March 9 2016
The beginnings of a successful company are often the result of a happy confluence of circumstances where intuition, knowledge, economic or social factors and, it must be said, a certain amount of luck all come together. I have met several members of the Silverstein family on various occasions, and each time I have seen a fire burning in their eyes — a fire of passion and pleasure. Here, work, family and leisure are interrelated, and after meeting president Steve Silverstein I might even add that it could be genetic. Three children, Daniel, Mark and Sarah, are actively involved in the business their parents founded in 1979, but it’s Mark, VP Sales and Marketing, who tells me the story that brought me to their facility. Steve will join us during the visit, part of which takes place around the old family dining table, around which the family still gathers. But instead of sharing meals, they now share business plans and goals for the future.
Photo: L-R: Liteline’s Steve, Mark, Daniel and Sarah Silverstein
The economic context
One can read on the company website that in the late 1970s there was a need for an aftermarket lens replacement for fluorescent fixtures. Since every fluorescent fixture was built with slightly different dimensions, it was exceptionally challenging for electrical distributors to supply replacement lenses. Steve Silverstein, Liteline’s founder and president, started offering distributors the simple service of small run custom fabrication with quick delivery.
The serendipitous moment
“I started the business out of my van. I like to say that I am an ‘overnight success’ after 30 years. At the time I already knew something about the lighting business and was thinking of becoming an agent, but you need a line to start with. I came across a good line while spending time surfing in southern California, but couldn’t become an agent for them, so they said ‘Buy the company.’
“Driving home from California, I stopped in Chicago, parked in front of the factory, changed my jeans for a tie and bought a vanload of products. I drove to Toronto and sold the whole load to an independent electrical distributor. I then called a freight forwarder and ordered a lot more products.
“At the time my wife and I were living in a 800 sq ft apartment. I had no idea where I would put the products, but I just knew I had to buy them. Life is full of happy surprises: my wife told me that she had just found a warehouse that same morning, so I unpacked the truck myself. Each bag weighed 53 pounds and I had to carry them to the end of the warehouse.’’
Today the company has grown far beyond its humble owner/operator beginnings. Liteline is a vertically integrated manufacturer of residential and commercial lighting fixtures and lamps. The head office is in the GTA, in a new 150,000 sq ft. manufacturing and distribution facility. Since 1982, Liteline has also had a second distribution warehouse in Vancouver, BC. The company has skilled and knowledgeable agents in every province across Canada and the U.S.
The special touch of the second generation
Mark Silverstein tells me the children always recognized while growing up that joining the family business was an option and not an obligation. “We always knew what was happening at the office, but we had our own lives and experiences.”
“With technology changing so rapidly,” says Steve, “it’s nice to have the younger generation involved. We’ve responded to the rise of LEDs by becoming a technology company that develops integrated lighting solutions.”
Line Goyette is Managing Editor of EIN; email@example.com.