(Topic ID: 327919)

Stern Leadership Changes

By CrazyLevi

1 year ago


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  • Latest reply 1 year ago by Bmad21
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    #1 1 year ago

    My takeaways:

    -Gary one step closer to full-on retirement
    -Stern revealing its sinister true intentions: to make money while continuing its growth
    -They've FINALLY retired their ridiculous "lifestyle brand" tagline; our long international nightmare is over.

    What do you guys think? How does them bringing on a South African dude who once hawked Jim Beam affect the pinball community? Are you mad at them for bragging about their success?

    Is this a building block for the future, or yet another "slap in the face" to the pinball community?

    Also, what in corporate bullshit tarnation is a "Six Sigma Black Belt?"
    ---

    Seth Davis appointed CEO; Nick Parfitt appointed CFO

    CHICAGO, IL – December 20, 2022 – Stern Pinball, Inc. (SPI) today announced two executive leadership appointments to support the company’s continued growth. In the past three years, SPI has achieved successive revenue records across the Pinball Machine, Accessory, and Merchandise businesses as well as a successful digital connectivity expansion with Insider Connected.

    Company Founder, Gary Stern, will step down as CEO but continue as Chairman of the Board. Dave Peterson will continue to serve as Vice Chairman of the Board. Gary and Dave will remain the controlling shareholders of the company and serve in executive roles on a project basis.

    Seth Davis, who joined the company as President in October 2021, will take on the additional role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO). A life-long gamer prior to joining Stern Pinball, Seth spent a combined twenty-one years at The Walt Disney Company and the General Electric Company. He served in a wide variety of functions and in intrapreneurial roles at increasingly senior levels. Seth led and managed both small and large teams spanning business, creative, and technical disciplines.

    Immediately prior to joining Stern Pinball, Seth served on the executive team responsible for the highly successful subscription-based streaming services Disney+ and ESPN+. Earlier in his career Seth served in Disney Corporate Financial Planning leading business transformation projects; as Head of Product Management for Connected Experiences within Disney Games and Consumer Products as part of Walt Disney Imagineering; as leader of Disney’s Digital Games Console and PC line of business; and as Director of Disney Games’ Strategy, Market Analytics, and Product Planning.

    Before Disney, Seth spent eight years at the General Electric Company. He served as Senior Manager – Finance at GE Capital responsible for Strategic Analysis and Marketing. He started his GE career in the Financial Management Program where he completed four national rotations through GE business units and earned his Six Sigma Black Belt Certification.

    Seth earned his MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania where he majored in Entrepreneurial Management. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Syracuse University with a double major in Accounting and Information Management and Technology.

    After 35 years of service, Michael O’Donnell will retire as SPI’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Michael will remain a large shareholder of the company and continue to serve as a Board member. He will also lead special projects and assist with the transition of the CFO role.

    Nick Parfitt will join the company as CFO. Nick, a native of South Africa, brings over 20 years of broad financial, accounting, strategic, and growth management experience to the company. Nick started his career with Fortune Brands at Jim Beam Inc., the world’s third largest producer and distributor of distilled beverages. Nick subsequently joined MillerKnoll, Inc., the NASDAQ-listed multi-billion dollar collective of dynamic brands designed and produced for commercial and luxury residential markets. Most recently, Nick served nVenia, LLC as the finance lead to implement a consolidation strategy for a newly formed business unit within the Duravant family of engineering businesses.

    Nick earned his MBA from The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University where he majored in Finance and Marketing. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Indiana University Bloomington with a double major in Finance and Operations Management.

    Shelley Sax-Eldridge, who is one of the longest serving employees at Stern Pinball, also announced her retirement after more than 36 years of service. Shelley started as an Administrative Assistant to Gary Stern and became the company’s Logistics Manager. Shelley communicated regularly with the company’s customers and distribution partners, facilitating the distribution of pinball games around the globe.

    #2 1 year ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    Also, what in corporate bullshit tarnation is a "Six Sigma Black Belt?"

    A guy who (if he gets his way) will have you painters tape all around your desk so there’s “a place for everything, and have everything in its place”. Your stapler needs to be in the stapler rectangle. Even stupid shit like your wired keyboard that will never move - labeled tape rectangle!

    Giant waste of money. Our $250M global company canned ours and never backfilled the position.

    18
    #3 1 year ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    They've FINALLY retired their ridiculous "lifestyle brand"

    Smartest thing they’ve done all year.

    16
    #4 1 year ago

    I just fully transitioned to the pinball lifestyle after 2 years of trying, now what am I gonna do?

    11
    #5 1 year ago

    Maybe they’ll use the WMS playbook and figure out where the real money is made.

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    #6 1 year ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    Also, what in corporate bullshit tarnation is a "Six Sigma Black Belt?"

    Not something anyone with a brain would admit to having !

    #7 1 year ago
    Quoted from EEE:

    Maybe they’ll use the WMS playbook and figure out where the real money is made.
    [quoted image]

    Incredible Technologies went that way big time.

    11
    #8 1 year ago

    Sigma six black belt is a MFG Qualification term - normally applied to "Lean Mfg"

    In basic terms - "a better way to MFG a product"

    #9 1 year ago

    All I know is I'm going to make lots of podcasts about this.

    #10 1 year ago

    Could be great!

    I see paywalls in their future however. This is huge news as these CFOs and CEOs they are bringing in are from much larger industries and their focus will be building up stern to be a much bigger company than anything I believe we have seen in this industry.

    If they can get production tightened up, stern will really begin massive growth, all in all it means more games for us so I call it a win.

    62
    #11 1 year ago

    One hell of a run for Gary. Congratulations to him and all he's done for the industry over decades

    #12 1 year ago

    >Shelley Sax-Eldridge, who is one of the longest serving employees at Stern Pinball, also announced her retirement after more than 36 years of service. Shelley started as an Administrative Assistant to Gary Stern and became the company’s Logistics Manager.

    Wasn't she there from the start along with Gary and Joe Kamikow?

    Happy retirements to all and hope the best out of the new people.

    #13 1 year ago
    Quoted from TreyBo69:

    >Shelley Sax-Eldridge, who is one of the longest serving employees at Stern Pinball, also announced her retirement after more than 36 years of service. Shelley started as an Administrative Assistant to Gary Stern and became the company’s Logistics Manager.
    Wasn't she there from the start along with Gary and Joe Kamikow?
    Happy retirements to all and hope the best out of the new people.

    She and any of the other old-timers must look on in wonder at the House that Laser War built.

    It really is something!

    #14 1 year ago

    I love the pinball hobby but we all know that Stern and other small pinball manufacturers can greatly improve their business model. They are dealing with demand that must be exceeding supply on a regular basis and now during parts and labor shortage and a recession. How long do we wait for our machines, our toppers, our parts, etc? How much unfinished code is there or code that could be revisited/improved?
    I am all for bringing a corporate MBA type to improve the model and make it more efficient. They only grow organically if they produce more product or better product and that’s great for the pinball community. His job should be to improve the company and their product but he doesn’t need to be the steward of pinball that’s why he’s got Elwin, Danger, Gomez etc
    You can certainly roll your eyes at the six sigma designation (I roll my eyes too) but these folks know how to get things done. Former VP at Disney brings some cred from my perspective and I have personally led a successful small business and am now a VP at a large company…its not for the faint of heart.

    #15 1 year ago
    Quoted from doublestack:

    Could be great!
    I see paywalls in their future however. This is huge news as these CFOs and CEOs they are bringing in are from much larger industries and their focus will be building up stern to be a much bigger company than anything I believe we have seen in this industry.
    If they can get production tightened up, stern will really begin massive growth, all in all it means more games for us so I call it a win.

    Agree fully

    #16 1 year ago
    Quoted from doublestack:

    Could be great!
    I see paywalls in their future however. This is huge news as these CFOs and CEOs they are bringing in are from much larger industries and their focus will be building up stern to be a much bigger company than anything I believe we have seen in this industry.
    If they can get production tightened up, stern will really begin massive growth, all in all it means more games for us so I call it a win.

    Sure, sell more games and make your profits there instead of inflating profit margins by increasing prices and cutting corners.

    Rob

    #17 1 year ago

    Whether this is good or bad depends upon the new CEO's (and CFO's) attitude towards pinball in general.

    Are they interested in "improving the pinball experience as much as possible", or are they interested in "stream-lining the production of whatever widgets this company happens to make"?

    19
    #18 1 year ago

    Most of Sterns products are in stock and sitting at Distributors other than the few handful of pins. One can find SW, TMNT, LZ, Rush and Home Pins easily available. When the price of premiums up $2k in less than 18 months, I know they priced me out if any new product. I see $2,000 toppers, $180 shooter rods, price increases every release…. Doesn’t matter who they bring in, I wont be spending my money. Black belt or not. Glad I got my pins when I did. I enjoy them every night….. but Can’t justify $10k

    #19 1 year ago

    I'm sure it means less game for more money in the future. Just better be paying that Elwin guy a small fortune, know where your talent exists and don't take it for granted.

    #20 1 year ago

    Wish them all the best, hopefully it will be a good move for Stern, but I will say, I've worked for Disney a bunch, work with a lot of Disney employees and they are, how to say this diplomatically....a difficult company to work for/with. Heard so many horror stories and delt with some very unprofessional/abhorrent behavior over at Disney, so I'm always a little suspect of anyone who spent long periods of time working there.
    That said, my company is a vendor for Disney and I don't turn down work from them so there's that.
    B

    #21 1 year ago

    I can see why they are expanding, as they haven't been able to keep up with demand.

    All companies want to grow and maximise profits.

    That said, have Stern's business models taken into account that many of their regular customers just won't be buyers at these new price levels?

    #22 1 year ago
    Quoted from John-Floyd:

    Sigma six black belt is a MFG Qualification term - normally applied to "Lean Mfg"

    Something Jack Welch and GE implemented about 25 yrs ago?

    #23 1 year ago
    Quoted from mbeardsley:

    Whether this is good or bad depends upon the new CEO's (and CFO's) attitude towards pinball in general.
    Are they interested in "improving the pinball experience as much as possible", or are they interested in "stream-lining the production of whatever widgets this company happens to make"?

    Exactly. I feel like two thing can come out of this. Either they make Stern better and more efficient without ruining the pinballs and hopefully that benefits us too, OR they alienate the designers with too much corporate BS in which case they defect to JJP, American, Spooky, etc... and we'll keep getting pinballs but with a different logo on them.

    #24 1 year ago

    I see some Stern+™ code DLC in your future. Because when I read this:

    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    Immediately prior to joining Stern Pinball, Seth served on the executive team responsible for the highly successful subscription-based streaming services Disney+ and ESPN+. Earlier in his career Seth served in Disney Corporate Financial Planning leading business transformation projects; as Head of Product Management for Connected Experiences within Disney Games and Consumer Products as part of Walt Disney Imagineering; as leader of Disney’s Digital Games Console and PC line of business; and as Director of Disney Games’ Strategy, Market Analytics, and Product Planning.

    what that says to me 'games as service'. It's the defacto model for gaming across multiple industries, won't shock me to see it come to pinball. We're already seeing the inroads like the Mandalorian topper bringing new modes with it.

    I'm not even sure it's a bad thing necessarily, but I don't expect it to be a popular idea with a lot of people. Who are also probably feeling priced out of buying new games, so maybe nobody cares what they think.

    12
    #25 1 year ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    what in corporate bullshit tarnation is a "Six Sigma Black Belt?"

    As someone with more than a dozen "corporate bullshit" certifications myself having gotten my most recent yesterday, a Six Sigma Blackbelt is a Six Sigma Greenbelt who has successfully initiated projects and brought them up to Six Sigma standards using their philosophies. The idea is that you reduce waste and get a firm process going so wastage is less than .000001%... or "Six Sigma". It has become "en vogue" in the project management field.

    #26 1 year ago

    Wow, interesting news. My dad knows Nick Parfitt from when he worked at Fortune Brands, I think I even met him once. They are MASSIVE, and you do not stick around if you don’t a) know your shit cold, and b) have the Great White Shark winner-takes-all attitude. My dad made it 3 years as President of one of their brands and gave up let’s just say a LOT of money to end his contract 2 years early.

    Not sure how to take this, but I guarantee it will involve price increases. 6 Sigma is legit, IN a manufacturing scenario. When the company started to grow, They expanded it to general corporate situations where it makes no sense, total waste.

    #27 1 year ago
    Quoted from Aurich:

    I see some Stern+™ code DLC in your future. Because when I read this:

    what that says to me 'games as service'. It's the defacto model for gaming across multiple industries, won't shock me to see it come to pinball. We're already seeing the inroads like the Mandalorian topper bringing new modes with it.
    I'm not even sure it's a bad thing necessarily, but I don't expect it to be a popular idea with a lot of people. Who are also probably feeling priced out of buying new games, so maybe nobody cares what they think.

    If you’re right, Multimorphic is going to end up looking like geniuses

    #28 1 year ago

    So stern is now going to go the “Kaizen” route…interesting to see how this all plays out. Gotta be efficient as possible in MFG to turn a buck.
    At the end of the day, I don’t care who does what - I just want to see a high quality, high BOM product at a ‘reasonable’ price (using that term loosely given todays market)

    26
    #29 1 year ago

    Attention all current Stern employees: performance reviews will be beginning next week.
    Regards,
    Seth and Nick

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    #30 1 year ago
    Quoted from Rdoyle1978:

    6 Sigma is legit, IN a manufacturing scenario. When the company started to grow, They expanded it to general corporate situations where it makes no sense, total waste.

    Bingo. From my introduction to it around a decade ago, I believe it originated at Toyota. Some things in the MFG environment (shadow walls for tools so they're always in the same place, reduction of movement/waiting/processes...etc.) all make total sense.

    It's when they optimize the production floor but after that's all done still need to justify their position/paycheck so they spill into the office space and tell you your desk phone needs a taped square around it labelling that space as "phone". That's when the eyes start to roll and lifelong enemies are made.
    Keep those scissor blades open, FFS! (resized).pngKeep those scissor blades open, FFS! (resized).png
    Blue pen on the right, damnit!!! (resized).jpgBlue pen on the right, damnit!!! (resized).jpg

    #31 1 year ago
    Quoted from Aurich:

    I see some Stern+™ code DLC in your future. Because when I read this:

    what that says to me 'games as service'. It's the defacto model for gaming across multiple industries, won't shock me to see it come to pinball. We're already seeing the inroads like the Mandalorian topper bringing new modes with it.
    I'm not even sure it's a bad thing necessarily, but I don't expect it to be a popular idea with a lot of people. Who are also probably feeling priced out of buying new games, so maybe nobody cares what they think.

    Going to be a tough hill to climb as the games as a service model works with lower bars of entry, like the phone you already have or the console at $300.

    You drop down 7-13k on a single game and they try and get rolled over for a DLC pack.. it may get interesting.

    Or these guys see how many people in this hobby seem to be allergic to money and they go for the gold!

    #32 1 year ago
    Quoted from Yoko2una:

    Bingo. From my introduction to it around a decade ago, I believe it originated at Toyota. Some things in the MFG environment (shadow walls for tools so they're always in the same place, reduction of movement/waiting/processes...etc.) all make total sense.
    It's when they optimize the production floor but after that's all done still need to justify their position/paycheck so they spill into the office space and tell you your desk phone needs a taped square around it labelling that space as "phone". That's when the eyes start to roll and lifelong enemies are made.
    [quoted image]
    [quoted image]

    Ok, that is not only insulting but just completely insane.

    #33 1 year ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    She and any of the other old-timers must look on in wonder at the House that Laser War built.
    It really is something!

    Despite the critics like Levi disparaging the humble DE beginnings that build this Titan of pinball industry!!

    #34 1 year ago
    Quoted from Yoko2una:

    It's when they optimize the production floor but after that's all done still need to justify their position/paycheck so they spill into the office space and tell you your desk phone needs a taped square around it labelling that space as "phone". That's when the eyes start to roll and lifelong enemies are made.

    What kind of psycho stores their scissors open like that?

    Quoted from Yoko2una:

    Some things in the MFG environment (shadow walls for tools so they're always in the same place, reduction of movement/waiting/processes...etc.) all make total sense.

    The tape thing looks crazy, but I did shadow box all my tools for my office work bench, where I do all my soldering and painting etc. Little slide out tray with laser cut spots for everything. It really does help to have a spot to consistently put things back. I'm not a naturally neat person, having a 'home' for things helps.

    44
    #35 1 year ago

    Pinball is art, MBAs will squeeze the soul out of this craft to maximize profits. Disney and GE pedigrees are a particularly bad sign for that.

    #36 1 year ago
    Quoted from Rdoyle1978:

    If you’re right, Multimorphic is going to end up looking like geniuses

    I was reading the Multimorphic thread just now, and I saw a discussion about something that hadn't occurred to me. If you buy "software only" games for your P3 you can't sell them, they're tied to the physical game. Which is reasonable.

    But if we enter a future of DLC will it travel with the pin? Stern could tie things to your Insider account and if you don't log in the new software doesn't boot, so you couldn't sell it with the game, in theory.

    Quoted from doublestack:

    Going to be a tough hill to climb as the games as a service model works with lower bars of entry, like the phone you already have or the console at $300.
    You drop down 7-13k on a single game and they try and get rolled over for a DLC pack.. it may get interesting.

    Yeah, it's gonna be an uphill climb with a lot of people. Who knows, just speculating. But the pieces are all in place to make that kind of play. Get games connected to wifi, with accounts, and you can do a lot of software as service kinds of moves.

    #37 1 year ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    What do you guys think? How does them bringing on a South African dude who once hawked Jim Beam affect the pinball community? Are you mad at them for bragging about their success?

    Is this a building block for the future, or yet another "slap in the face" to the pinball community?

    Also, what in corporate bullshit tarnation is a "Six Sigma Black Belt?"

    -I don't know that it impacts the community either way so long as the team/culture/company are all working toward the same goals. 4 Disciplines of Execution, Start With Why etc.

    -Not mad at all about touting their success - pleased. Stern growth is good for our hobby. They grow, they attracted competitors, the competitors make Stern compete more - we all get better pinball machines! Starting your PR with this simply justifies the rest of the PR and the "why" behind it. We are doing great, we are growing, so we need changes (not stating that in your PR leaves folks to fill in a negative narrative - e.g. this is being done to solve problems). Also, simply stating someone is retiring and x has been hired creates uncertainty vs Gary is in his office Tuesday and Thursdays etc.

    -Yes, it is a building block and a wise step forward for Stern

    -Not bullshit - this is legit. Motorola back in the day.

    I agree with Gary is more or less retired... this is especially reinforced by the final sentence about the longest serving employee retiring.. he just doesn't want to sit on a beach but also doesn't want the corporate day to day needle pricking meetings, decisions, hr, employees and usual company business that makes corporate American... well corporate America.

    Cheers and good luck to all in their new positions.

    #38 1 year ago
    Quoted from Atari_Daze:

    Something Jack Welch and GE implemented about 25 yrs ago?

    It was developed by Motorola in 1986 and has been widely adopted by manufacturers large and small.

    #39 1 year ago

    maybe IPO in five year horizon? I’d be in! PNBL ticker (STRN taken)?

    17
    #40 1 year ago

    Seth Davis from Disney doing what Disney has done to its long term loyal customers- bilking them for as much as they possibly can while making their experience with the brand less and less and less while paying more and more and more.

    Congrats to Gary Stern, the real winner here and someone I will always admire for how he carried pinball through the millennium and beyond.. it was when he lost control and became a figurehead that things turned more into Stern Pinball cashing in on the community and being less concerned about the advancement and betterment of pinball IMO. Remember when Gary would show up at small arcade/pinball festivals and talk, take questions, etc? Was amazing and he really loved the community and connected with it. Anything past the big two festivals now and you don't see the commitment from Stern Pinball (my guess is because they don't want to spend the money).

    This is just my take and opinion, you don't have to agree... I can afford this hobby but I haven't bought a NIB Stern in years and I used to buy every title NIB, so I feel like I can speak my mind at the very least.

    15
    #41 1 year ago

    Gary kept the dream alive in the worst period in coin op. And Stern Pinball remains, and has grown. Investor, new building, now a soon to be newer new building. Personnel changes upstairs.

    Their future is looking good and I wish them nothing but the best going forward and making the games we love, pinball !

    LTG : )

    #42 1 year ago
    Quoted from DaddyManD:

    maybe IPO in five year horizon? I’d be in! PNBL ticker (STRN taken)?

    This would be a catastrophe for fans. Great art doesn't come from fiduciary duties and shareholders or boards of directors. It might need funding, but public companies don't get out of the way of art, they consume and make demands.

    I think pinball is more like theatrical production than it is car manufacturing, it is expensive, interdisciplinary, niche, and benefits from a strong creative vision, not business decisions made by committee

    #43 1 year ago

    And the price increases on Jan 1 2023 will reflect all of this. Pros will be $7299, Premiums $9899 and LE's? OUCH!

    #44 1 year ago
    Quoted from Aurich: But if we enter a future of DLC will it travel with the pin? Stern could tie things to your Insider account and if you don't log in the new software doesn't boot, so you couldn't sell it with the game, in theory.

    Yeah, it's gonna be an uphill climb with a lot of people. Who knows, just speculating. But the pieces are all in place to make that kind of play. Get games connected to wifi, with accounts, and you can do a lot of software as service kinds of moves.

    Similarly - There is still a used video game market clinging to life, but it's in the death throes. Online marketplaces (PS Plus, Xbox Online, etc) have pretty much taken over all that revenue. And since there are far fewer physical copies floating around, Sony, Microsoft, etc are claiming all that revenue Gamestop used to collect. You can also get banned, and your game disabled. I can't imagine why Stern would want to do this, but it's technically possible.

    #45 1 year ago
    Quoted from vdojaq:

    And the price increases on Jan 1 2023 will reflect all of this. Pros will be $7299, Premiums $9899 and LE's? OUCH!

    Are those price increases confirmed? i thought they were staying at the current Bond prices for 2023?

    #46 1 year ago
    Quoted from MikeS:

    Are those price increases confirmed? i thought they were staying at the current Bond prices for 2023?

    Yes. And btw, if you want a new Elvira Premium, that' going to be $10,500 plus shipping and tax.

    #47 1 year ago

    This thread has a bit of deja-vu.

    https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/stern-pinball-announces-new-president-

    Lots of fear for the DLC route about 15 months ago when Seth joined. So far, all the Insider Connected features have been free. I'm sure they will try charging for content at some point however.

    The closest thing to DLC they have released is toppers with exclusive modes.

    #48 1 year ago
    Quoted from vdojaq:

    And the price increases on Jan 1 2023 will reflect all of this. Pros will be $7299, Premiums $9899 and LE's? OUCH!

    You sure about these increases and have a source? That would mean two price increases on Bond when the premiums and most of the pros aren't even made until January.

    #49 1 year ago
    Quoted from manadams:

    You sure about these increases and have a source? That would mean two price increases on Bond when the premiums and most of the pros aren't even made until January.

    I think he’s adding $300 to the actual prices to cover shipping. Which I’d guess many can avoid by picking up themselves.

    #50 1 year ago

    Let’s just say the Disney vampires have smelt an artery ripe with the fresh blood of post COVID baby boomer nostalgia related excess cash and have started circling the sky waiting to swoop down and relieve us of it. If they keep making games as good and fun as they have been recently, the price is the only thing I have against Stern. Otherwise, buckle up, the price roller coaster has just left the station… can quality and entertainment survive the profit maximizing onslaught? Be sure to tune in next week, same Pin-Time, same Pin-Station.

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