Empathy and Surprise

Quick Bio

Steve Durkee, Legrand AV

Name: Steve Durkee

Position: President

Company: Legrand AV

SCN: Tell us a little bit about your career journey and how you got into the AV business.

STEVE DURKEE: I started in the AV business back in 2004, so it’s been 16 years. I didn’t try to get into the AV business. I hadn’t even identified AV as a market or potential career path, but it was just a great opportunity. At the time, a former colleague of mine was hired to be Chief’s vice president of operations and, as the business grew, they [Chief] started to see the incredible potential and opportunities in the AV business as flat panels and projectors grew. They took that as an opportunity to expand their management team. I got a call and the rest is history.

SCN: You’ve recently been promoted to president—congratulations! What are your goals in this position?

SD: An integrated customer experience is my first objective. We want to be the easiest partner to do business with, pure and simple. If the experience is seamless across brands, we can make our customers more efficient; we have the ability to provide them with one stop and one interaction for multiple products. That, in turn, improves their profitability and capacity. They can add more value by deploying their resources where their expertise lies, in creating amazing experiences, versus having to spend additional time managing product and vendor logistics.

[Legrand Promotes Steve Durkee to President]

And that integrated customer experience is a journey. We’re on that journey today, and we’ll always be on it. This commitment to our customer experience is one of the best elements of our culture. It never ceases to amaze me how much passion our team members have to help our customers.

My next goal, which stems from the first, is discovering areas of improvement. Continuous improvement is part of the fabric of our culture, and it truly helps us get better in all that we do. We are constantly gathering empathy from customers to help us resolve their pain points to ultimately become a better partner. Improving the integrated customer experience and really delivering on that promise is a goal in the near term.

A third area that’s always been part of our DNA is innovation. We won’t go through the founding stories of all the brands, but they’re all innovators that solved problems for their customers. What we can do now is develop products across brands to create real solutions. I know that is also a little cliché, but we’re excited to invest in this effort. As I said, it’s all about being the easiest partner to do business with, and we believe this is a real opportunity for us and our customers.

SCN: What is your management style and how will this impact the company?

SD: I’m not sure I’d say it’s my style, per se—we’re a collaborative business. I’m very open to ideas on how we’re doing and what we’re focusing on and why. My objective would be to use that collaboration, that openness, to drive further alignment across all our brands.

I look forward to the day that everyone in the business not only has a consistent answer about our strategic direction, but holds true clarity on their individual contribution. It sounds simple—as some of the best goals are—but this is where I hope I can have an impact on the company. I believe focus not only improves results but also the experience of our teams working together toward common goals.

SCN: Customer experience seems to be top of mind at Legrand AV. Tell us how you plan to continue to keep your customers happy.

SD: For me, it comes down to two simple words: empathy and surprise. We’ve got to continually ask our customers for feedback, then use that feedback to solve their top challenges. We need to be genuinely curious about how to improve on what we learn. In addition, we need to look for those opportunities to surprise customers by solving their challenges in ways they may never expect, and it’s foundationally based on empathy. I can’t recall a project that didn’t start with asking our customers first.

SCN: Where do you see the pro AV industry heading?

SD: The AV industry, in so many ways, is more important than ever. It is certainly going to continue to grow. As we’ve all seen in recent months, it is also going to be a little different. As the new normal continues to take shape, AV will be an enabler for many industries and applications.

I’m proud to be a part of an industry nimble enough to respond to these changes. For our part, we’ll contribute through the next generation of solutions, but we’ll also be there to help customers through system design and education and, really, any way we can. For many of us, we’ve never experienced so much change in such a short time, but I’ll also say, never have we been so equipped to respond.

SCN: Are your teams working on any new product innovations that you can share with us?

SD: Always. Innovations are something you can continue to count on all our brands to deliver. Solving the challenges today has actually been more about delivering what’s relevant than what’s new. We’re seeing a resurgence in cart solutions, for instance, as a great stop-gap maneuver at the onset of the pandemic. The latest from Vaddio really couldn’t have come at a better time—our new AV Bridge 2x1 is perfectly sized for lecture capture and streaming to support the shift to distance learning.

We also have a new Solutions Engineering Team, which may feel like a less-than-normal answer with regard to new products, but again, we’ve learned through empathy that our customers want help on the product service and design side. This group has been instrumental in the past few weeks as we’ve navigated these changing times. From assisting churches to get up and running with live streaming to helping integrators branch out and deliver telemedicine solutions, this new team helps in system design and even reviewing existing designs to make sure everything works to create an amazing AV experience.

SCN: Anything else you’d like to add?

SD: Foundationally, what makes Legrand AV tick is our passionate people and our culture. I’ve said this before, and I really do believe it—it’s merging together the best of all the brand cultures that have come together over the last 16 years. I think that ultimately what makes any business successful is having a foundation of people who are all very passionate about the business. Our teams live and breathe AV every day and genuinely want to help our customers. Sometimes it’s not more complicated than that. If you start with that, a lot of good things will happen!

Megan A. Dutta

Megan A. Dutta is a pro AV industry journalist, and the former content director for Systems Contractor News (SCN) and Digital Signage Magazine, both Future U.S. publications. Dutta previously served as the marketing communications manager at Peerless-AV, where she led the company’s marketing and communications department. Dutta is the recipient of AVIXA's 2017 Young AV Professional Award and Women in Consumer Technology's 2018 Woman to Watch Award. Dutta is co-founder of Women of Digital Signage, an organization designed to provide a pathway to promote networking, mentoring, and personal growth.