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Harman Luxury Audio: One Year In

David Tovissi weighs in on his first year at the helm and his expectations moving forward.

It has been a little over a year since David Tovissi was hired as vice president and general manager, luxury audio – consumer audio for Harman. We spoke with him recently to get his views on working with custom installers, his impressions on the past year, and his thoughts on how the company will move forward in the new business climate.

RES: What were you most surprised to find when you got to Harman?
DAVID TOVISSI: Without a doubt, what surprised me the most about Harman was the culture and the passion of the employees. They truly wake up every day with the desire to create the best audio products in the market. My previous experiences with Harman was when I was a retailer (Sound Advice and Tweeter Home Entertainment) and later as an integrator (Criteria Design Group). In those roles, I only saw the Harman sales rep and, on occasion, their technical trainer. I never saw the people who designed and developed the products.

That completely changed when I arrived at the Northridge campus last February. The local HR specialist had scheduled meet-and-greets with Harman team members from various roles and divisions around the globe. It was those conversations and later interactions with other Harman employees that turned my surprise into my dedication to honor their tradition of creating great audio. By the way, I was impressed to know that Chris Robinson, the technical trainer — whom I first met over 20 years ago — was one of the first people I met as a Harman employee. His passion like everyone else at Harman, has not diminished at all.

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Once you acclimated to the company, what were your goals for Harman Luxury?
On my first day on the job, Dave Rogers told me that he would expect me to spend the first several months of my time at Harman observing and asking a lot of questions. He encouraged me to create a detailed plan. I followed his advice and conducted several strategy sessions with my senior leadership team. Of course, we did the typical S.W.O.T and Start, Stop, and Continue analysis of the business unit. I then followed that up by conducting surveys with our dealers to see if my team really knew how our customers felt about us. With the data I received by observing, asking, and validating I felt confident about what my goals should be:

  • We need to be transparent to with our customers. The dealer survey feedback we received was mostly positive, but several dealers felt we should communicate more often about our products.
  • We need to be more innovative in our product development. When I started doing a deep dive into the sales performance of our products, I was amazed by the fact that some of our products have been in the line for more than 10 years with some iterations. I challenged our engineers to think outside of their proverbial box to create products that have never been done before by Harman. We plan to share some of these innovations in 2021.
  • We need to develop stronger relationships with our suppliers and customers. We build relationships upon trust, providing timely and accurate information and by doing what is right every time. I encourage my team to develop strong relationships with our suppliers because they can help us solve potential issues before they occur.

Those goals and others now hang in every Luxury Audio Engineering and Product Development site.

What are your impressions of the custom installation market?
As an integrator and a leader of the country’s largest hybrid custom retailer, I was very aware of the CI market before I arrived at Harman. I see this market evolving in many ways, especially through the new generation of dealers who are challenging the status quo of the industry, which is really exciting to see. With modern wireless performance, there is less of a need for the installer to run a bunch of wires to deliver great sound and video throughout the house, so we need to be creating platforms and products that deliver quality audio regardless of what is connected. We also need to realize that an installer’s time is very precious. Whether it’s by including control system modules or creating a quicker way to lock a ceiling speaker in place for a faster install, we need to create products that are more installer friendly.

High-end audio was a growing trend prior to the pandemic. How do you see business on the other side? Will Harman have any supply issues?
The virus has created a “new normal” for the industry. Because of our global supply chain, Harman, like other manufacturers, will have supply chain interruptions. However, we were quick to create a COVID-19 Impact Committee to help minimize the impact on our supply chain. We share some sub-suppliers with our high-volume lifestyle audio business unit; our suppliers worked with our global team to help get them back to work faster. I don’t see us having a supply chain issue once the world’s economy opens back up. I feel confident that Harman will be able to meet the demand of the integrators and their high-end customers.

Last CEDIA Expo, Harman introduced a record number of new products across its various brands. What are the plans for this year’s event?
CEDIA and ISE have always been great launch platforms for our new CI products. With more people spending time in their homes watching movies and concerts due to the Safer-at-Home initiatives, we know that many of them will be ready to upgrade their entertainment systems. We will have several new products that will allow dealers to install multichannel immersive audio solutions at many more price points. While we continue to leverage the buying power of Harman to bring the costs down on technology, we are not simply applying our leverage to create entry-level products. You will see several new flagship products introduced as well.

How does Harman Luxury work with the custom installers? How do you get feedback from the dealers and integrators?
In order for us to be a better partner to our dealers, we need to solicit feedback and suggestions of all kinds. One source of feedback is coming from our dealer surveys. However, we also host dealer participation in our product councils. We are learning more about the challenges that their installers are facing and we share future product concepts with them much earlier in the product development. These meetings have helped us validate our product’s value proposition and at times steered us in a completely different direction for a product’s development. We intend to share pre-production samples with select installers to get feedback on how we can improve our products before launching to the public.

In short, we need to stay close to our customers in order for us to be transparent, innovative and to develop stronger relationships.

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