In 2002, Sonos was founded by a small group of entrepreneurs determined to capitalize on emerging technologies and create a revolution in home sound systems. They succeeded. Today, the clunky, chunky sound systems of old have been replaced by slim, sleek products mercifully free of the coils of wires we once considered par for the course. In the process, they created a billion-dollar brand with a presence in over 11 million homes worldwide. At the helm of Sonos is Patrick Spence, an employee of the company since 2012 and its CEO since 2017. If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to run a billion-dollar company, find out now as we take a look at ten things you didn’t know about Patrick Spence.
1. He spent 14 years with Blackberry
Have you ever wondered what happened to all of Blackberry’s employees when its eponymous phone died an inglorious death in the mid-2010s? Well, wonder no more – at least about one of them. Prior to joining Sonos, Spence worked for over 14 years with Blackberry, overseeing its growth across North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. After progressing through the ranks, his career with the company culminated in the position of Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing. During his time with Blackberry, he oversaw a period of phenomenal growth: when he joined, it had 150 staff and a turnover of $50 million; by the time he left, it had a staff of over 17,000 and an annual revenue in excess of $50 billion.
2. He took a massive pay cut in July
When the COVID pandemic broke, Sonos, like many other companies, was hit hard. In an effort to offset the losses and reduce operating expenses, the company laid off 12 percent of its global workforce. In addition, top executives were asked to take a 20 percent pay cut from July through the end of September. In an effort to lead by example, Spence agreed to extend the period of his pay cut until the end of the year. “The pandemic and resulting economic impacts have caused us to have to make some hard choices, including reductions to our workforce, and the closure of some of our smaller offices and our storefront in New York City,” Spence said in a statement provided to The Verge. “These changes are necessary in order for us to emerge from this period ready to take advantage of opportunities we see in the future.”
3. He’s overseen huge growth at Sonos
Since taking over from outgoing CEO John MacFarlane in January 2017, Spence has overseen a period of extraordinary growth at Sonos. Year-over-year growth has increased by 16%, while its customer base has expanded by a further 1.8 million this year alone. When the company went public in 2018, earnings per share came in at $0.15, well ahead of the $0.02 predicted.
4. He’s moving Sonos in a new direction
Part of the reason for Spence’s success at Sonos is his commitment to taking the company into uncharted territory. Over the last few years, he’s steered Sonos away from its traditional (and exclusive) focus on hardware products to explore the monetizing opportunities of free and paid services, such as the recently launched Sonos Radio HD. “We’re kind of excited about having another part of the business that is experience-based, feels very Sonos, but is more iterative in nature,” he says via Protocol. “We’ll learn and we’ll grow it from there.”
5. He’s concerned about the dominance of Google
Over the past few years, a small group of companies of unprecedented size and scope has started dominating the market occupied by Sonos – and Spence is having no one of it. In a written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee in January 2020, he outlined his concern that smaller companies such as Sonos are being squeezed out by the growing dominance of a select few businesses. According to the statement, Spence believes that the stranglehold Apple and Google have on the industry is suppressing new ideas, while their increasing tendency to use their role as essential services to tilt the playing field in favor of their own products is leading to a lack of fair competition.
6. He has a unique approach to staff morale
Speaking to salesforce.com about how the working climate has changed since the COVID pandemic broke, Spence discussed how he’d introduced several measures to boost staff morale. “This has been a huge challenge,” he admitted. “One thing we introduced is Care Time. We’ve given our people 10 hours a week to help their kids with school or to help parents or neighbors. And we’ve taken Care Days – a monthly holiday – since this all began. We’ve tried to be understanding and supportive, and we’re encouraging people to take vacation. We’re going to be in this for a while, and we need to do this in a sustainable way.”
7. He’s been named to Canada’s Top 40 under 40
In 2007, Spence’s achievements in business were honored with his selection to Canada’s Top 40 under 40, an awards program that celebrates outstanding achievers, visionaries, and innovators in Canadian business, all of whom are under the age of forty.
8. He studied at the University of Western Ontario
After finishing high school, Spence won a place at the University of Western Ontario. After graduating with an Honors Degree in Business and Administration, he completed his graduate studies at the Richard Ivey School of Business.
9. He joined Soros in 2012
After leaving Blackberry in June 2012, Spence signed up as Chief Commerical Office at Sonos. During his period in the position, he was instrumental in the development and launch of some of the company’s most popular products. He also oversaw its expansion into new regions such as China, France, Australia, and Mexico. In July 2016, he was promoted to the role of President. Just 5 months later, he achieved the role of CEO when founder John MacFarlane stepped down.
10. He’s worth $14.7 million dollars
Despite the 20% pay cut Spence took in July, his personal finances haven’t suffered too badly. According to Wallmine, the CEO is currently believed to be worth in the region of $14.7 million, a figure accounted for by his $11,568,700 salary and his portfolio of $3,155,117 Sonos stock.