EDITORS CHOICE 14.12.16

Harman appoints Chris Smith as VP EMEA pro solutions division

Chris Smith, Harman

Harman has named Chris Smith as VP, EMEA, Professional Solutions Division. Speaking exclusively to InAVate Magazine, Smith told Paul Milligan he wants to gain more autonomy for Harman EMEA, and that it was ‘business as usual’ in the wake of the news Samsung is to buy the company for $8bn.

Asked what he would bring to the role, Smith said: “In my career I have touched every part of the food chain, from reseller to distributor to working across multiple territories.  I understand the value proposition we have to give as a partner, as a vendor, as an integrator, and I understand what is expected back from us. I lived in France for a long time, and we are very keen to develop the central European markets.”
 
How was Smith going to gain more autonomy for Harman EMEA?  “We have a big emphasis on growth, in my career I have always built strong local teams, and given responsibility to local markets, and invested in people. We have significant distribution across the EMEA region and we want to get closer to the market.  We are a large business, and will be even larger soon.  What I need for us to do is have local relationships, local languages, local customers, local understanding, fast response times.
 
“I’m putting some country leads in place, so each country has someone who will work very closely with me and the rest of the management structure team, so they feel empowered and in control.  We want the messages we send out to be understood clearly by the people that matter out in the field.”  
 
Harman is viewed by many as a rock and roll/touring company, but 60% of its work is in fixed install, does it have work to do in changing its perception in the proAV world? “When people think of Harman they say Harman Kardon, so the thought process is audio.  We have a job to do in explaining the way we are vertically aligned for business is important.  Yes, we have an entertainment history, but we also have a massive enterprise business.  We touch so many points of everyone’s day in so many different vertical markets, but we need aggregate that and be clearer in our messaging.   I’m mindful of that challenge in the proAV world.”   
 
In the light of the Samsung deal, which won’t complete until sometime next summer, what reassurances can he give that it will be business as usual at Harman? “The deal isn’t closed yet, so it’s very much business as usual.  We have some exciting programmes coming, which are taking a lot of time and cost, especially in the EMEA region, to put together.”   
 
Smith brings extensive senior sales leadership experience in building and running teams in the EMEA region, gained most recently at a leading technology company, where he ran their European operation. Prior to this role, he held sales and business development leadership positions in technology manufacturers, leading EMEA distributors and system integrators.