Dealerscope 2020 Hall of Fame: John Iacoviello, BSH Home Appliance Corporation
The first impression you get when you speak to BSH Home Appliance Corp.’s John Iacoviello about his career in the consumer electronics industry is that this is a man who a.), has very much paid his dues to get to where he is today and b.), has truly loved every step of the journey.
The Dealerscope 2020 Hall of Fame honoree has been in the CE and appliances space for 33 years and after beginning his career as a music teacher out of college, he has done just about everything you can do in that space during his rise to Senior Vice President of Sales at BSH. Iacoviello put up some impressive numbers, and the promotions just kept on coming.
Early on, he grew to become expert on about every aspect of Panasonic – products, customers, markets.
“I was moved around quite a bit. Then I must have pissed somebody off,” he joked, “because they put me in merchandising.” What most certainly wasn’t a joke was the fact Iacoviello took Panasonic’s phone business to almost $1 billion.
What became apparent was that everywhere he went, sales numbers rose. As a result, he was soon in charge of all merchandising... every product Panasonic made. Many trips back and forth to Japan soon followed.
“What was most exciting to me was the fact I was learning about every aspect of the business,” Iacoviello said. “And the promotion to President of Sales and Marketing for the U.S. and Puerto Rico was next.”
After this A-to-Z run at Panasonic, it was time to move on, he felt. A remarkable 23-year run had Iacoviello ready for a new challenge. He flirted with starting his own consulting business, including the launch of a furniture line from New Zealand.
However, BSH came calling after roughly a year on his own, and after hanging in on a nine-interview process, he was hired as Senior Vice President of Sales.
“My boss called me and said I was the most interviewed executive he’d ever met in this life,” he remembered. “And I jokingly said that’s because you couldn’t make a decision.”
Transitioning from CE to Appliances
Over 10 years later, it’s a decision both parties are happy they made, as Iacoviello has carried the same work ethic that marked his 23 years at Panasonic to the job at BSH. “I’ve been told I’m the only guy that made the transition from consumer electronics to appliances, and that’s because I took everything I wanted to do in consumer electronics, and BSH lets me do it in appliances,” Iacoviello explained with a laugh. “That’s why I’ve been successful.”
After more than three successful decades in the same industry, you’d think recalling a highlight would be next to impossible. Not for the Staten Island-born Iacoviello. “The highlight of my career is simply that I’ve had the opportunity to work for two high-class companies, leaders in the industry,” he offered without hesitation. “It’s incredible to me to not only be able to go through that once, but to be able to do it twice is just amazing. Not many people get the chance to do that even once, and I’ve gotten that chance twice.”
With a leadership style that he describes as “tough but fair,” Iacoviello added, “I never tell anyone to do anything I couldn’t do, so I lead by example. That’s who I am as a person, and I believe that those who have worked for me have enjoyed the experience.”
When it comes to the people he’s admired most over his long career, Iacoviello quickly brought up the former CEO of Chicagoland retailer Abt Electronics, Bob Abt, who passed away in 2015, as someone he respected and admired greatly. Abt is often credited with raising the bar for ethical retail.
Almo Corp. Chairman Gene Chaiken’s name was quickly uttered as well – as a man who built Almo into the behemoth it is today. “When I look at these two gentlemen, and that’s exactly what they are, gentlemen, I realize there aren’t too many like them in the business today – true merchants that I essentially grew up with in this business.”
On the manufacturer side he points to former Panasonic CEO Don Iwatani, whom he credits with showing him the ropes in his early years, and Mike Aguilar, also a former executive at Panasonic, who became a mentor for the “tough but fair” style Iacoviello would later adapt.
Of the many bits of advice he’s both taken, and passed along, one in particular stands out. “The best piece of business advice I ever got, and it’s also the best life advice I ever got, is don’t burn bridges,” he said. “Because you never know where that person will be later in your career – this is a small industry in many ways.”
As for the future of the consumer electronics space, Iacoviello said he sees the pace at which the industry is currently moving only picking up speed. And he added that omnichannel is the very definite direction retail is heading in. “The brick-and-mortar-only guys are in for a tough time, and the smart online retailers are all adding some kind of a physical location element,” he said.
Lastly, Iacoviello sees the connected home concept hitting the fast lane, but stressed that the winners in that race will be those that take the category’s sometimes complicated message and simplify it for the large percentage of consumers that are still a bit confused by it all. “Those that are able to simplify this connected home message, how it all works and what the benefits are, they will be the big winners in this space going forward,” he explained.
At BSH, that message is pretty clear, as the website states: Our goal is to be so familiar with the needs of consumers that we create innovations that offer tangible benefits for customers and lead the way with our developments.
In a career full of changes, one constant remains, and this is Iacoviello’s passion for music. From the time he earned a full scholarship to play the trumpet for the Valley Forge Military Academy and Junior College Band, to his yearly responsibility today of bringing the karaoke equipment to the BSH annual sales meeting, there is always music playing in and around John Iacoviello – and a large percentage of the songs have undoubtedly been happy ones.