CEO of Hall Technologies Jason Schwartz was appointed to the position in June 2020. He comes into his leadership position to fill the role left behind by company founder Ali and Gail Haghjoo, who retired in July 2020.
At Hall Technologies, Jason Schwartz is responsible for “creating, planning, implementing, and integrating the strategic direction of the organization to advance its market share both domestically and internationally.”
About Jason Schwartz, Hall Technologies board chairman Stephen Parker said that Jason “has a proven proven reputation of innovation as an organized and collaborative leader, and we know his impact-oriented and analytical strategies will further growth opportunities for Hall within the pro AV marketplace.”
Before Hall Technologies, Jason Schwartz headed “cloud and mobile gaming” at Razer. At the company, he “created a new business unit within the gaming company and developed a global go-to market strategy to accelerate company revenues.”
Aside from Hall Technologies, Jason Schwartz has also served in senior leadership roles in companies such as Incipio Group, BAMKO, Zagg, Sanyo North America, and Marindi Consulting Group.
According to Jason Schwartz, Hall Technologies has an unmatched ability to “develop custom-tailored products for our customers using in-house engineering and product innovation capabilities.” He is now poised to lead the company to “further utilize these capabilities in new market segments and future business opportunities.”
Never stop grinding. Jason Schwartz, Hall Technologies
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?
Jason Schwartz: Sure, I grew up in Upstate New York and completed my undergraduate work at University of Buffalo in accounting and finance. Sometime during my last year, I made up my mind to leave Upstate New York and take on the big world of business. However, I quickly learned that there weren’t many entry-level jobs out there. This meant that if I wanted to do something “special,” I had to out-hustle my competition, which in hindsight, is how I started my career.
I remember my senior year, I must have contacted more than a hundred alumni, trying to network my way into a position. I didn’t care (within reason) where the company was located. I just wanted something that would challenge me. Yet sending out hundreds of resumes and making as many follow-up calls did not seem to bring any results. I started feeling hopeless when one day I saw an ad in a local newspaper for a position in Los Angeles, but with no company name attached. My friends thought it was a scam, and I shouldn’t respond, but I figured: “What’s the worst that can happen?” So I prepared a CV and sent in my resume.
It turns out the job was an audit position for Sony Corporation of America in Culver City, CA. I not only got the job, but they paid for me to relocate to Los Angeles. This was the start of my professional journey, with one of the best lessons I could learn at an early age: never stop grinding.
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?
Jason Schwartz: I wanted to be a management consultant, but my early roles and experiences were mostly in accounting and finance. Although I enjoyed what I did, I didn’t see this as my lifelong path. I quickly realized that if I wanted to make the switch, I needed to do it early in my career. However, making this transition without either having deep industry experience or a top-tier MBA turned out to be an extremely difficult task.
Yet, I don’t believe I ever thought of giving up. I called every firm I could think of and networked my way into a few interviews. I must have been rejected by more than 30 firms before I finally got a shot with KPMG through a colleague who had seen and liked my work. I landed a staff consultant position and stayed in this industry for almost 10 years.
I’m not sure where I got the drive, but I never believed in taking no for an answer. I knew I would do an exceptional job if someone gave me a chance and I think that fueled my efforts.
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?
Jason Schwartz: I’ve got a few of those, but there’s one that always stands out in my head. Early on in my consulting career I stayed up working all night to prepare a sales presentation for the next morning. It was a Jewish-owned business, and we were trying to sell them a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation. One of the modules was called Product Lifecycle Management, with the acronym PLM. I must have been exhausted and did not double-check one of the slides, where I titled in large bold letters “PLO,” which also stands for Palestine Liberation Organization. Unfortunately, Jewish people were not exactly on good terms with PLO. It was a very careless mistake, and I received a glare from the Consulting Partner that I still vividly remember to this day. He played it off well, but I was certainly not his favorite at that moment.
My takeaway was to always pay attention to the details. You can do 100 things correctly, but one careless mistake can destroy all the good you’ve done up to that point. In case you’re wondering, we didn’t get the engagement. I don’t believe my mistake was the reason, but it sure didn’t help.
I knew I would do an exceptional job if someone gave me a chance and I think that fueled my efforts.
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.
#1 Creating and Implementing a Vision
A company needs a clear direction on where it is going and understanding why it is going in that direction. One of the most critical responsibilities of a leader is to come up with guidance and make sure that everyone in the organization understands and buys into it.
I cannot tell you how many times during my career I walked in the door of an organization that had no true vision. I once asked a CEO about his company’s vision and goals. He pulled out a nice-looking presentation and showed it to me. I said, “This is great;” then inquired, “If I randomly ask employees about your company’s vision, what do you think they will say?” He said he did not know because this was a presentation for investors and was not shared with most of the company.
If your organization doesn’t understand the vision, then you don’t have one. All you have is a thought on paper. You must present the vision to your company and reinforce it on a regular basis.
#2 Putting together an “A” team
This one is as equally important as the #1. One of the lessons I learned early in my career is that it is absolutely vital to surround yourself with A players. Do not wait to do this. It should be one of your top priorities, if not THE priority. You can create an incredible strategy, line up a perfect way to execute it, but it will never work if you do not have the team that can perform.
A new leader may believe they need to work with the team they inherited, which isn’t the case. As soon as you start, it’s crucial to begin evaluating your talent. Get to know your heads of departments, their abilities, and their personalities. Sometimes, for example, you may find that shuffling your talent is most effective. Here at Hall Technologies, I was lucky to inherit incredible employees. However, I was missing a Head of Product. It goes without saying that you need someone to spearhead this in a product-based company, and I had nobody for this function. I did have a good head of sales who also happened to be one of Hall’s veterans. I quickly realized he has fantastic product and industry knowledge. Within two months of joining, I moved him over to Product and hired someone to run sales and marketing. Both of them are doing fantastic in their new roles, and is why we’ve been able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time. The key is to evaluate and take action right away.
I don’t care what industry you are in; you need to hustle if you want to be great. Competition is fierce, and if you are not hustling, you are going to be outperformed. From day one, you need to instill a hustle mentality into the team so that when an opportunity opens up, your team is ready to execute. In order take advantage of opportunities when they do arise, your team must have a sense of urgency instilled in them and be ready to deliver in the most efficient and effective way.
One time, we were trying to get a product onto the shelves at Walmart, but their planogram was full. We pitched the buyers many times and, although they liked our product, they simply did not have room on their shelves. However, one day our fortunes seemed to change. Our main competitor had production issues during the holidays and could not deliver their products to Walmart’s distribution center on time. The buyer called us and asked if we can have our product in their warehouse by a set date, along with enough displays to fill out almost every store in the U.S. The timetable was nearly impossible to hit, but we figured out a way to make it happen, all because my team was ready to hustle. From that day forward, we owned the space on the shelf, and our competitor was out.
Do not chase shiny objects without a clear vision. You need discipline in your organization. Figuring out who you are and what you do is the most important. Just because you can do or make something the world wants does not mean you should. This is the downfall of many organizations, and, in turn, it stretches them too thin. In the end, you become a jack of all trades but a master of none.
In one organization I worked with, we had several key product lines that did very well. Our distribution channel was incredibly strong, and the margins on these core products were solid. We were great at our core business. This was about the time smart home products were taking off, and we jumped into the mix to make smart everything — lights, outlets, switches, etc. The problem was that we did not have the “permission” as a brand to be in the space, and we did not differentiate ourselves enough to be disruptive to those brands that did have permission. In the end, we tied up crucial capital into R&D and inventory but were never able to penetrate the market. Consequently, the smart business lines had to be shut down. Never take your eyes off the core of your business and lose sight of the goal.
It is crucial to leverage technology to accelerate your growth as a product or service offering. This should tie into your vision for the organization. You must ask yourself, “How can technology help us improve our offering?” If the technology does not exist, then you have a chance to be first to market. If it does exist, you can improve upon it. Either way, you have a greater opportunity to be the innovation leader in your industry if you can effectively leverage technology.
This is precisely what we did at Hall Technologies. Professional audio/visual control systems have been around for many years. However, most were built on an old IT platform that requires programmers to implement and maintain the system. This drives up the cost and complexity. For instance, in the education setting, the top tier universities could pay more to run their remote learning programs online, while others were scrambling.
We saw this as an opportunity and recently developed our Hive Control platform, which leapfrogs our competition. We were able to leverage the latest programming languages to create a best in class offering without the complexity and cost of our competitors. Now we can offer a superior learning environment, whether it is in-class, remote, or hybrid, to a much more inclusive group of primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges.
A company needs a clear direction on where it is going and understanding why it is going in that direction.
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?
Jason Schwartz: One of the best things you can do is find a way to create a business that benefits both shareholders and the general public. It does multiple things. One is that it helps to engage your employees. Employees are much more motivated when they feel there is a “higher purpose” for their role, which helps the business as a whole and improves the lives of others on the planet. People like to feel empowered, knowing that they are making a difference and their work means something to the world. This, in turn, leads to a more engaged employee base and helps with retention.
I think from a consumer standpoint, people would prefer to give to companies that care more than just about their bottom line. Most people understand that a company needs to be profitable; however, they would like to see their money going to a greater good beyond shareholder profits. When you can effectively do both, you are potentially generating a much greater level of brand loyalty.
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?
Jason Schwartz: It is through the “genuine” engagement on the sales floor. Apple does a fantastic job of this in the retail world. People see the Apple Store as a destination to try out new products, learn about them via the genius bar or just ask questions on using their devices or software. It’s a friendly environment, with what I would call a genuine engagement with the staff. Contrast that to another store you visited in your life, and I am sure you can think of a time when you felt it was not a genuine engagement and instead either a lack of interest or an overly pushy situation.
The key here is setting up the environment to be engaging. This can translate to any sales pitch for nearly any industry. You need the engagement to be real. When someone feels they aren’t being “sold” but instead engaged on a topic of mutual interest, you will find the sale is more natural and, most importantly, more frequent.
You need to deliver on what you say you will deliver on, and, I believe even more importantly, you need to practice what you preach. Jason Schwartz
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?
Jason Schwartz: Absolutely, the number one thing you need to be is authentic. You need to deliver on what you say you will deliver on, and, I believe even more importantly, you need to practice what you preach. There aren’t many better ways to lose your brand loyalty than by not being loyal to the brand identify. This is key. If you look at some of the most iconic brands with the most extensive following, they all have this in common.
Razer is a perfect example of this. The company’s motto is, “For Gamers By Gamers,” and their CEO drives this from the top. Every product they make is designed to improve the customers’ gaming experiences. They are relentless in their pursuit of making the perfect gaming products and will not compromise on quality. Additionally, their CEO goes as far as communicating directly to their customers via social media. He frequently reads the comments on his posts and responds directly to them. He then takes their input to improve their products or, sometimes, even come up with a new product concept. Customers see this engagement with the company as genuine, and as a result, Razer has one if not the most loyal customer bases in the world.
I also think you need to stand behind your brand. Brand loyalty is most developed when you are dealing with an issue versus just having a good product. Every company has failures with the products; it is part of the game. However, what you do at the point of failure will determine whether your customer buys your product the next time or goes to your competitor. We all understand that a product or service does not always go as planned. We face that in our own lives. However, what we want and actually demand is that you rectify the situation to leave the consumer with a positive experience. If you can do these things, you have a good chance of creating strong brand loyalty.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!