What I’ve Learned: Bill Astary

What I’ve Learned: Bill Astary

Posted 12/23/2016


Director of Industry Strategic Partnership, Georgia Tech; Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Acuity

One of the greatest opportunities that presented itself to me was mentorship by some of the industry’s best and most dedicated. During my time with Lithonia [now Acuity Brands], I was mentored by Jim McClung and John Morgan. I learned the importance of strong values and great integrity, as well as remaining calm under pressure. Any successes I had in lighting were the direct result of the advice and influence my mentors had on me.  I continue to gain from these relationships even today.

Don’t be afraid of the silence, even if it is uncomfortable.   Let projects and personalities unfold. However, when you have a clear feeling that time is wasting, make a decision. Patience is good, but also know when to move forward.

Family provides a sense of perspective. I have two grown married children, and watching them move through the different stages of their maturity has really helped put some perspective on what is important and where priorities in my life should be.

There is no substitute for leadership. Strategy is important and execution is critical, but leadership is the key to success in your business and also in your community.  I’ve learned to not be afraid to loan my leadership to causes I believe in.

Know which battles to fight. Sometimes  you need to back off completely, sometimes you need to engage in the discussion, make your points, and move on, and sometimes you need to fight to the bitter end (even if that is career ending). The important part for me was learning to take time to know the difference.

Try to give back more than you get. My father taught me that we have a responsibility to care for others. In his work with parks and recreation, I got to see firsthand how I could build something and create a culture of excellence in the community. I love the quote from Woodrow Wilson, “We are not here merely to make a living.  We are here to enrich the world with a finer spirit of hope and achievement – and we impoverish ourselves if we forget the errand.”

There is always something more to learn—even when you think you know it all. Building a broad base of knowledge will keep you learning.  I have learned to understand all parts of the [lighting] business and how they connect—design, manufacture, specify, sell, and service.

I’ve learned to be thoughtful about my career and be willing to take a step sideways or delay a forward move to gain a better understanding or support the team. The next promotion is not always the best promotion.

Answers come from both inside and outside the industry. Get involved in industry associations and build your connections there—but also look outside the industry for answers. Being able to pick up the phone and call one of my friends from a different industry has really created some outside perspective for me. The additional benefit has been a network of business associates that will remain with me for a lifetime.

Always credit teammates.
  It’s a cliché, but it’s true—business is a team sport.  Acknowledging the contributions and accomplishments of others generates the environment to accomplish amazing things and unlocks the innovation of the organization.

Learn from each mistake and never quit.
  I’ve made a lot of mistakes during my 35 years in the business. However, I’ve earned a lesson from every one of these mistakes, and some led to great success.  The key was to have a vision of what success was and just keep trying!

Later in my career,
 being a mentor was very important to staying connected with the needs of the next generation of professionals.

Have fun & enjoy the journey.  Early in my career one of my mentors suggested that if you were not having fun, then why do it?  This turned out to be solid advice personally and professionally.


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