With locations from Orlando to Boston and New York to Phoenix, Barbizon is well known to all involved in any aspect of lighting for live events. The company wants to be “one-stop shopping” for design pros and fulfill their every need. Not bad for a company that was first forged on the battlefields of Europe during World War II when Sam Resnick and Sid Bloom decided to go into business together as the war wound down. The first company was an electrical distribution company that became the first distributors of tungsten halogen lamps in the US. The availability of that source, along with the company's location on Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen in close proximity to TV studios and Broadway led to Barbizon becoming the go-to source for everything from lamps to gaffer's tape, gels, and everything else an entertainment lighting pro could need.

In 1979 Barbizon opened its second location in Woburn, MA, followed by shops in West Palm Beach, FL, Washington DC, with subsequent locations opening in Phoenix, Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, NC, Miami, Denver, Orlando, Carrollton, TX, and London. The philosophy behind the small offices is that as a sales only organization — no rentals — Barbizon must be on the ground where the customers are, according to company president and CEO Jonathan Resnick. “Life would be a lot easier under one roof,” he says. “But we wouldn't have the sales we have or the organization.”

Resnick's occupation prior to joining Barbizon at his father's request was in the world of television journalism; he was the first news editor when CNBC first got off the ground. “I've never looked back,” he says. “My training in the news business prepared me well for the entertainment lighting industry, especially in terms of meeting last-minute deadlines.” He adds that Barbizon is and isn't a family-run business since he is only one of two in the company who are second generation of the founding families. “We have taken a lot of pains to install management that is not family,” he says “We've installed management from within and outside the industry. We have put more business practices into an industry which really doesn't follow normal business practices.”

Resnick elaborates by explaining that each of the branch offices are set up as profit and loss centers which empowers each branch's general manager to do what they need to do to advance in their particular market. “The marketplaces are different; New York is an anomaly compared to Boston, Denver, or Florida,” he explains. “And the way people do business in Florida is different in Phoenix. You have to have the ability to be flexible for the market place. It seems simple on paper, but it's difficult to execute at times. What I think is important in New York, may not be as important in the Midwest. We do a lot of communication from me to the general managers and back in order to figure out what trends are happening. My job is to connect the dots and my job is to discuss what's going on in the business and spot trends when they occur and be ahead of the trends.”

Resnick explains that in terms of technology, if three customers in Denver are asking for a piece of equipment and that information is relayed to other offices who might also have that same request, “then you know something's going on. Communication with so many locations is key to running the business, but so is having a certain amount of consistency so that the customer's experience with Barbizon is basically the same no matter where or which Barbizon they go to.”

Like many entrepeneurs, Resnick realizes that the customer is the most important aspect of keeping Barbizon up and running. “When it's all said and done, we live and die by our customers and their tastes change,” he says. “Our customers get into new technology and change how they are presenting themselves and we have to adapt with them.”

Customers aside, Resnick knows that having the right employees — Barbizon has a total of 160 around the world — are just as vital for a successful business. “You could have the best business plan then all of a sudden two planes go into the towers and instantly for many years to follow, things change and your business plan changes,” he says. “If you have good people in your company who can adapt to what is going on in the marketplace, then you'll succeed. It's that simple. Sometimes we make wrong calls but better to do that than not make a call at all.”

In order to improve customer service, Barbizon undertook a company initiative at the end of 2004 called Value Advantage to provide even better customer service. “We want to spend more time with our customers and not impose on them what we think they need, but listening to what they need and try to provide it in a more complete and substantive way to allow them to do their business better,” he says. “In this day and age where info is flying around the globe instantly, changes in our industry have allowed us for incredible creative changes at the last minute. Our customers provide an environment where they can make changes in an instant and you better be ready to have the stock to supply them or the ability to solve the problem and you have to be on your toes for that.”

Barbizon is not just in the business of supplying products, the company has become more and more involved with installation and has over 50 employees dedicated to it. The installations include new and renovated facilities encompassing retail, churches, schools, universities, television studios, performing arts centers, architainment, restaurants, and even museums. Some of Barbizon's more high-profile installation jobs include The Spy Museum in Washington DC, 7 World Trade Center, and the new Lakewood Ministries in Houston, TX that converted a basketball arena into a house of worship. “The bulk of what we do is considered production management,” Resnick explains. “We work with consultants, designers, engineers, or whomever to make sure the drawings all work and then hand those off to project managers. We're working with folks who know that lighting is important, but what we do is like voodoo to them. Fortunately, we see things the other guys don't — the HVAC people won't be sensitive to where rigging points need to be; the architect won't understand where a dimming closet should be located — so the earlier we are involved with a project, the better it is for everybody.”

Looking toward the future, Resnick feels that Barbizon will continue to build on customer relationships and serve and supply a production company that now includes television, film, theatre, houses of worship, corporate clients, and even permanent installations that have nothing to do with entertainment. “As technologies and services become more complicated, solutions-based companies like us have a strong future,” he says. “Technology has made life simple, but with that simplicity has come complications. That's one of wonderful things about our industry.”