5 minutes with Steven Montgomery, UK Managing Director, Somfy

Perhaps one of the interesting trends from the pandemic this year, with a large number of people working from home, has been the rise in home smart technology. Online retailer and smart tech brand Somfy has certainly reaped the rewards. We spoke to MD Steven Montgomery to learn more.

5 minutes with Steven Montgomery, Managing Director, Somfy
Steven Montgomery

Tell me a bit about the Somfy story.

We recently celebrated our 50th birthday. Somfy was started in Cluses, France in 1969. It’s great to work in a business with true heritage as Somfy drew from the skills from the Swiss watch making industry in the region. Using these skills, Somfy launched their first tubular motor and soon after at the end of 1969 expended into Sweden starting the journey to the global company we see today.

What gap in the UK retail market does Somfy strive to address?

Somfy offers one if the most open and wide ranging smart home hubs. In the last 10 years we have seen the first few waves of smart home products coming into our lives; smart energy, smart security, smart power, smart lighting, smart shading – The list goes on.

We have so many partnerships across the smart home products that people love in their homes that allows us to create a smart and secure home.

“Being born way before the internet, smartphones and the tech we see around us today really makes Somfy’s approach different”

How is Somfy’s business model different to other smart tech retailers?

It’s a really interesting question for a business like Somfy. Being born way before the internet, smartphones and the tech we see around us today really makes Somfy’s approach different. We’ve been developing products for motorising many things like garage doors, gates, blinds, shutters, curtains for many years. Over those years we have continually strived to innovate in the controls of these motors to deliver ease to our customers. M

When the world of smart tech began to emerge it was a natural evolution for us to take the history and understanding and apply it to our smart home and smart security development.

That’s not something that most smart tech companies have – 50 years experience of improving people’s lives through innovation.

How did Somfy handle the lockdown period and how is it coping with the ongoing pandemic?

I’m really proud of our people, our most important asset in the company. They have coped incredibly well and we went from being in the office to being at home without missing a phone call.

It’s been a really busy period for us. As people haven’t travelled abroad there has been a lot of investment in our homes while we have been spending so much time there. This has meant that all areas of our business has been extremely busy. That of course in such a global crisis has brought its challenges and still does. As Covid-19 continues to have consequences in local pockets around the world, factory close, components become short in supply and we have to be creative.

The good news is that we have managed to keep supplying all our smart home and security products throughout the pandemic. We’ve also seen huge demand in our other products for smart blinds and smart garage doors. Supply of products has been more challenging in these areas.

What’s in store for Somfy in 2021?

The UK has one of the fastest growing smart tech markets in Europe and it will continue in 2021. We have a tough winter ahead of us and the comfort we feel at home will be important as we go into 2021. As our global situation improves and we start to leave the home more, security will be a big focus once again. I’m expecting to see these trends continue and we’re looking forward to people joining the Somfy family and helping add to the their smart and secure home.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector?

The biggest risk in my view isn’t Covid or Brexit. I recognise they are big things happening in our lives right now but they won’t be there forever. We will get through them. The biggest risk is not changing. Technology and innovation has changed the way we shop and that isn’t going to change for the time being. However, there is still a place for retail where we can physically go and get something we can’t get online.

Describe your role and responsibilities.

My role is managing director for the UK and Ireland. I often get asked what that means. There are loads of daily functions and tasks that need to be done to keep the business running and create jobs where we can as we grow in the UK. The main responsibility for me is to help our people to help our partners and customers.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before Somfy.

Before Somfy I worked in many businesses in different sales roles, mostly in the construction industry. A fork in the road over 10 years ago changed that direction when I went to work for Apple, although it took a little time for me to get on the right track. When I worked for Apple, smart tech was just emerging and I made the decision that I wanted to be in a business where I could help bring these products to people where it could make a real difference to how we live and work. It took me until 2019 to find the role at Somfy where all of that comes together.

How has your previous experience aided your current job?

All experience is good whether its been good or bad. I try to take what I can from that and bring it to life at Somfy. In my time at Apple, I spent a lot of time in front of Apple customers, the everyday person walking into a store to see what it looked like inside. There I learned that every person has their own situation and if we just spend a little time listening we can learn about how to help them make life just a little easier for them. That’s the best piece of experience I have, just try to make it a little easier for someone.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Time. There’s never enough of to do everything we want to do.

And the most rewarding?

The most rewarding part of the job for me is working with our people. We have a great team and I really enjoy working collaboratively with them. I’m always aware that the best idea in the room might be sitting in someone else’s head. We try to create an environment where people are comfortable sharing ideas and feedback to help us improve and do things better each day.

What advice would you give someone embarking on a career in retail?

Do it. It’s exciting and there are new innovations and opportunities coming all the time. It’s also rewarding, you only have to have one experience where the product has impacted someone’s life in a big way for you to be able to draw from that everyday in your working life. You remember that experience.

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