First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Steven Scheer: Thanks for asking! While these are certainly trying times, we are just taking things one day and one week at a time and staying flexible adapting to the ever-changing challenges of life in COVID 19 times. So much is still unknown about this virus, and while it can definitely be frustrating for my 2 teens with summer camp and travel cancellations and limitations.
I continue to remind them (and myself!) of everything that we have to be thankful and lucky for – most importantly our physical and mental health. We understand everyone is struggling, and we also know that we will get through this together and be stronger for it in the future.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Brondell
Steven Scheer: As a serial entrepreneur, I excitedly quit my suit and tie job at Brown Brothers Harriman – the oldest and largest privately held bank in the US shortly after graduating college and being promoted. While I had a wonderful career ahead of me, it just didn’t feel right to be working for someone else or confined to the dress code. This led me down a rabbit hole of ventures spanning restaurant ownership at age 24, internet tech (I was the 3rd employee at Craigslist.org back in 1999 working out of Craig Newmark’s apartment in San Francisco), telecom software tech, and eco-focused manufacturing.
In early 2006 I responded to a job posting for a Mark Cuban backed company selling electronic bidet seats and was intrigued. I was hired as the Director of Operations and took over as President and CEO a few short years later and haven’t looked back. This year marks 14 years with the company, and I’m still loving every day.
How does Brondell innovate?
Steven Scheer: Innovation is the key to every successful company. If you are not pushing hard every day to continually improve whatever it is that you are creating, then that means you have lost the passion and will not make it long term. While there are always limits and constraints in what we can do (resources, time, manufacturing limitations) – we always seek out the best partners and technologies to incorporate into and develop into our next-generation products.
As a brand, we continue to focus focus on design and aesthetics, core functionality without marketing gimmicks, and accessible price points, all with a focus on building a healthier home experience for you and your family.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Steven Scheer: I’m truly amazed at how quickly and how well our team has adapted to working from home.
San Francisco was one of the first major cities to issue a shelter in place recommendations. Within days of that recommendation, we had transitioned departments to remote working except for our warehouse, shipping, and service staff that have physical needs to be in the office.
In addition to the quick transition, the toilet paper wars of early 2020 had us seeing a major spike in sales during the same time, so it was a busy month of adjusting to chaos. If this had been a few years earlier – I’m not sure we would have been well prepared, but in the past few years, we’ve implemented new cloud-based software solutions (Netsuite & Zendesk to name a few) that were invaluable for a quick transition during COVID.
At the end of the day, though, I owe all our transitional success to the amazing and passionate team here at Brondell. They are the true heroes, and I’m simply one of many that run and grow the company!
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Steven Scheer: The toughest decisions for us came from the mixed messaging and true lack of leadership on a national level during the pandemic. We wanted to ensure everyone’s health and safety, yet at the same time, you don’t want to over-react to any situation. Without consistent and accurate information coming out, it was hard to figure out. Ultimately, we wanted to be safe rather than sorry and were quick to heed the advice of local and state governments that we felt had our best interests in mind, and I’m thankful we did that. To date, we haven’t had a single employee contract COVID, and that speaks volumes to our vigilance to fight this pandemic and put employee safety first.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Brondell in the future?
Steven Scheer: Great question as there are so many stress triggers these days with the complications of running a company remotely. I recently read the following quote from Sean Riley, CEO of Dude Products. He stated, “Successful companies don’t have any less problems, in fact they usually have more. The difference is successful companies have people who have fun solving problems,” and I couldn’t agree more with his outlook on this.
If problems stress you out, then you have no business being a leader as that’s our job daily – to creatively problem solve, and nothing has created a bigger set of problems and challenges than COVID-19. It’s our actions and reactions that matter most, and everyone around you is watching, so we have to remember to take a deep breath and work through it with a smile on your face. If you can inspire one other person to do the same in your organization, you have succeeded.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Steven Scheer: We have plenty of competition for all our product categories that we focus on – Bidets, Water Filtration, and Air Purification. All those categories have lots of manufacturers selling goods, but our advantage as I see it is what we are doing as a company and a brand. First and foremost, everyone at the company truly does care deeply about what we do – delivering health and wellness-focused products to improve and enrich lives.
We care deeply about our employees, and they, in turn, care about our customers, partners, and the products and services we sell. What this really means to us is putting people before profits which includes things like giving back to our community through donations and product programs, providing support to those that need it, sharing success with our employees and team members, and really treating anyone we work with like they are part of our “Brondell family.” It may sound cliché, but it’s what has guided us for the past 17 years, and as long as I’m still running the company, it will continue for the indefinite future. It’s part of our DNA and part of our core set of values and vision for the company.
Your final thoughts
Steven Scheer: As an entrepreneur, you always have to follow your passion and believe in what you are doing – without that, you will never find true success as there’s no magic bullet for building a successful company. It takes a lot of hard work, and without passion and buy into what you are trying to do – it can get old quickly.
I’m really proud to say that after 14 years here at Brondell, I feel like we are just getting started on our journey, and I’m excited as ever about what’s next. Many people count the days until retirement, and I’m continually asking, “what can we accomplish next”? With the amazing team we have built here – I truly believe the sky is the limit.
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