Last week, Commercial Integrator published a news story about Electrosonic naming Sean McChesney its new chief revenue officer. The company is, of course, an award-winning international audiovisual and experiential technology specialist. McChesney began his Electrosonic career some 10 years ago, and he steadily ascended the company ranks throughout this time.
Here, Commercial Integrator presents an exclusive, in-depth interview with McChesney. In it, he offers detailed insights into Electrosonic’s commitment to mentorship and how it put him on a trajectory for success. He also shares his ideas on healthy, sustainable business growth, distinguishing it from having an all-out focus on booking orders. The difference, he says, is being truly committed to customer relationships and client satisfaction.
Enjoy this conversation with Sean McChesney of Electrosonic. It’s a rare opportunity to examine the thought processes, client commitment and strategic planning of a newly minted AV integration executive.
Commercial Integrator: These days, it seems all too common for people to join a company for a couple of years and then move on to different pastures. What makes Electrosonic the kind of place where someone like you would look to set down roots and grow?
Sean McChesney: Ultimately, it’s the culture of Electrosonic and the mindset that supports a career initiative such as the START program. When I joined, there were employees with 10, 20, 25 and even 30-plus years of experience with Electrosonic. There were also many people who were on their second or third round of employment with Electrosonic. From day one, that made it clear that there must be something exceptional about this company. The DNA of these projects and this work environment must have really meant something.
Throughout my time at Electrosonic, I’ve witnessed my colleagues shift roles over the course of their tenure, moving from engineering to project management, or from site supervision to account management. This new role is my seventh title at Electrosonic. The point is that Electrosonic continually assesses the needs of the business, evaluates the skill sets of its employees and strives to remain a relevant industry player. As a result, Electrosonic works to create a best-fit environment for the success of our team and our projects. Because of that, everyone at Electrosonic has the ability — and the encouragement — to branch out and better understand all the roles within the organization. And our projects are better for this cross-pollination and awareness.
Then, there’s the external reality of Electrosonic that has always inspired me: We work on incredible projects the world over. I’m talking about theme parks in Asia Pacific, observation decks across the U.S., and decades’ worth of EXPO Pavilions. One of my biggest joys is when friends and family tell me about an experience they absolutely loved, and I have the privilege of telling them, “That’s an Electrosonic project!”
Commercial Integrator: Tell us a little bit more about Electrosonic’s START program. What are the benefits of progressive apprenticeship initiatives of this sort? Why is hands-on experience with actual, live projects so indispensable?
Sean McChesney: The Electrosonic START program is designed for recent graduates — either from undergrad or graduate-level programs — to join Electrosonic for a one-year rotation throughout our entire business. This is a full-time, paid position, and it’s focused on providing exposure across all Electrosonic departments to create more well-rounded, widely knowledgeable employees, no matter the position they take following the START program. STARTers will progress from shipping and receiving, to field installation, to fabrication, to design and engineering. Plus, they’ll have a rotation in project management and service. The culmination of the program offers experience in procurement, marketing and sales.
The program is built this way to educate new employees on the complete project life cycle. We want them to understand that decisions made in a design or engineering phase greatly impact how a system is installed onsite. They’ll learn in the field that, as a project manager, a shift in the schedule can have major ramifications. So, they’ll be better prepared to manage expectations upfront. By being able to see exactly how all the pieces of an innovative technology solution work together — through the effort of a large, diverse team — they become a greater individual contributor to our organization.
Sean McChesney of Electrosonic on Contributing to Real Projects
It’s important to note that all the work done by a STARTer contributes to real projects. All the work that an individual does throughout this program directly correlates to the success of a real-world experiential space. And we do that for several reasons: Most important of all, we want our team members to take pride in their work and understand the importance of the role they play. We believe this is built when they can contribute to real projects. By pairing STARTers with seasoned professionals, we can create a safety net for them to explore ideas, make mistakes and learn iteratively, without diluting project success. This creates an environment in which ideas presented by a STARTer can make a direct impact on a job and turn into a permanent installation for years to come.
Commercial Integrator: There’s no doubt that, over your time at Electrosonic, you’ve had plenty of mentors and supporters along the way. One notable mentor is Chris Conte. Describe some of the ways that Chris and others have supported and facilitated your career growth.
Sean McChesney: I have many, many people to thank for endless amounts of shared wisdom and insights, as well as the guidance they’ve provided over the years — even before joining Electrosonic. What has made this company a special place is the willingness of its team members to share their knowledge with the next generation. When applying for jobs, I was searching for somewhere that had a culture of genuine collaboration, support and life advice between colleagues. Throughout my interview process, I had a gut feeling Electrosonic was that kind of place. And it has lived up to that ideal.
Chris Conte Mentors Sean McChesney at Electrosonic
From the beginning, Chris Conte was the kind of mentor who would educate and guide me through questions. He was always genuinely curious about what was going on — which rotation I was in, what I learned that day, what I thought could be better, what frustrated me, what excited me, etc. That kind of attention so early in my career was invaluable. Here was a clear leader, no matter the title, who had traveled the world over, and who was known by everyone at every event, and he showed interest and gave time to the new apprentice. And he’s still that way. After any conference, lunch and learn, or all-hands meeting, I can always count on Conte to ask his favorite question: “Well, what did you learn?” I know he does this with many people throughout the business, and that is why he’s such a crucial part of our organization.
Having been at Electrosonic for a decade now, there are also many influential people who no longer work for Electrosonic, but the genuine support and interest have never faded. The Electrosonic family tree has grown deep over the years, and, no matter where people go next, there’s always a special bond between colleagues and friends who worked together at Electrosonic.
Commercial Integrator: Disambiguate the ideas of healthy, sustainable business growth and unwise, unsustainable business growth. How will that understanding help shape your global revenue strategy and your drive to support Electrosonic’s continuing industry leadership?
Sean McChesney: Healthy, sustainable business growth requires being true to oneself and true to the business. It requires building relationships for decades to come. What are our goals, who are the people on our team and how have we positioned our (extremely talented) people to be successful in the pursuit of our goals? What is the size of our team, and what is their capacity to perform at the level of quality our clients deserve? Often, it requires saying “No” to a lot, and it requires learning deeply from every venture we accept.
Unhealthy, unsustainable growth is having a fervor for topline growth…an all-out focus on booking orders without care for execution. It is indifferent to customer satisfaction and quality of work. It is apathetic toward building relationships.
McChesney: Electrosonic Isn’t Largest, But It’s True to Itself
Electrosonic is by no means the largest technology designer or systems integrator. So, we must be true to who we are, and we must be respectful of our team members’ ability to deliver quality. We must choose wisely the projects that we commit to.
Electrosonic turns 60 next year, and, throughout that time, we have built incredible relationships with our clients and strategic partners. A core tenet of our relationships is their ability to trust our advice. As Chris Conte recently said at the TEA SATE conference, “We do not sell projects; we sell trust.” We have been doing this for a long time, and we know what it takes. We must abide by the laws of physics and the availability of our global supply chain; we must reconcile radical creativity with complete transparency about what is possible. We can and will make a uniquely innovative technology system if the team involved has the willingness to collaborate toward a goal.
Commercial Integrator: What are the biggest two or three goals you hope to achieve over the coming year or two as you take on this highly responsible role?
Sean McChesney: We have a few initiatives within our Technology Innovation Group that I’d like to put out into the world. The initial feedback we’ve received from clients and partners has been positive, so I’m eager to put this into practice. In terms of healthy, sustainable growth, we have our goals for the next three years to create an organization with balance and effectiveness for our clients. This is part and parcel of continued growth for our Strategic Partnership and Executive Consulting teams. With that said, I have 60 years of legacy behind me to uphold and set up our success as we move into the next 60 years.
I believe that we have the team members and resources to perpetuate Electrosonic’s position in the experiential AV market, and I’m excited to get to work.
Commercial Integrator: If other industry professionals look at your career and the honors you’ve earned — Young AV Professional of the Year, 40 Under 40 — and they aspire to be like you one day, what advice/words of wisdom would you share?
Sean McChesney: I would encourage industry professionals to be genuinely curious about everything around you: how projects come to life…who the designers, the architects, the story writers, the engineers, the content teams, the owners and the operators are…all of it. Within your company, be genuinely interested in what other people do, what experiences they draw on for inspiration and how you might help make their job just a little easier. Have hobbies and interests outside of work, too. Being able to relate to colleagues or clients comes through mutual understanding, interests and pursuits. You’ll then find the work opportunities come a bit easier.
Above all: Be patient. Timing is everything. You will have your fair share of good times and times the require significant effort, so be patient.
Stay focused, stay true to yourself and be genuine. You’ve got this!
Editor’s Note: Please continue to check CommercialIntegrator.com for exclusive executive interviews like this one with Sean McChesney of Electrosonic.
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