RISE CultureFamily values

Michael Sherman, HENRI

Michael Sherman is Managing Director of French integrator HENRI.

HENRI has a rich family heritage. As a third generation MD, did you always have a passion for the industry?

The company was founded by my grandfather in 1961 and I am now working with my father. We really have been lucky to be able to pass down the company over three generations already, which is pretty rare. It has a positive impact on two levels: firstly the family atmosphere existing within the team, secondly the values that have been passed down from a time when craftsmanship, high-quality work and client satisfaction were everything.

As for myself, I was always kind of a geek growing up, so I naturally enjoyed working in this industry. In addition to my passion for technology, I really discovered a passion for entrepreneurship, and I am lucky to be able to combine those two in my everyday job.

HENRI operates in the high-end residential and commercial sectors. In which sector does smart technology have the greater potential in the future?

Focusing on the hospitality sector in addition to the residential one is a strategic move we started about a decade ago. The craftsmanship quality we delivered in residential projects was way above the norm for hotels at the time, even for 5-star ones. Getting into that market has been way more difficult than we thought. The mistake is to think that a hotel project is like a residential one because it has rooms and suites, but everything is different, from the technology to the project organisation. This was a learning curve but we now can say with confidence that we are experts in both sectors.

The hospitality projects gave us the opportunity to grow as a company, and therefore be able to deliver even more ambitious residential projects, it has really been a virtuous circle. Nowadays, it also gives us more flexibility whenever one market is doing better than the other. As for which one have the greater potential, I will abstain from trying to predict the future. The answer might not age well!

Congratulations on the recent integration project at the hotel Cheval Blanc at La Samaritaine, Paris. Smart technology has quickly become an expectation in hotels and commercial buildings – what do you think is the most exciting technology development to come from this boom?

The Cheval Blanc at La Samaritaine project is an ongoing project that should be completed very soon, and all of the team is currently giving their best to deliver it with the high quality expected. Cheval Blanc is the hotel brand of LMVH Group, the global reference for luxury goods and services. They have been trusting HENRI for almost a decade now to deploy and renovate their French hotels in Courchevel, Saint-Tropez and Paris. They have always pushed us to go the extra mile, and we developed new expertise and services on their request, like the IPTV solutions, allowing us to completely deliver the automation and audiovisual installation in a hotel, from the rooms to the public areas. We are really grateful to the Cheval Blanc team and hope we get to work with them for a long time to come.

I think the most exciting development in hotels isn’t a specific technology; it is the integration of them all. Hotel owners now understand that customers expect to get the same comfort they have at home in their hotel room. And to deliver this great experience, the technology has to be thought out as a whole. Previously we could have an IPTV installation completely separate from the lighting one, or the music one, with different companies having completely separate scopes – they now turn to specialists that can consolidate all these technologies.

You are an advocate that knowledge sharing as a key driver for our industry. How do you practise this with your team at HENRI?

It really is something that is part of our culture and we train a lot internally. We have always used apprenticeships a lot, so much so that more than a third of our team started in the company as an intern or apprentice; the oldest among them has now 21 years of experience. There is also a very low staff turnover, allowing the most experienced team member to train the newest ones.

The same philosophy applies to management positions. We usually promote from within, developing people who share the company values and show great potential. They have the trust and respect of their co-workers and it really brings great results.

There is a clear mentality that helping one another helps the company, and therefore everyone in it. We try our best to create an environment that encourages collaboration.

After being named Young Professional of the Year 2019, you were recently elected to serve on the CEDIA Board of Directors 2021-22. How will you use your position to promote greater representation within the industry?

I am really honoured for both the Young Professional of the Year award, and the CEDIA Board of Directors election. I am really looking forward to putting my experience at the service of the association. The board is composed of very talented people from diverse backgrounds, which allows us to confront different point of views and have deep thinking on every subject. This is a group that I feel can really have a positive impact on the industry and I am both happy to be a part of and focused on delivering results.