education in design and marketing under Amy’s leadership.”
Thanks to this effort, Lichtenberg has been able to present itself as a source for retailers on important design trends in window treatments. “We have done a great job at being on top of trends,” Goldstein said. “Our design team goes to Heimtextil each year. This is really important because the consumer has gotten on top of trends faster, thanks to HGTV and social media like Facebook and Pinterest.” He also admitted to looking on Pinterest when the company prepared to remodel its offices.
The stability seen in many family-run companies will be the key to Lichtenberg’s business going forward. “We’re not going anywhere,” Scott Lichtenberg said. “We also don’t know any other way to run this business other than the way we have throughout our history.”
The family culture will also determine Lichtenberg’s long-term outlook. “We add people who want to stay for the rest of their lives,” Goldstein said. “We’re all in this together. There are no I’s in our company. It’s all We’s.”