BRUNSWICK — Although he won’t be taking the reigns of the company until the end of the fiscal year, the new president and CEO of L.L. Bean, Steve Smith, made the rounds last week to the company’s facilities, meeting, greeting and getting to know his employees.

Approachable, casual and downright friendly aren’t usually words used to describe a powerful CEO, but Smith made his way around the Brunswick manufacturing facility laughing, shaking hands and even taking selfies with some employees.

One man in the cafeteria shook Smith’s hand and welcomed him as “Steve” before asking just what he should call him. Without missing a beat, Smith laughed and said, “Call me Steve — what else would you call me?”

L.L. Bean Chairman Shawn Gorman said the company has been working on the transition for quite some time. Gorman said retiring CEO Chris McCormick gave the board two years’ notice of his planned departure, allowing the company time to find the right candidate.

Gorman spoke of his uncle Leon Gorman’s role in structuring the company for the next wave of leadership, passing from third- to fourth-generation leaders on the board.

“Things are going well with the board of directors. We have new, independent directors on the board, we’ve established a new family governance committee, we have a family council and it all works well. I’m glad we did that, considering Leon’s untimely passing this past year,” Gorman said.

The concern, Gorman said, was finding a CEO who fits the culture of L.L. Bean, because “that’s what makes us work.” Gorman said Smith was a good fit for the culture and values the company embodies.

“The family has gotten very comfortable with him. The board has gotten to know him and is very comfortable with him, and then his technical expertise and experience beyond that just makes it a nice, complete package,” Gorman said.

Smith said his experience of focusing on the customer and understanding their needs and wants — and from there designing how to best make that happen — serves him well.

Smith said he thinks L.L. Bean has an incredibly strong culture, and it’s going to take some work to assimilate into that culture — something Smith is used to from his international work experience throughout Europe and Asia.

By Smith’s account, he approached L.L. Bean about a year ago while working for Wal-Mart International, when he heard McCormick was retiring. The search went out to the professional search firm Russell Reynolds in San Francisco, who contacted Smith in March 2015. Smith said that began a six-month process before it was made official the job was his.

“I’m really happy to be back in Maine, whether I’m south, mid or even in the northern counties, it’s just awesome to be back in Maine — close to the mountains, close to the sea, great food, great people,” Smith said, recalling when he lived in Cape Elizabeth in the 1990s while working for Resorts Sports Network and Hannaford.

Smith sees his biggest challenge as CEO will be taking his time to learn the business and meet the people of L.L. Bean. He said the current business structure runs quite well and he will be better set up to make an impact on the company once he gets comfortable with his surroundings. Smith does, however, have an extra edge with his experiences abroad.

“I’ve seen some great and really innovative things in e-commerce overseas, both in Europe and in Asia, some really innovative stuff. So over time it will be fun and interesting to bring those ideas in and see how they match,” Smith said.

As for future growth of the company, Smith said the current plan in place, Vision 2020, seeks to expand retail operations to 100 stores by 2020 — work that Smith says is well underway. He said four new stores will be opening in the next four weeks in the Midwest and there are seven new stores planned for next year.

With L.L. Bean in Freeport serving more like a campus of different purposed buildings, Smith was asked the question: If he could describe himself as a store, which one would he be: Clothing and camping, bike and ski, or hunting and fishing?

“Short-term, I’m going to be in the flagship store for clothing, simply because I’m getting back to Maine, so I need a lot more flannel, fleece, down, thick comforters — all the stuff you need to get through a Maine winter, and moving in December is probably the biggest shift. So, I’ll definitely be starting flagship and then I will clearly be over with bike, boat and ski just to get up on gear,” Smith said.

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