Nulty founder Paul Nulty leads an “architectural lighting design consultancy with a healthy selection of awards and diverse roster of clients.”
Paul Nulty and his firm links up with “partners in a variety of industries—from hotels and residences to retail, hospitality and light art—to create designs that delight, excite and inspire those who use them.”
According to Paul Nulty, his company stands out because of their “energy, passion and narrative.” Another thing that sets them apart is their focus on storytelling.
Paul Nulty believes that “when you can tell a story…you have a level of authenticity that comes across in your work.”
Likewise, Paul Nulty says that “this level of drive, passion and authenticity comes across in all that we do and it’s infectious.”
When people work with Paul Nulty, they come to “really love to work with us and that’s what’s it’s all about.” The stories that Nulty tells “through light…makes us stand out as a practice.”
Paul Nulty and his firm also believe in “emotionally connecting people with light and creating spaces that inspire and bring people together.”
At Nulty, Paul Nulty expresses his “willingness to sell the story and create a narrative” for their clients, which makes them unique in the field.
Our energy, passion and narrative are what set us apart and also the fact that everything we do is about storytelling. Paul Nulty, Nulty
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Paul Nulty: Our energy, passion and narrative are what set us apart and also the fact that everything we do is about storytelling.
I think that when you can tell a story, whether it’s about yourself or a project that you’re working on, you have a level of authenticity that comes across in your work.
This level of drive, passion and authenticity comes across in all that we do and it’s infectious.
People that we work with and engage with really love to work with us and that’s what it’s all about.
The stories that we tell through light at Nulty, are what make us stand out as a practice.
We believe in emotionally connecting people with light and creating spaces that inspire and bring people together.
Lighting design has almost nothing to do with fixtures and fittings, and pretty much everything to do with creating the right sort of atmosphere.
We want to take our clients on this journey and our willingness to sell the story and create a narrative is what makes us unique.
There’s a finite number of hours in the day, and at Nulty we probably work too many of those hours, so we need to make sure that we are all enjoying what we do.
At the end of the day, it isn’t a job, it’s a calling.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Paul Nulty: Hire a PA or Office Manager. A good PA will save time, effort and, ultimately, money.
I think the single most important hire that I ever made was my very first Office Manager.
I had never had that support before at work, and I was running around trying to do it all, but when I was able to pass responsibility over and work with someone who I could trust and who understood me and my needs, it allowed me the space to focus on what I was good at.
It’s a synergy with someone, and when it clicks and you’re working in tandem, it really is a god send.
To be honest, it was probably the most important thing that happened to the business because it gave me the time to focus on building client relationships.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Paul Nulty: I believe that everybody is the sum of their experiences, so whoever crosses your path in life is part of your story. I really believe that.
Of course, I have people who have stood out along the way though.
Our Managing Director, Ellie, was one of my first ever hires and I had to say to her at the start that I really wanted her on board but couldn’t guarantee if I would be able to pay her, but she was crazy enough to come on board anyway!
I also have my university and school tutors, or my first boss and of course my wonderful team.
I think that everyone, no matter how big or small their role has been, has played a part in our success as a business.
I have an enormous amount of gratitude for everybody that has come and gone through the life of our practice.
There’s that cliché that you’re standing on the shoulder of giants and I genuinely believe that when applied to Nulty.
Success is about teamwork and I’m incredibly grateful to my team.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
Paul Nulty: It’s simple. A good company accepts that good is good enough, whereas a great company accepts that good enough is not enough.
We always have to strive to be better and we have to evolve.
Leaders have to accept that they don’t need to be the best in the company, they just have to inspire those around them to be even better.
It’s about respecting your team and treating them all fairly.
If you can do this, then they will aspire to achieve everything that they possibly can.
It’s about inspiring people to be working towards the same goal and at Nulty that means accepting that good isn’t good enough — we have to be exceptional.
We strive for that and it’s in absolutely everything that we do every single day.
I’m also not scared of employing people that are more talented that I am. It’s absolutely my intention to employ people who I think are better than me.
If I surround myself with incredible people then I can feed off that and be more inspired.
Success is about teamwork and I’m incredibly grateful to my team.
Jerome Knyszewski: What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Paul Nulty: If you’ve reached a standstill then maybe you need to change it up. Do something bold, scare yourself, take risks and pivot.
Maybe that means leaving your job or bringing someone else in to run the business.
You’ve got to find ways to stay inspired and often that means embracing change.
It’s really hard as a business leader, because it’s your job to inspire everybody else, but sometimes the leader needs leading as well.
Never be scared to seek advice or share ideas.
Generally, as a design community, we don’t share enough information because we are scared of losing out to the competition, but I think that sharing knowledge is powerful.
You should be bouncing ideas with each other, even if it’s with your competition, and testing out new ideas.
I like trying new things and sometimes they work and other times they don’t.
We’ve experimented with offshoot businesses like Nulty Bespoke and Studio N because I wanted to try something new and thankfully, they are working.
We were the first lighting design practice to bring PR and business development in house and we were one of the few studios to focus on brand positioning.
That was all because I find that stuff inspiring and I wanted to explore areas outside of my day-to-day job.
I think that if I had just stuck to my daily job role then I probably would have run out of steam by now.
Jerome Knyszewski: Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Paul Nulty: I don’t know anyone who hasn’t lost growth traction!
It’s been an incredibly difficult time recently, but our strategy has been to position ourselves as thought leaders.
You can’t force somebody to want to work with you.
All you can do is be at the forefront of their mind when they do need someone so as lighting designers that means we need to be relevant.
I think that we have tried to be as relevant as we possibly can, whether that’s been through marketing strategies or being noisy through business development initiatives.
We also want to be a company that helps small businesses so we’ve run coaching sessions and health and wellness sessions to create a community where we can all help each other.
I think that the way through a crisis, such as the current pandemic, is to not go at it alone. Sharing and supporting each other is the right way to overcome the challenges.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Paul Nulty: I would say HR. No-one teaches you how to manage, lead and inspire people.
When you go out on your own, everybody looks to you as the leader and as someone who will inspire them and that’s really difficult.
You have to figure out how to motivate people and get the best out of them and sometimes your priorities aren’t the same priorities as others, and you have to learn to accept that.
Leadership isn’t something that you’re taught at design school, instead it’s something you learn on the job and it’s actually one of the trickiest parts.
You can’t always be the nice guy, but you also can’t always be the bad guy, and maintaining that balance is a very difficult thing.
Jerome Knyszewski: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Paul Nulty: There’s no such thing as business to business. There’s either person to person or business to person.
Understanding how people perceive your business and engaging with them is key.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Paul Nulty: Yeah of course.
I think that if you have an online personality then you have to be aware because people will perceive that personality in whatever way that they wish.
You have to hire people to manage your platforms and make sure that they understand how you want to position yourself and reach out on social media.
Having a really strong social media strategy will help with this.
There’s no such thing as business to business. There’s either person to person or business to person. Paul Nulty
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Paul Nulty: One of the most commons mistakes in our industry is running out of work.
Time and time again you see a business win a project, focus too heavily on that project and then realise when it’s finished that they don’t have any other work.
It happens a lot in the built environment.
You have to understand the importance of business development and you always have to be thinking about where that next project is coming from.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Paul Nulty: It would have to be about educating and raising awareness of the importance of light and lighting.
I would create an educational movement towards the better use of lighting, including the health and wellness benefits of light, because after all, if all the world’s a stage, let’s have better lighting.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Paul Nulty: You can learn more about me and Nulty here:
Instagram / Twitter — @nultylighting
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!