CEO PROFILE: Charlie Szoradi
Charlie Szoradi, CEO of Independence LED Lighting LLC in Wayne, Pennsylvania
Published May 3, 2013
Name: Charlie Szoradi
Title: Chairman and CEO
Company, city: Independence LED Lighting in Wayne.
Type of company: U.S. manufacturer of energy-saving LED tubes.
Number of employees: 12
Revenue in last fiscal year: $2 million
Recent project: 50 Murray condominium tower, New York City, and also Two Logan Square, Philadelphia.
Education: University of Virginia, BS in architecture (1989); University of Pennsylvania, MS in architecture (1993).
First job: Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, New York City, but in my senior year of high school I was a copper fabrication apprentice on the Portlandia Sculpture (about a third of the size of the Statue of Liberty). And in first grade I got paid $1 a day from my neighbor’s lazy parents to walk the kindergarten kid a mile to school through Washington, D.C.
Little-known fact about you: I learned to meditate 20 years ago in a Buddhist monastery while working in Japan. I also tracked silverback gorillas across Rwanda.
Home: Solar house in Wayne.
Essential business philosophy: Accept that everything has room for improvement.
Best way to keep a competitive edge: Ask more questions than anyone else … and stay hydrated.
Yardstick of success: The point when our energy-saving commercial LED tubes force the global fluorescent tube companies to abandon their outdated technology.
Goal yet to be achieved: Five-star growth: Fifth consecutive year (2013) of doubling annual revenue on LED tube sales.
Best decision: Moving our LED tube manufacturing from China to Pennsylvania in 2010.
Worst decision: Trusting quality and warranties on imported lighting technology.
Toughest decision: Passing on a private-equity firm term sheet and funding opportunity, so that I could prevent shareholder dilution before benchmark growth.
Mentor: Kinya Maruyama, architect and University of Pennsylvania professor. He hired me for his firm in Tokyo.
Word that best describes you: Tenacious.
Like best about your job: The thrill of the technology race.
Like least about your job: Weekly accounts payable meetings or paying for overseas patent filings, redundant testing and certifications.
The most important lesson you’ve learned: Our triple bottom-line strategy: People, Planet, Profit, all starts with the integrity and commitment of our great people. In addition, the biggest lighting corporations in the world are even slower to change than people expect, leaving room for agile business innovation.
Life motto: Critical thinking and plenty of hard work are the keys to success.
Greatest fear: Running out of time and not having enough hours in each week to impact global energy efficiency as quickly as we would like. In the same vein, we fear the major fluorescent lighting brands use their lobbying resources to stall the adoption of the advanced LED tube technology.
Person most interested in meeting: Sir Richard Branson. He challenged multinational corporate leaders in well-established music, airline and cellular markets to build the innovative global brand, Virgin Group.
Company you respect most: Apple, for its category leadership in form, function, marketing and brand loyalty.
First choice for a new career: U.S. Secretary of Energy.
Greatest extravagance: Lunch outside of the office with family or friends versus a business meeting.
Award/honor most proud of: Green Business of the Year 2011, Main Line Chamber of Commerce.
Favorite movie: “Star Wars” in 1977 (I saw it first on a giant screen at age 11 and it instilled a spirit of revolution). Or “Rocky” — the ultimate underdog.
Favorite restaurant: Minella’s in Wayne for business breakfasts; the Standard Tap in Northern Liberties for lunch, drinks or dinner.
Favorite vacation spot: Our Stone Harbor beach house or John’s Island Club, Vero Beach, Fla.
Favorite room in the house: Our family room, with the great natural light and 20-foot vaulted ceilings
Favorite way to spend free time: Surfing and playing sports with the kids or watching and coaching their sports.
Car you drive: Porsche Cayenne and Mitsubishi Diamante. (2020 vehicle update: Tesla Model 3)