We had reached at a turning point in the early years of Systems Contractor News. Our company president wasn’t sure what to do with us, as the commercial installation business evolved beyond the pro audio influences that he knew so well into more and more large-scale video and control products. He wanted to help the editorial and sales teams start thinking strategically, so he called in one of the industry’s most respected business consultants, John Stiernberg, to guide us through the process.
John, who passed away over the weekend after a months-long battle with cancer, led our planning meeting that year and for several years after that, teaching us how to run a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), create a mission statement, and to devise action items for improving our brand. Each member of the staff was assigned a task that would need to be completed before the next quarterly meeting. I often dreaded these days of working on the business instead of in the business, because I feared that I would fall behind in my work, but the progress we made due to John’s guidance was undeniable.
John Stiernberg, 1951-2017
John was influential in other ways, as well. He knew that as managing editor of SCN, I was practically chained to my desk in New York and that I would benefit if got out of the office more and gained more industry perspective. He had me fly to Chicago to check out Global Shop, a retail fixtures trade show that was dabbling in AV and to meet with industry reps and contractors in the area. For fun, we also attended a bluegrass show one night (John played in bluegrass band) and had some excellent sushi (I learned what a bento box was.) That trip was also when I learned that John never went anywhere without his Daytimer. When we parked in a parking garage, he gently remove the little calendar book from the inside pocket of his sports coat and wrote down the location of our rental car using his Cross-quality mechanical pencil. As a fellow control freak I was mesmerized by this simple gesture, so I asked John about it. Turns out, he’d taken a class on how to use his Daytimer most effectively. Who knew such a thing existed?
Over the years, I got to know John’s sweet and thoughtful wife, Jeanne. As his business partner, she was almost always by his side at industry events, including CEDIA shows, where I ended up spending more of my time after the launch of Residential Systems. John and Jeanne looked to be great partners in business and in life.
I later joined John for one of his legendary trade show dinners where he invited a cross-section of manufacturers executives, trade association directors, and members of the trade media to break bread together and discuss whatever show they were attending. It was great for his business, for it showcased the respect that he’d clearly earned from all of us over the years and showed the power of his Rolodex (or were we in his Daytimer?) It also left each of feeling just a little more engaged in the business we were in, once dinner was over.
These are just a small collection of my personal memories of John. I’m sure that there are many more stories out there from people who were influenced, educated, and befriended by John. He was gentleman, and he will be missed.