The announcement arrived in my email and I was shocked, then not shocked, and then slightly amused. A friend and true character of the custom installation industry was “retiring.” But this wasn’t some old worn-out industry veteran who was calling it quits to enjoy his time with his grandkids. This was SpeakerCraft president Jeremy Burkhardt, a guy about a year younger than me–a fellow GenXer–age 40.
It seems the rigors of answering to management types at parent company Nortek had taken their toll on Burkhardt, who says he never much liked writing reports when he wanted to launch a new product or spend some money on some new concept.
“I’ve always been a shoot from the hip, do things by my gut sort of guy,” Burkhardt told me in a call after the announcement. “But for SpeakerCraft to grow to the next level, I’ll need to get out of the way.”
He told me that the company had become a different culture than the one he’d signed up for, and that it was time to step aside and let his colleague at sister company Proficient, Keith Marshall, take the reigns. “Keith is a professional manager,” Burkhardt said. “He’s going to do great things with the company.”
Marshall’s been given the “interim” title, but he told me on the same call that he’s “fully bulking in” for the role and that titles don’t matter. We’ll learn more of his plans in the coming weeks, but today, he said, is all about Jeremy.
The decision to leave has been in the works for about a month, and Burkhardt said he hopes to wrap things up by the end of this week or next.
He’s “not mad at anyone” he said. “I still dig the brand, but it’s just time I hand it off.”
But Burkhardt doesn’t plan to stay away from the industry for long. He said he’d like to doing some teaching, walk around Asia a bit, and maybe buy another company.
“This industry is full of my friends from the past 20 years,” he said. “I still want to be surrounded by the people I love and respect.”