David Littman is a man of unbound energy, ambition and drive. As CEO and founder of the luxurious Hudson Valley Lighting and Littman Brands, David was born into a family full of inventors and entrepreneurs and carries on that passion today. His grandfather was a Brooklyn-based inventor in the ‘30s, and his entrepreneurial father was a big part of the vision that inspired David to start his own lighting brand when he was just twenty-three years old.
Today, the Littman Brand family is comprised of six luxury brands with a pretty dynamic range of unique lighting products. We had a chance to catch up with this super exuberant, hard-working and hands-on CEO whose enthusiasm for the industry belies his nearly thirty-five years in the lighting business.
Where does your brand draw inspiration from? Hudson Valley has a very distinct aesthetic.
David Littman: I have always been inspired by antiques, my mother used to take me antique shopping with her and that has stayed with me and has influenced many of our collections. We still do a lot of modernized vintage designs, but the world of art has inspired us as well, and we’re taking a very artistic approach to our brands now. I would say we’re taking more design risks. When you’re working with vintage product, you’re working with things that are familiar to the eye. When you’re working with new forms, new structures, you’re taking more risk.
We’re taking more risks, and we’re creating items now that are not at all familiar. Fantastic looking items that are completely different than anything anybody’s ever seen before in decorative lighting. We’re taking the approach of lighting as art, and we’re starting to reach new ideas without any familiarity to the past. It’s been something that we’ve been doing now for the past 18 months, and we’ve come up with some really terrific new concepts.
Who are some of your entrepreneurial heroes?
David Littman: My father is my hero (he died last year). He owned multiple companies throughout his career. He always took educated risks. And typically he made them work out very, very well. We’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit in the family. Among the family members, we own many companies.
The things that I have accomplished in my business are things that I’ve learned from my own life, and things that I’ve seen growing up in my own family, including having to use integrity. For me, it’s not so much about outside uber business people/CEO influences, as they’re not the ones that have shaped my life at all. It’s really been my own family. You know, most people don’t like talking business at dinner. In our family, about 80 percent of our conversation is devoted to business. That’s the reality of my world. We’re just entrepreneurial people.What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
David Littman: The one piece of advice that follows me through my career and always helps shape my decisions was from a buyer that I used to work with years ago. She taught me to focus not only on the look of the product, but how the product feels. She said “David, it’s got to look great, but it’s also got to feel great.”
It’s about the “out of the box” experience. When somebody buys our products, they really have high expectations. It’s beautiful quality and beautiful finishes. With all those expectations, when they open that box, you still want them to be pleasantly surprised. You want them to say, “Wow, I know I just spent $375 dollars on this sconce, but my God, it’s beautiful.” And that’s the “out of box” experience. You want to over-deliver, whether it be on your commitment or on the perception of who you are as a company, and make sure that you’re always pleasing your customers to the best of your ability.
Never cut corners, never cheat on material thicknesses and always make products the best you know how. The “out of box experience” is just that: Whether it be a light from Hudson Valley, Troy or Corbett—from the moment you open the box, you know you’ve bought something fantastic, and you’re proud – and excited to own it.
And by the way, our standard to never cut corners has followed me throughout my career. We don’t know how to cut corners, and we don’t want to. If we lose a customer along the way because the price point doesn’t fit within their budget, hopefully at some point in their career, they’ll aspire to want all our product later in life, and they’ll come back around.What’s new and on the horizon for Littman Brands and Hudson Valley Lighting?
David Littman: We’re creating more designs influenced by art. We’re also now working with alternate materials never used in the lighting industry before, including more architectural materials that will launch in 2016.
We have also outgrown our current Hudson Valley Lighting headquarters in Newburgh and are looking for another location. As a brand, we are growing by leaps and bounds. Our new website utilizes the latest in web development technologies and the ‘best practices’ associated with world-class online platforms. More than ever we will be the go-to destination for consumers, designers, specifiers and our distributors, offering access to a myriad of useful tools and images to assist in the lighting design and selection process – and the best part is that they will have a great time during the entire process.