The company has looked inward to improve its hiring and training procedures, computer system, and manufacturing abilities, and also outward, to strengthen its relationships with its vendors and customers. Studnicky says it all starts with hiring good people, training them well, and keeping them involved in the company's growth.
CSL now has close to 40 full-time employees, with “a couple of seasonal employees as well as some part-time year-round employees,” Studnicky says. In the last five years, the company has “taken a good, hard look” at its training processes. The first-generation employees received intensive training; since the company has grown, Studnicky wanted to harness the knowledge those first employees possess. “The training techniques we developed ensure the newest employees benefit from the knowledge base we have developed over 25 years,” Studnicky comments.
In fact, that training begins during the interview process, which takes several hours and includes two or three different managers. Interviews for sales positions start on the phone, to evaluate communication skills, before a face-to-face meeting. CSL also does in-house testing for computer, math, and English skills.
“We ask them to evaluate our training,” Studnicky adds. “They'll point out where we should spend less or more time, what was just right, what was the hardest. We treat almost everything we do as a living process or policy, because you want to maintain flexibility and be ready for a challenge that you might want to go after quickly.”
In addition, “We've taken time to look at the products we would want to be associated with,” Studnicky says, “and then developed our manufacturing capabilities to complement our wholesale distribution efforts.” This, he says, has helped CSL improve its relationships with many manufacturers. “It allows us to give [each manufacturer] the kind of feedback that we would want if we were manufacturing an item,” he says. “We've had success in giving them information and watching them implement it to make enhancements. That shows that bond between us and a manufacturer or vendor.”
The last few years have seen Creative Stage Lighting launch Entertainment Power Systems™ power distribution panels and stage-pin connectors, Dura-Flex™ cable and assemblies, Entertainment Industry Tape™, and the Suspension Solutions™ line of rigging hardware and accessories, but the company is still “more involved in distribution than in manufacturing,” Studnicky says. “We arrange exclusive relationships whenever possible. We're looking at proprietary distribution capabilities, working off either products that we've designed or products that we know we can take to the market and grow the business for our vendors.”
Currently, CSL is working with a software developer on new business software, “a very powerful package,” Studnicky says, “that will allow us to measure and expand our capabilities in every department, and it will enable us to improve the level of service we provide our dealers.” Again, employees have been encouraged to give feedback. “We pick 40 different brains,” says Studnicky. “We've got everybody's input, so we keep the energy and excitement levels high.”
Creative Stage Lighting's past five years have involved “serious amounts of refinement, scrutiny, and enhancement,” Studnicky concludes, “leaving it all open so that in another five, 10, or 20 years we would anticipate that these systems, these ways that we think today, are going to change. It leaves the door open so that we don't get shocked into stagnation where we're afraid to do something because something is going to change. We're constantly looking forward to changing and improving.”