What I’ve Learned: Howard Wolfman

What I’ve Learned: Howard Wolfman

Posted 5/22/2015


Founding member, Motorola Lighting; Global leader in development of lighting industry standards and specifications; Adjunct Professor; Creator of the NEMA Premium Ballast, Founder and Principal of Lumispec Consulting

Lead, follow, or get out of the way.  My father had this slogan on his walker when he was 95 years old, and it bears repeating.

Lead by example—be an example to your employees, fellow workers, and customers; set an example of ethical, “roll-up-your sleeves”, and customer-focused work.

My dad taught me to be honest and ethical—and always do at least a day’s work for a day’s pay.

When I first started doing consulting, I thought I’d be doing it for two years or so—I’m now in my seventh year [laughs].  You can’t predict the future.

Every child is different [laughs].  Some can be very logical, some can be very disorganized, some can be very responsive to any request you make, some can fight you or disagree with you frequently. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

A marriage is not ‘50/50’—it’s each person giving 60 percent.  When you think you’re going halfway, that’s not good enough. You need to go over halfway to sustain a loving relationship over decades and decades.

When I was at Motorola lighting, part of the philosophy was ‘View every problem as part of an opportunity.’   It’s an opportunity to satisfy a customer, an opportunity to make your products better.  It can apply to family as well as customers or job issues.  You will learn something and better yourself in the process.

When I was in 8th grade, I got a local job at the school store—it was across the street from my elementary school.   I wasn’t overly zealous —I wasn’t too detailed in cleaning the shelves—it was a pain in the butt!   I would clean just the front of the shelf and wouldn’t move anything off the shelf to clean it.  The owner warned me a couple of times but then he fired me.  I learned if you’re going to do a job, do it thoroughly.

Try to learn something new each day.  Any day you learn something is a good day and constant learning will make you better enabled to address tomorrow’s issues.

My father was probably the most stubborn man in the world—and I inherited some of that.  Don’t let your stubbornness limit your choices in life or your career.  I saw this personally—one time he’d been working for a company for 16 years.  He didn’t get along with the boss’s son in-law and one day he just up and quit the company…he had to find another job.  Understand your stubbornness and don’t let it control your life.

My view is very simple—I view that we were all created by the same creator. You judge people as individuals on their individual ethics—honesty and performance. You don’t stereotype people or look down on them.  Be tolerant of beliefs, customs, and cultures of others.

You earn trust by your actions—be honest, be open, have integrity, and follow through on your commitments.  Once you lose someone’s trust, it is extremely difficult to regain it.

If your company lays you off or closes, don’t take it as the end of the road—view it as the opportunity for another open door.  Reflect whether you want to stay in the same type of job, or move to another industry.

If your company doesn’t offer a product or solution that a customer has requested, and if you know of another company that does offer it, tell your customer about the alternative supplier.  Most likely you will not lose a customer, but you will gain your customer’s confidence in your ability to solve his/her problems.

You need to strike a balance between work and family—and  you want to gear it toward family—you never know what may happen in the future—good or bad. And as families grow up in today’s society, people grow up and move all over the world.   Staying active in your trade association, professional societies and technical societies—you’re continually learning and are at the leading edge of learning, in terms of standards and regulatory affairs.  Also, it gives you the opportunity to constantly expand your people network.   Networking to me is extremely important in furthering your career—doing favors for others, asking favors for others.

Try your best to make sure that all your children stay close friends with each other.  Family is blood—it’s unique.


Ask Paul any questions about hiring or interviewing
Become a Great Interviewer graphic

Upcoming Events

View All Events

Career Advice for Our Younger Selves: Lighting professionals speak from experience By: P ...