2012 Hall of Fame: Jim Minarik
Jim Minarik, Chairman & CEO, DEI HoldingsJanuary 2012 By Brett Solomon
Many in the industry know Jim Minarik for his leadership roles at 12-volt companies such as Directed, with its Viper and Clifford brands, as well as Clarion, Precision Power, Orion, and others. But during his career he has also helped to shape other areas of the CE industry, including personal computer peripherals and high-end home audio.
Minarik segments his career in what he calls "three 10-year buckets." The first bucket was his early years at Altec Lansing and Sparkomatic, where he was recruited after receiving his MBA from Penn State. At the time, Minarik had some great job offers from some prestigious companies, including Exxon, Corning Glass and Procter & Gamble. "But looking back now and realizing I could have spent my career in the petroleum, glass or toilet paper businesses instead of being involved in the dynamic and ever-changing CE industry, I realize how truly fortunate I have been," he said.
When Minarik was at Altec, one of the big projects he was involved with was creating speakers for personal computers. Back then the typical 1.5-inch driver buried inside a PC was considered the pinnacle of what any consumer would ever need. But as 'multimedia' became the driving force behind PC sales, Minarik and Altec wound up selling the speakers to IBM, Dell and countless consumers who were looking for better sound for gaming and other applications.
Minarik was happy at Altec Lansing, but a recruiter kept calling him for a job at Clarion, a mobile electronics company in southern California. With deep roots in Pennsylvania, he was not excited about it. "It took the recruiter calling me three times and basically daring me to go to California just to check out the opportunity," he said.
The visit must have done the trick. Minarik become president of sales at Clarion in 1992, focused on selling Clarion-branded-products in North America, and moved his wife Megan and their young family to the West Coast.
"It felt like a big risk back then for us to change both my job and our entire lives, but in hindsight we are certainly grateful we made the move," he said.
After developing and launching Clarion's successful 'Pro Audio' product line, he quickly climbed the ranks and in 1998 became the president and CEO of Clarion of America. It was here that he made his mark in the world of car electronics, coming up with ideas for products that were the harbinger for things to come in the industry. In 1998, for example, Clarion had an idea for the AutoPC. After many meetings with Microsoft, the company finally agreed to partner with Clarion, which introduced the AutoPC at the 1999 CES. The device, the first of its kinds, combined cellular, voice-controlled navigation and music in one DIN-sized unit.