Tell us a bit about your transition from cricket professional to MD at Peerless-AV EMEA
Where do I start…back in the 90’s professional cricketers only had seasonal (6 month) contracts so, out of season, during the winter months when I wasn’t training or overseas playing, I would assist [my brother] Gordon Dutch [and his company] BBG Distribution during their busy periods. One winter, I started helping out at Selfridges where BBG had some brands represented. I learnt a lot and made a huge difference in sales turnover during that period. A few years later, at 31, in the latter stages of my cricketing career, BBG was in rapid growth and so I took the opportunity to be part of it as an external sales representative and then moved into business development. I moved back to the [UK] home counties, and I then looked after key accounts, such as Costco and John Lewis, learning and being taught about business along the way, from business development, to account management, to channel management
In 2009, when Peerless-AV bought BBG, I worked very closely with US in the transition and took on responsibility for the UK Professional business which then progressed to a promotion to operations director. I continued to expand my role taking on further regional responsibility until Melinda Von Horvath arrived as VP of sales & marketing. She and I worked very closely to grow the European business and team to what it is today.
Gordon placed tremendous faith and trust in my abilities by not only giving me my start, but also in assigning me tremendous responsibility for which he knew I would rise to the occasion. I don’t think I would have gotten that level of faith elsewhere, and that immersion into so many of the facets of the business allowed me to develop a variety of skill sets along the way. I am very grateful to Gordon for that trust. Melinda, Phil Wynd and Ian Abernethy all played a huge role in my development over the years, and I would be remiss not to call out their impact. In the end, when Gordon decided to step away to pursue other passions, John Potts, our CEO, who has been unwavering in his faith of me – as has Nick Belcore our executive VP – doubled down on that faith by making me MD and VP for the EMEA business. I keep that in mind every day as I look for ways to continuously improve on our contribution to the global business.
It’s been an interesting period for me during the last 7 years; navigating Brexit successfully, winning a Queen’s Award in 2020, manoeuvring around the challenges of Covid-19 and dealing with the untimely passing of Melinda. For good measure, we decided to relocate our whole UK operation in October 2022, which was completed in under 12 weeks. None of this would have been possible without a great team alongside me, including an impossibly excellent FD in Doug Stokoe. His steady hand and sage counsel has been foundational in my development as well.
How has your cricket background and connections influenced and impacted your career?
During my time at Peerless-AV, I’ve been fortunate to stay involved in cricket, previously coaching at Middlesex academy, playing and captaining the MCC in major match games and overseas tours, to having a seat as an MCC Players & Fixtures committee member. Now I’m a consultancy coach with Middlesex Professional side, so I’m never far from cricket and Lord’s cricket ground. I’ve always been respectful not to push boundaries with my cricket contacts, but over the years have brought connections through activities such as charity golf days. One year we raised over £18,000 for the Ruth Strauss Foundation, for example. Of course, my relationships have assisted in being able to host our annual AV Showcase at Lord’s. However, I still respect the boundaries of those relationships. It’s a fantastic, iconic venue and one we’re very pleased to be associated with.
Can you describe how Peerless-AV has grown over the years and the reason behind this?
Previously, Peerless-AV had been flirting in Europe. However, it had no real foundations or footprint in the UK and Europe before buying BBG. The next chapter saw us successfully establishing the UK business, quickly converting our business model to commercial from retail to more closely align with Peerless-AV’s global identity. This realignment allowed us to strategically grow our commercial professional business year on year without the volatility so often associated with the retail market. Next followed the development within the European markets. They say timing is everything: the video wall market started to explode, we had the best product available and were ready to take market share, claiming the position of number one mounts brand in the UK – where we still stand today due to our continued innovation in product solutions.
How is the company addressing environmental initiatives globally?
As a global organisation, Peerless-AV is committed to achieving environmental sustainability. Our US HQ has been ISO 14001:2015 certified since 2020 and is passionate about its obligations towards pollution prevention, responsible use of resources and to continuous improvement within manufacturing processes. We recently announced our 2023 environmental objective: to achieve 90% landfill waste diversion year on year and to reduce environmental footprint by 5% year on year. In a growth year, 2021-2022, Peerless-AV achieved a 9% (57 Tons) carbon reduction, which, in simple terms, equates to 6,414 barrels of petrol consumed. Enough to travel the earth’s surface by car.
As a growing company and expanding team, what advice do you have for anyone considering a career in AV?
Having been in the AV industry a long time, I’ve made many close friends and connections. It’s a fast-paced industry, very social from a networking perspective (you need a good liver!), and very dynamic and exciting with a lot of career opportunities. We’ve been hiring recently for our UK and EMEA sales teams as well as technical product positions, and there’s great talent out there. Also, there’s a lot of channel consolidation happening as well as crossovers between industries such as AV and IT, and AV and broadcast, with virtual production, AR and AI, for example. You only have to visit the world’s largest AV trade show, Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) to see the level of cutting-edge innovation and the impact it’s having, or will have, on our daily lives. My advice would be to surround yourself with supportive people you can learn from, progress and develop, and encourage others around you.
What would you say are the key USPs of partnering with Peerless-AV?
To be customer-centric an organisation must be employee-centric first, and this is something Peerless-AV has always aimed to build and cultivate. Our company culture is one that supports a diverse and inclusive team, where employees always feel valued and respected, which in turn breeds a high level of customer service and satisfaction. The tenure of our leadership team in all of our business units globally reflects our commitment to our team. Our products are renowned for their innovation and being first in their field, driving growth in new markets such as Outdoor and dvLED. Our close partnerships with the leading OEM brands mean we always have a solution for the next big display advancement. Strong partnerships across all sectors of the industry also means we can host events such as our AV Showcase.
What exciting developments can you share that are coming up in the second half of the year?
With InfoComm Orlando coming up, this is our biggest trade show in North America and we have some new global launches to announce and showcase, including the new, game-changing SEAMLESS Kitted Series Universal dvLED Mounting System for latching displays. This product is the first of its kind on the market, unveiled at ISE 2023 and available to order globally in June. The mount facilitates fast, easy latching of dvLED displays via quick-connect clamps, resulting in a dramatically simplified installation.
What are your hobbies/passions outside of work?
Normally, I run and play football regularly, when not injured (which is often at moment!!), and I coach/manage my youngest son’s football team, so I guess this is my other sporting passion. I now admit to being an Arsenal fan rather than a ‘follower’. It’s not officially announced yet, but the wheels are in motion for a Peerless-AV charity five a side football match next year. I also play golf when I can; however, I don’t find as much time as I would like on that front. Hence, I organise our charity golf day each year so I have an excuse to play.