John Fitzgerald is Harman’s Key Customer Advocate
Name: John Fitzgerald
Title: Vice President and General Manager, Signal Processing and Amplifier Business Unit
Company: Harman Professional
SCN: What is your position, and what does it entail?
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.
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.
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: 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?
Chuck Ansbacher is the managing editor of SCN.