“What is one of your greatest strengths?”

It’s a question you hear in almost every interview. My answer has always been ‘Communication’ but working at Lightenco over the past 9 months has shown me how wrong I was.

Lightenco held a company-wide strategic retreat this month at a cottage north of Ottawa. We got to know each other on a more personal level, talked about why we liked working at Lightenco and how we can improve as a company. The one thing people liked most about their job was the people they work with. Considering that Lightenco has only 15 employees from 9 different countries, I think that is pretty unique!

The diversity of the company has its challenges, but also some benefits. The most common response to how we need to improve as a company was communication. Miscommunication at any step in a project (from the initial audit to the final invoicing) has an impact on our efficiency. Specifically, installers felt that they required more information to be prepared for projects. As project manager, my main responsibility is to ensure projects are completed on time and within budget. That is difficult to accomplish if installers don’t fully understand what product we are using, where it should be installed, when we have access, etc. I have improved on this over the past few months, but I still have work to do. 

Miscommunications would happen regardless of who works for the company. But with two-thirds of the company speaking English as a second language, these mistakes happen more frequently than we would like.

For example, at one project an installer told me they needed a circular saw. I didn’t know why they would need a circular saw if they were installing pot lights in ceiling tiles, but I brought a circular saw anyway.

When I arrived on site, I realized what he actually needed was a hole saw to cut a round hole for the new pot lights. If I would have just asked why he needed it, I wouldn’t have wasted a trip to site, allowing them to proceed sooner with the next step.

How can I learn from these mistakes and make sure we improve moving forward? Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words and that is even more true across language barriers! If an installer is having an issue on site, the first thing I ask is for them to send a picture to the project’s group chat. It is then much easier for them to explain what tools or material they need to resolve the issue.

Fortunately, there are also many benefits to Lightenco’s diversity. We get to learn about different religions and cultures, taste different foods and listen to different music. The diversity does not stop there; many of our employees had different careers before immigrating to Canada. There are electricians, accountants, engineers and even a ship captain who all contribute to the success of the company.

For many of our employees, Lightenco provides their first stable job after immigrating to Canada. Lightenco works with the Power of Trades and other programs offered by the YMCA to hire workers who are pursuing better lives for themselves and their families. On top of this, the company also strives to help employees adapt and integrate to their new life in Canada. Employees are invited to community events and our company retreats usually involve typical Canadian traditions.

I believe working for a small company gives employees the most opportunity for growth. The diversity of our small company has forced me to improve my communication and management skills. I need to ensure installers fully understand the scope of work and that they can communicate with me when issues arise. I am also learning how each team member has different skills and experience that can help make our projects more successful. While the diversity of Lightenco does have an impact on our operations, it has also made me more aware of my own strengths and weaknesses.