Leading the Future of Smart Buildings: John Selldorf

Marcus Emmet, Consultant at Beaumont Bailey, sits down with leaders from across the Smart Buildings space to discuss the year gone by, what trends have driven the sector and what to expect in 2024.

John Selldorff – President and CEO North and Central America at Legrand

John joined Legrand in 2002, after holding various top management positions within the industry, and was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer Legrand North America and a member of the Executive Committee.


How would you summarise 2023 for the smart technologies industry? 

The primary trend that has been pushing the sector forwards over the past year, is the same trend that has been driving the industry for the past decade: the ongoing evolution in energy efficiency optimisation.

In 2023, we’ve seen new regulation that puts genuine demands on building owners and now even occupiers to improve the energy performance of their assets. California, for example, has just enacted the ground-breaking SB-253 law that requires companies with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion to publish their direct, indirect and supply chain greenhouse gas emission data. Requirements such as these put the spotlight on assets and how they are operated like never before and for many this has come quicker than they anticipated.

Feasibility in construction continues to be a major challenge in 2023 and remains a stumbling block to development and redevelopment, which in turn effects the implementation of new smart technologies. I speak to many developers who say until material costs and financing rates come down, they are forced to hold off on development and those who do continue, in many cases the final product does not necessarily align with the original specification.

What has been the biggest success story to come out of your organisation this year? 

In a year marked by various challenges, there have been distinct pockets of growth. For instance, the data centre segment has experienced robust tailwinds and we’ve done particularly well to capitalise on this opportunity.

We’re well set up for electrification that is underway across the US. Government legislation, such as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), serves as a powerful catalyst for the deployment of smart technology and we’re looking forward to playing a significant role in this!

What is a trend that no one is talking about in the industry?

An issue that is not getting enough airtime is the formidable challenge nationwide electrification poses – particularly in terms of electric vehicles. Given the sheer landmass of the country, the infrastructure required to support the broad utilisation of distance travel – which is a big part of the American ethos – is enormous.

Currently, aside from the major highway arteries there simply is not the coverage to support wide-scale adoption of EVs. Three key factors need to happen to simulate the adoption of EV vehicle en masse; firstly, much more investment in EV charging facilities; secondly, car batteries need to have a range 25-33% longer than existing and thirdly, vehicles that are genuinely affordable for the general populace.

What can we expect to see in 2024?

The industry will still be navigating choppy waters, and this will continue beyond 2024. I would be surprised to see further rises in interest rates to cut down the frothiness of the economy which is proving to be more resilient than people initially expected. We’ll continue to see more de-risking of supply chains away from China given the ongoing geopolitical situation; however, I’d caveat and say I don’t believe it’ll be on the scale that some have been predicting.

The US election is a major consideration towards the end of the year as the consequences could be huge for the industry. It’s unclear if any new administration would row back on planned and existing green legislature and this makes it difficult for companies to make reliable investment decisions. When deciding how to invest capital resources, we usually make decisions anticipating a 3-year payback but with the current uncertainty, it adds a sense of caution to any long-term bet. There certainly won’t be a turning back the dial on the national electrification effort, however funding mechanisms could be slower to release resources and regulatory requirements may be eased or implemented at a gentler pace.

What is your one piece of advice for leaders who want to make positive change in the industry in 2024?

Leaders need to constantly find ways to connect with the people in their organisation and keep them engaged. As part of our recruitment, we understand that we must communicate the mission of our organisation like never before, not in a moral or political way but in a way that shows we are solving a problem – this is what creates excitement!

Any successful business must provide a compelling reason why employees should invest their valuable time and future into the organisation and as CEO I spend around a third of my time internally focused, ensuring our team understands not only what we are striving to achieve but also where we aspire to be. I invest a lot of time cultivating personal relationships with as many individuals in the organisation as possible – from the ground up. It works two ways because it aids me in my role, as I understand what is really going on and how people are feeling which allows me to create the structures and environment to allow people to flourish at Legrand.

If you would like to discuss any of the topics raised in this piece or if you need support with your leadership resourcing strategy, please get in touch with Marcus Emmet on marcus.emmet@beaumontbailey.com