Core Brands’ Roberts Looks to Earn Back Dealer Confidence

The Nortek subsidiary announced on Friday that its president Bill Pollock would be retiring from the company at year’s end to clear the way for his successor, Joe Roberts. When I spoke with Roberts to learn more about this news, he acknowledged that Core Brands had taken its “eye off the ball” at times over the past three years, but that its mission to “delight our customers with exceptional service, innovative products, and best dealer programs” would continue to drive “every single department” as he inherits the leadership mantle in January.
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Following a bounce-back year for Core Brands at CEDIA EXPO this past September, the Nortek subsidiary announced on Friday that its president Bill Pollock would be retiring from the company at year’s end to clear the way for his handpicked successor, Joe Roberts. When I spoke with Roberts to learn more about this news, he acknowledged that Core Brands had taken its “eye off the ball” at times over the past three years, but that its mission to “delight our customers with exceptional service, innovative products, and best dealer programs,” would continue to drive “every single department” as he inherits the leadership mantle in January.

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 ELAN recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with the Cake Boss himself.

Roberts, who currently serves as VP of products and marketing, believes that his company’s renewed focus was already reflected in major product introductions from SpeakerCraft, ELAN, and Niles, during CEDIA EXPO 2014.

To learn more about the company’s introductions at CEDIA EXPO, click here to watch a short video tour of the booth. 

Roberts said that his focus on “delighting” customers comes from his 20 years of experience in building consumer technology products for the software industry, marketing across global channels, and managing a range of business disciplines. Prior to his position at Core brands, Roberts held executive-level, general management and senior marketing positions at such companies as The Learning Company, Broderbund, Corel, and eLanguage.

Roberts said that he feels uniquely qualified to guide his company’s quest to improve its “customer and consumer experience.”

“I’ve spent 20 years designing, developing, building, innovating products that go to millions and millions of customers,” he said. “I come out of the software industry where the user experience is so imperative to get right, talking to end users and really building truly delightful products that sell. We’ll continue to differentiate ourselves [at Core Brands] through the user experience.”

Roberts was hired just a little over a year ago (September 17, 2013), under the tutelage of 27-year company veteran Pollock and retiring senior VP of sales, Dave Keller, he was placed in “an immersion” program to learn the particulars of the custom installation channel and the specifics of Core Brands’ ATON, BlueBOLT, ELAN, Furman, Niles, Panamax, Proficient, SpeakerCraft, Sunfire, and Xantech product lines.

Since day one, he said, Pollock’s succession plan was clear. “When I first met Bill he was pretty explicit that at some point in the future he was going to need to move on and spend more time with his wife and to travel,” Roberts said. “He’s been pretty open with me of this being a ‘when,’ not ‘if,’ situation. Mostly he wanted to make sure I got comfortable with our industry, comfortable with our dealers, and also comfortable specifically with our company."

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Joe Roberts 

During that time, Roberts said, he was able to meet with customers, reps, press, and distributors to learn what dealers want from Core Brands. “It was clear that they just want to have a great experience with us,” he recalled. “They know our brands, they know our products. They just want it to be really easy to do business with us.”

Pollock credited Roberts for guiding the teams that brought so many new products to CEDIA EXPO, but Roberts preferred to pass that credit back to his product teams, instead.

“That is what’s nice about having this team,” he said. “We have passion for our brands. We have passion for these technologies. I was able to help us focus on what’s most important. I went to CEDIA 2013, then ISE, then again to CEDIA 2014, and we really tried to put our new brand mark on our Core Brands booth to embody everything we’ve been striving for, which is the re-crafting of SpeakerCraft and ELAN, and then all of our new products.

Roberts said that the revamping of SpeakerCraft was at the top of the list this year for the company. “We put our best and brightest design team on that product line after hearing from a lot of customers both domestic and international about what we needed to do with it. We wanted to start over and think what we can we do to get the enthusiasm back for our dealers.

One of the results was the AIM Series II, which includes many product innovations, while still honoring the legacy of earlier SpeakerCraft innovations, such as making integration and installation easy.

“We’ve really tried to use our foundation and just leapfrog over everyone,” Roberts said. “The products sound great, and they look fantastic. They’re the best-looking speakers that you won’t see.”

SpeakerCraft also launched five new amplifiers, a new multi-room audio controller with iPhone and Android control, as well as keypads and touchscreens.

“If all we did at CEDIA 2014 was re-invent SpeakerCraft, then I would have considered it a win, but one of the advantages of having a passionate and large team that we have here, was that we were also able to go over to the ELAN side and update that entire platform, too, Roberts noted.

The company updated ELAN’s controllers, software, and interface devices, the remote controllers and keypads, including the new g1 and the gMV devices.

“Again, if that’s all we did, it would have been a huge success,” Roberts added. “Just the size and footprint we have with these two brands, we would look like a standalone company. But then we roll over to Niles and can talk about the new Auriel multi-room audio control platform, which began shipping a little bit before CEDIA, and we’re really making the whole breadth of what’s available for our direct dealers and distribution customers larger.

Those were the more notable introductions, but Roberts also pointed to parallel development efforts from Panamax-Furman, BlueBOLT, Sunfire, Proficient, and Xantech that are well underway, too. It’s a lot of progress that Roberts said shows that the company is no longer “neglecting” brands as a result of the “Core Brand transition” that was more daunting than anyone thought it was going to be.

“It was more complex, and it’s probably been exhausting for people that have had to live in it for the last two to three years,” Roberts acknowledged. “I’ve been fortunate to catch the tail of it, the last piece. Really in the past year one of Bill Pollock’s goals was to re-establish our brands back into the business. I think we need to keep executing and to really show that we’re back and that we’re a good partner to deal with. I think it’ll be a little bit at a time, but I’m really optimistic that we’ll get the confidence back with our dealers that we’ll be supplying great product for a long time to come.”

Jeremy Glowacki (jglowacki@nbmedia.com) is editorial director of Residential Systems.

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