Interview: Eric Bone, GM of ECOVACS Robotics

by Jerome Knyszewski
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Eric Bone, GM of ECOVACS Robotics

Eric Bone has amassed years of product marketing experience before landing his current position at ECOVACS Robotics as General Manager for the Americas. He has worked for major tech and electronics companies such as Sandisk and Logitech. At Sandisk, he started as the Director of Marketing and Product Management, then he became the Vice President of Product Management, and finally he ended up as the Vice President Product Marketing.

At Logitech, Eric Bone worked as the Director of Product Marketing. He managed the company portfolio, which is worth over $200 million, that includes the company’s “UE Bluetooth Audio speakers, PC gaming peripherals, IoT, Security, Streaming and TV products lines.” He also led Logitech’s strategy for launching a new audio brand, “oversaw channel sales segmentation for the US and Canada,” and “created product line forecasting and yearly business planning. His work at Logitech brought success, achieving “200% YoY growth for UE mobile speaker line, exceeded market growth and surpassed leading competitor.

When he took over the General Manager position for ECOVACS in 2019, Eric Bone became “responsible for the full business P&L in the Americas region, including all investments in brand, GTM, Channel and Sales development.” He also oversees the “creation, development and ownership of business plans.”

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Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Eric Bone: Absolutely. My very first job out of college was in public relations and brand management. Working in the communications industry taught me the importance of communicating my ideas effectively to people that were extremely busy and didn’t have much time. I learned the importance of succinct, clear and strategic communications, which I believe is a critical and still undervalued skill.

After my start in communications I was fortunate to have the opportunity to transition into product management, fueling my love for innovative product development and management. I started at SanDisk, then transitioned to executive roles at Logitech followed by Leef, and ultimately, ended up as the general manager of Americas at ECOVACS, where I am now. It’s been a great fit, allowing me to combine my background in brand and product with my interest in team and company leadership and customer interaction.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Eric Bone: With a midwestern upbringing, I was taught to persevere through tough times and to never quit. Did I want to ever quit a job, or even my career? Of course, but I’ve had great mentors that coached me to run towards new opportunities, and to not run from the tough ones. This is a mantra I’ve continued to follow to this day.

Additionally, I’ve made it a personal policy to focus on harder sell products and have prided myself on the ability to step in and just do the work. During my time at SanDisk, a company known for flash memory products, I spearheaded a product line for the company called Sansa that would ultimately become the top selling MP3 player behind Apple’s iPod in the early 2000s, subsequently earning the company hundreds of millions of dollars. Even though executives and companies don’t want to go up against Apple, we had a core strength with flash memory, and the boldness to take a product risk — and it paid off.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Eric Bone: When I made the transition from my job as a product manager at NEC Technologies (small pond, big fish) to HP’s Consumer PC division (big pond, small fish), I was feeling pretty good about my skills and wanted to make sure that I could show off all that I had learned. I jumped in feet first, sharing my opinion at many meetings trying to impress my new boss. He turned to me and said, Eric, “opinions are just that, it’s the data and insights that make you a great product manager.” Suffice it to say, I changed my approach rather quickly and that advice has stuck with me throughout my career.

Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

Eric Bone:

  • Embrace the discomfort — All too often, fear gets in the way of people reaching their full potential. Instead of letting that anxiety dictate your life, you should acknowledge it and use it to fuel your decisions. As I mentioned, there was a lot of anxiety around launching an MP3 at SanDisk when Apple already owned that product space, but I embraced it head-on and used it to guide my focus.

  • Set up clear processes — Internal politics get in the way of progress. Make your team’s jobs easier by creating systems that cut through bureaucracy and accelerate with innovation, as opposed to hampering it.

  • Simplify — Chaos, misaligned priorities, too many competing projects — all contribute to loss of focus. When you get in too deep and lose sight of your goal because there is so much going on, cut out the noise and focus on just one thing at a time. When I feel overwhelmed, I close all my tabs, restart my computer, and reset myself with a clean screen where I then choose the one thing that is most time and priority critical.

  • Leverage virtual employment — There is so much untapped talent worldwide. The best person for the job might not live in the same city or even the same country as your office or headquarters. At Leef, I built a team that had employees from Ukraine, the US, and China, which helped us get the job done more effectively and efficiently. Hire the right people and the right fit, regardless of where they are located. The pandemic has been a litmus test for many companies in this area.

  • Learn how to motivate others — Great companies are creative about how they motivate their teams, and that creativity is discovered through ongoing learning and growth. Make sure to educate yourself — there are great resources out there from Ted Talks to podcasts, to books and more — that empower you with the tools you need to help others grow.

Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

Eric Bone: Employees want to feel that their job is more than just doing something day after day. Great companies relate work to a higher purpose, whether it’s a customer-driven one or a social-driven one. When employees have that purpose, they are more likely to work creatively, which leads to more innovation.

Think about when you were a kid and your parents made you volunteer. You probably didn’t appreciate it at the time. but as you grew older and recognized the value of tutoring students, working at a soup kitchen, or whatever service you enjoyed, you began to recognize the merit of it, which made you feel more intrinsically inclined to do it. The same thing applies to employees. When they are doing work just for the sake of having an income, there is little motivation to think outside of the box and go above and beyond. Yet, when there is a purpose or a social impact angle, they have a North star to direct their efforts towards.

Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

Eric Bone: First, you have to establish value for your customer by having a product that solves a real problem for them. Once you associate intrinsic, emotional value to a product, you can then translate that to your future customers by raising awareness through communications, marketing, sales channels, etc. To retain that customer, establish word of mouth, and attract new customers and loyalty, you also just have a have a really good product, and continue to develop and deliver on a level that will keep them coming back.

Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

Eric Bone: A great business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand by ensuring that the product meets the expectations that it set with customers. Communicating with accuracy and transparency will ensure just that. Brands should also be upfront about pricing to maintain customer trust, with no hidden charges or unexpected upsells, especially in the digital age when customers have numerous platforms to share their grievances.

On the flip side brands make mistakes — they’re sadly inevitable. It’s important that they own up to them instead of trying to brush them under the rug. Customers will hold brands accountable, so brands need to maintain open communication and be honest and approachable when they slip up.

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Eric Bone: Readers can connect with me on LinkedIn and follow ECOVACS on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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