4Wall Lighting ( https://www.4wall.com/ ), a full-service lighting company serving the entertainment industry, prides itself on being “Large enough to service, small enough to care”. The Las Vegas-based company does rentals, sales and system installation and now has offices in Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, and Washington D.C. We recently talk to the company’s Vice President of Marketing and Integration, Wes Bailey, to learn more about their story.
Tell us a little bit of the background of 4Wall Lighting. How did the company get its start?
4Wall started in Las Vegas in 1999, and we also started UsedLighting.com, our online e-commerce site at the same time.
Michael Cannon and Bill Lairamore, both veterans of the lighting industry who had worked at some of the largest providers at the time, co-founded the company with the idea of creating a rental, sales, and system installation company that could provide large scale support and technology with a very local feel.
The two founders drove the initial growth by creating a business model different from what had been done previously in the industry, with the main difference being the online sales component. To this day that allows the company to sell used equipment from rental stock and constantly replace it with newly upgraded technology. Michael actually purchased the domain ‘usedlighting.com’ via a deal made in a bar for $100!
The first 4Wall Las Vegas location was a 10,000 square ft. building with just a few employees. We’ve come a long way as the current one is 122,000 square ft. with more than 100 employees.
What trends in the entertainment industry have you found most drive the growth of 4Wall?
Over the years there have been many trends that have rolled through, many pushing the boundaries of performance art…from EDM to theatre to corporate events, everyone wants their event to shine so to speak, and that starts with the best lighting.
If I had to point to one trend that drove our growth the most though, it would have to be the emergence of LEDs as a viable entertainment lighting component. 4Wall invested heavily in LED products for our customers which led to better power consumption, better color options, etc.
4Wall is based in Las Vegas but has now expanded its offices to include locations in Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, and Washington D.C. How was this transition to being a truly nationwide company?
It definitely required a lot of work, and a lot of time spent learning by our management team. We entered New York just a few years after Las Vegas opened, as we had a few employees that had previously worked in that market. All of our other locations have opened up through acquisitions though. We have found the best way to establish yourself in a new market is through acquisition not just because of the equipment you add in that area, but mostly because of the people. We acquire companies with that in mind, to add truly local talent who know the customer bases of their area. We then spend the time to learn the market and see how our business model can improve upon what the previous company was doing.
What is unique about the 4Wall team? How do you create an atmosphere that attracts employees?
Probably the most unique thing about us in this day and age is the number of ‘lifers’ we have at the top of the company. Most of our management team worked at the bottom of the company and moved up internally thanks to an environment of promoting from within. This ensures that we all know how every level of the company operates…we can constantly revise and tweak things, but at the end of the day we know how lengthy processes can be and I think our newer employees appreciate that. Because most of us have been together for so long, we also have a great ‘family’ atmosphere, which I feel makes it easier for employees old and new to come to work every day.
It seems that your exceptional efficiency is an aspect of the company that your clients are thrilled about. How do you maintain this among your immense operations?
Michael and Bill were both very adamant about investing resources into our infrastructure. This means as we grew we added great tracking software to make our shop operations more efficient. We invested in the best facilities to make sure we could arrange our warehouses how we needed them to be set up. We even made sure to purchase road cases that could be easily managed by hand and loaded on trucks perfectly.
Taking steps like that is easier while the company was smaller, it would be very hard to implement them at the size we are now. The strong foundation we have in our infrastructure now allows us to add even more sophistication as we grow.
I see that your slogan is, “Large enough to service, Small enough to care”. What does it mean to 4Wall to stay true to this?
In a word…everything.
The goal of the company from the beginning was to be able to support any size of event while still giving the customer the feeling of service they would receive if they worked with a tiny shop that only had a few clients.
A light is just a light in all honesty, it is the service that sets it apart in people’s minds. As we grow we try to keep that motto front and center in all that we do. From the people we hire, to the equipment we buy, to the operational changes we make, all of our decisions flow from that ideal.
What is it like working in the entertainment industry as a provider and as a middle market company?
It’s great, because while the scale of the industry and everything that happens in it is huge, you could also say the industry itself is small because the people are all friends. Everyone knows everyone, and from show to show and company to company you always see a huge amount of friendly faces.
Also at the end of the day, everything we do is entertainment and that means that most of the clients, vendors, manufacturers, etc…all enjoy what they do. It’s pretty special.
What benefits are there for your clients in choosing 4Wall over another lighting company?
The best values that we offer our clients are our service, versatility, and technology.
By truly adhering to our slogan of ‘Large Enough to Service, Small Enough to Care’, we definitely address the needs of our clients at a level that we feel is hard to match. We try to make all clients feel like their show or event is the most important one we are dealing with that week, whether it’s a multi-million-dollar nightclub installation or a rental of a few lights for a small party or event.
From a versatility standpoint, the fact that we offer rentals, sales, and system installation make us a one stop shop for production people. Take, for example, a church that needs to upgrade its worship arts facility: we can install a new house system for them, include used equipment in that system if they are on a tight budget, and then provide rentals to them after the installation if they have a big service. That ability certainly sets us apart from other companies who only have one service.
Lastly our technology is something our customers benefit greatly from. From an inventory standpoint, we turn over our equipment every two years by selling it on UsedLighting.com. That allows us to have the latest LEDs, moving lights, or consoles all in stock, and all fairly new.
The technology portion of our identity doesn’t stop there though. We also employ the best tracking software for our rental gear. Our simple online ordering processes for rentals and sales utilizes mobile apps and other features that make it easy to reach us, see what we have in stock, and deal with us completely via email if that’s what you prefer. It’s all part of making it easier on the customer.
What’s next for 4Wall? What are you most excited about?
More growth! We’ve acquired three companies in the past twelve months and that has allowed us to add new market segments and services like Red-Carpet Production in Los Angeles and Film & TV rentals in New York and Los Angeles.
The best part about where we are right now is that we still have customers asking us to add a shop in their location (if we don’t have one there). That means we still have room to grow in other areas of the country as well, and the fact that customers want us in those markets means we must still be doing something right.
Making sure we keep the level of service high as we continue to grow is literally what makes me get out of bed in the morning. It’s an exciting challenge that we undertake every day.