Name: John Fitzgerald
Title: Vice President and General Manager, Signal Processing and Amplifier Business Unit
Company: Harman Professional
SCN: What is your new position, and what does it entail? What are your responsibilities?
John Fitzgerald: As vice president and general manager of the Signal Processing and Amplifier business unit for Harman Professional, I have strategic and operational responsibility for the Crown, BSS, dbx, Lexicon, and Digitech brands. Beyond leading the normal activities of managing a business unit—including sales, marketing, R&D, HR, finance, and operations—I also lead Harman Professional’s fixed installation vertical market initiative. In this role I have oversight and control over the whole line of Harman Professional products as they pertain to our customers and distribution partners in the install market. It’s a fascinating and dynamic role from an R&D, product planning, and marketing perspective, but most fascinating because I get to act as key customer advocate within Harman.
SCN: How long have you been at this position, and how long have you been at Harman?
JF: This is a newly created position, and I have occupied it since January. I have been general manager of the Strategic Business Unit for three and a half years now, but I am a long-time Harman employee with over 17 years of service. I worked in many roles throughout those 17 years including sales, product planning, engineering, operations, and corporate restructuring. I have had the opportunity to be part of Harman’s Automotive division for which I led an expansion project in Japan for two and half years. Living in Nagoya with my family was a phenomenal experience. Harman’s breadth of products, industries, and locations has provided unparalleled opportunities for my career.
SCN: How has your background prepared you for your new role?
JF: Simply put, breadth of experience. I have been an audiophile my whole life and so the love of sound and music has always been a constant inspiration in my life and career, but the opportunity to work—and lead—a broad array of functions in Harman has provided an incredible base of relationships and experience that I draw upon every day.
My time overseas was particularly important as I was submerged in Toyota’s new product development cycle as they were the primary customer we were servicing at that time. This gave me unparalleled insight into the value of listening to the customer and crafting your new products to fulfill their needs. It sounds so simple, but so many companies fail to really distill the customer’s needs into the proper feature set for their products. This experience, coupled with my time leading our engineering group in Automotive, has allowed me to create a new product machine that continues to release a string of compelling new products with the right features at an incredibly high level of quality, but at a very predictable drumbeat the market appreciates—even requires!
SCN: What are your short- and long-term goals for the business unit?
JF: The goals in the short term are all-around expansion of our product line and supporting new installation product categories. We have a great new lineup of amplifiers and signal processing products that position Harman as the preeminent solutions provider for all project sizes and/or levels of complexity. My challenge and opportunity is to help Harman—and our integrator partners —make the leap to providing a turnkey solution for video management, visual signage, and ultimately control products. A longer-term goal is to provide a more integrated portal of information for the consultants in our market. Ultimately we need to make Harman and information about our broad range of solutions more easily accessible.
SCN: What is the greatest challenge that you currently face?
JF: The greatest challenge is the diversity of requirements that we face being a global supplier. The old saying is to “think globally, but act locally”—well, the requirements established by the different regions of the world don’t exactly follow suit. Each unique region seems to think locally, and set functional and certification requirement locally. This can be very complex, but can also be a differentiator for your products if approached correctly. We now have incredibly strong R&D functions not only in the U.S. and Europe, but also in China, Brazil, and India to help us overcome these hurdles. In doing so, we have turned a difficult situation into a competitive advantage as we now can have a new product in development 24 hours a day—literally—with our network of experienced engineers.
SCN: Where do you see the amplifier market heading?
JF: Both the forces that drive consumer technologies and societal forces apply to our market as well. You will see the drive for higher efficiency and lower power consumption grow stronger and stronger in the future. As our customers, and the world in general becomes more and more green and understands that lowering your carbon footprint isn’t just a ‘buzz word’ or a short-term theme, becoming more energy efficient is the right thing to do. This will drive some fundamental changes in everyone’s approach to power amplifiers. Smaller, lighter, less heat, and higher efficiencies will drive a core change.
SCN: Are there new initiatives we are likely to see from the Strategic Business Unit?
JF: Absolutely. Crown, BSS and all the Harman brands have been, and always will be, technology leaders. The flow of new products is vital in our market and the rate of technology change is incredibly high. We have a few central themes that will really change things in the next 12-24 months. One key is our user interface, which we’re changing dramatically. We’re also increasing our focus on the end customer and their experience, which will drive more and more of our product definition. You will also see further integration across all the Harman brands and a sharing of technology like never before. And… did I mention video?
SCN: How can systems contractors better position themselves to profit from products and/or services Harman has to offer?
JF: Most importantly, watch closely the new product details that you will see at InfoComm and over the next few months. There are some very exciting things coming that will help these systems contractors win more jobs and ultimately make more money from our products. Harman’s lineup will be unparalleled in the industry in terms of the breadth of solution we provide.
Chuck Ansbacher is the managing editor of SCN.