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Another Comeback

As a Colts and Yankees fan, I have a couple of reasons to root against teams from New England.

As a Colts and Yankees fan, I have a couple of reasons to root against teams from New England. That being said, I had to hand it to the Patriots for never giving up, even after falling behind by 28 points late in “the big game.” But as I flew into Boston’s Logan Airport the next day, all I wanted to do was avoid discussing Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Unfortunately, I only made it as far as the reception desk at Savant’s Cape Cod headquarters before I was forced to talk about the Super Bowl.

As it turned out, that conversation served as a warm-up to another kind of comeback story, when I learned about Savant’s extensive new “luxury-channel” product roadmap.

After surprising many in the industry two years ago with its direct-to-consumer remote control and annoying others with subsequent shipping delays, there was the very well-received news last fall that company founder and former CEO Bob Madonna was returning to the helm after three years away, replacing his handpicked successor William Lynch. The company then consolidated its consumer and pro sales teams, leading to several hundred layoffs and false rumors about the company closing its NYC Experience Center and that it was looking for a buyer.

The truth is that Madonna was never that far away from Savant. He remained a member of the company’s board of directors, while placing his full confidence in Lynch, the former Barnes & Noble CEO, to create a snazzy new user interface for the Savant line, introduce the brand to more consumers through Best Buy and Magnolia Design Centers, and to build a massive new cloud infrastructure. And while he was ultimately happy with Lynch’s work, he observed that too many engineering resources were being taken away from luxury channel product development and that his guidance was needed again to help refocus the brand.

Upon Madonna’s return, the company has been feverishly working on new products for home tech pros that either bring the company up to speed with the competition (Amazon Alexa integration, a window shades line) or leapfrog it to the leading edge with new video distribution over IP technology and a licensing partnership with the company that Madonna created when he was “away,” Racepoint Energy, to offer a renewal energy monitoring/control product to the channel. And there are many products that I didn’t mention.

It was clear to me that Madonna A) Loves creating and running companies; B) Has no interest in selling Savant; C) Understands the way rich customers think because he is one, having profited handsomely from his engineering smarts and entrepreneurial instincts in the telecom industry a decade ago.

Here’s an example: When explaining Savant’s recent miscues, Madonna compared the company to a luxury car brand that also maintains an entry-level offering. “Too much focus was taken off of luxury and put on the consumer space,” he said. “I didn’t believe it had to be that way. You can build that 7 Series [BMW] and keep it pristine, and still have the 3 Series.”