“Think about the long term. Think about the 5-year initiatives and not just what might need to be tweaked or adjusted. Not that there aren’t items that will fall into that bucket, but give yourself the free rein as CFO to practice a bit of white space thinking for the long-term horizon.” –Roy Simmons, CFO, GE Lighting, a Savant company
Twenty years ago, when Roy Simmons first joined General Electric Company as a rookie financial analyst, it likely would have been difficult to imagine that he would someday occupy the CFO office of GE Lighting.
Of course, occupying the CFO office of “GE Lighting, a Savant company” would have required the young analyst to be endowed not just with imagination but also a crystal ball. This being said, in 2019, when a more seasoned Simmons joined the former GE business (now owned by Savant Systems, Inc.) as CFO, he had little trouble in imagining a list of finance leader priorities for the coming year.Read More
“We’ve been together for the last 14 months and we together have a vision to bring that brighter life to the people,” explains Simmons, who spent a combined 18 years at GE, a span of time during which he served in a number of senior FP&A roles, including one with GE Lighting.
“Back in the lighting days, we realized that our customers who bought lights for their businesses were also finance professionals and operating professionals who had goals, so we asked ourselves, ‘How do we sell lights better than anyone else?’ and ‘How do we actually create a meaningful opportunity to provide value to the customer?,’” recalls Simmons, as he begins to outline the thinking behind a strategic pivot from GE’s past.
Says Simmons: “Normally, a customer would say, ‘We’re just going to go buy a series of new lighting fixtures for our parking lot, and this will cost me $100,000.’ However, what if instead we went to a customer and said, ‘Rather than spend $100,000 on lights, how about a solution that means that you’re going to save $40,000 a year in energy consumption?’”
According to Simmons, the GE team narrowed its lens in order to target CFOs and other operationally minded executives with a commitment to deliver the customer savings within two and a half years.
“Sometimes we could get it down to less than a year. Sometimes it was a bit longer, but by doing it this way, we changed the paradigm on selling,” comments Simmons, who credits the solutions approach with helping GE to land a landmark deal valued at $180 million—a hefty price tag for what Simmons describes as “the largest lighting deal ever closed.”
Looking back on the approach, Simmons says: “It really brought to life a solution for customers that has survived past those days and which has now gone on to morph into a company that’s today outside of General Electric Company in a different capacity, and it set a paradigm in an industry that had been thinking of things in a singularly focused way and changed them.” – Jack Sweeney
CFOTL: We would imagine that the GE brand is still what helps to set this company apart from its competitors, but tell us what being a Savant company now means …
Simmons: The GE brand is one of the world’s best, highlighted by that iconic remembering that many people have of an appliance—which still exists today, whether it’s of a blender, a toaster, or a lightbulb. We believe that people resonate with a brand that they trust and that they buy products that they trust. With the mission that we have as a company to use our lighting history as a foundation, we believe that we can create brighter lives in a more sustainable world. What does this mean? It means looking through the lens of creating the smart home of the future.Read More
If you think about 100 years ago, Thomas Edison was inventing the lightbulb. We went from fire to electricity for the first time ever around the world and in people’s homes, which was a catalyst for a century of change, of evolutions of lighting technologies, of evolutions of applications. Things like LEDs came out for alarm clocks but eventually became mainstream when they were no longer just red. In 1962, a GE scientist made a white version of it, and really we redefined the word through that century. If we think through what happens in the century to come, our belief—under the value of that iconic legacy—is that we can create new, smart worlds.
The way I like to think of it is that each morning or each evening, most of us follow similar routines in our homes. We get up, we open certain blinds, we turn on certain lights. We may or may not make coffee. We may or may not turn on the TV or music. We do the same thing at nighttime. These routines can be automated if they’re done appropriately, and this doesn’t have to take a massive investment. There is an opportunity today to get in at the forefront, but in the future, it’s all going to be mainstream.
Our belief is that by combining our legacy of invention on the lighting side with the fact that Savant has already created the smart home of the future for the custom installation market, we can bring that adoption opportunity to the masses and start by creating a GE Lighting Savant Company thermostat, which is coming out later at the end of this year. We can create cameras. Of course, we have lightbulbs, and, more important, we can create experiences whereby we can connect them under a common platform so that with the push of a button, when you wake up in the morning, blinds that you’ve selected can come up and lights that you’ve selected can turn on, as can appliances, as can garage door openers to make your life easier. You can have a fun party out on your deck and have a setting that changes the colors, that turns on certain music, that turns on puts a fountain in your yard.
We think that there are a lot of application and use cases, but right now it’s a little bit like going back to fire being used as light, which took some time to convert to electricity, which took some time to get into mainstream American homes and homes around the world. We think that we’re at this cusp for smart home, and we’re super excited about the future. We believe that the iconic brand that we operate under through our license with General Electric Company gives us the ability to bring this trust to consumers, to bring this product quality that people expect to have in the smart home of the future. We think that this is an area where for the next century people will be talking about how we took a legacy of innovation from one century and continued it into the next one.
GE Lighting, a Savant company | www.gelighting.com | East Cleveland, OH