Weber’s kettle grill was introduced to the market in 1952. George Stephen, the grill’s inventor, welded the first grills himself. As the product became in demand, Stephen formed the barbecue division of Weber Brothers Metal Works, later buying the division out and becoming the sole owner, leading the manufacture and sale of the popular grills.
The innovative design put the Weber company on the map. Now it’s looking to keep its place atop consumer minds with innovations that involve a completely different technology: smartphones.
Back in 2020, the company launched Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub, which leveraged artificial intelligence and smartphone technology to help people better set up their grills and even know when their burgers are ready to flip. The company essentially took one of the most primitive human innovations — cooking with fire — and enhanced it with technology.
In what presumably was a show of its commitment to its technological future, Weber, in 2021, acquired June, the company it had previously collaborated with to develop Weber Connect. The 70-year-old company further signaled this commitment when it ousted its CEO in 2022, replacing him with Alan Matula, who just prior to the promotion was the company’s chief technology officer.
While there is typically more than one reason to make a change at the top, there is speculation that Weber’s move is in part to emphasize technology, a shift that seems to be happening throughout the market. But unlike technological innovation, the shift to tech-savvy leadership seems to be happening much more slowly.
A 2021 study by MIT’s Sloan Management Review found that only 7 percent of companies were led by digitally competent teams — one for which more than half the members can be considered digitally savvy. However, those companies reportedly outperformed others by 48 percent in terms of revenue growth and market valuation.
We’re operating in a world in which the CEO can no longer delegate technology decisions, as technological investments are now central to strategic planning. For CEOs of companies of all sizes, but especially the middle market, it’s necessary to understand the state of the art and how it can apply to their business.
To stay on top of the latest in technology, CEOs can work with outside consultants to get a fresh perspective on what’s working inside and outside their sector. They can also stay abreast of changes by keeping up with tech news, or meeting with or attending talks by those who are experts in different technological fields.
Technology comes for all of our businesses. By embracing change and staying current, these innovations can add fuel to your fire. ●
Fred Koury is President and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc.