profiles - a light-hearted look at industry personalities
No. 140 in a continuing series
Visionary, Sales Maniac and Owner of Lightpower, Germany
"When listening to successful people talking about their careers, a lot of them already knew from the very beginning what they wanted to achieve. Great, but I have never believed in that," says Ralph. No wonder. If it was only the direct route that would lead to the target he would still be standing at the bottom looking up at the top.
In his youth Ralph always had problems at school. If he played football it was a punishment for the team, and no musical instrument ever sounded good when in his hands.
"What should we do with this boy?" his mother once asked. "He is only doing crazy things and listening to rock and roll."
However, people liked him. When he was around life was never boring. He would always talk about things people were interested in - and he was always positive and entertaining. His headmaster told his parents: "Sorry, I cannot keep him any longer at this school, but I can tell you that he is a team leader and a born salesman. Also, he has the potential to survive anywhere." Interestingly, and a big credit to both, is that while Ralph is now nearly 50 and his former headmaster is over 80, they are still in touch.
And to stay in personal contact means a great deal to Ralph. "Business is about buying and selling products and services - but at the end you are dealing with people: their trust, their needs, their moods and their trust. Even the most perfect product cannot in itself take care of such important facts. And this is specially so in a people industry such as ours. Relationships are what it's all about," he says.
"A lot of great people are deeply involved with products and know every technical detail, and I would be doing my own job incorrectly if I wanted to compete with them. So I let them do their job while I get together the right people and go about finding potential customers and markets."
And it is more than obvious he has been doing that very well - for almost 28 years now. At the age of 22 Ralph started selling lighting products with the newly launched company, Lightpower. Their first purchases were made in the UK from companies like Multiform, Pulsar and Mode Electronics. Later on, Lightpower increased their business importing light equipment from Italy and the U.S. "I learned a lot from people like John Lethbridge, Ken Sewell and Peter Brooks. They were the first people I knew on the European market producing or selling effects lighting," he explains.
During the first 10 years Lightpower progressively became the exclusive German distributor of several leading brands. And thanks to Ralph's strategic talent and vision the company's activities expanded to the international market as well.
Today, Lightpower is the exclusive German distributor of 15 leading brands. Among them are Vari-Lite, Robert Juliat, Rosco, Pulsar and Clay Paky. In addition, Lightpower founded two subsidiary companies to run the distribution of MA Lighting and Rainbow products worldwide, and more than 70 employees are now working for Lightpower and its subsidiary companies. And they are still growing.
"He is not an ordinary business man, he is always on a mission." So says Avolites' sales director Steve Warren, in describing Ralph's motivation and character. And the fact that Ralph lives with his wife and their four children in a German castle and uses an Aston Martin for his missions is fitting tribute to his ongoing relationship with England and his friends here in the industry.
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