Coffee Break: JoAnna Garcia Sohovich, CEO of Chamberlain Group
Q: Describe your company.
A: Chamberlain Group (CGI) is a global leader in access solutions and products. As the corporate parent company to LiftMaster, Chamberlain, Merlin and Grifco, we design and engineer residential garage door openers, commercial door operators and gate entry systems. Our products are connected through our innovative myQ technology, which empowers users to control or monitor their entry points through smartphone access. We are also the parent company to Controlled Products Systems Group, the largest wholesale distributor of perimeter access control equipment in the U.S. and an affiliate of Systems, Inc., one of North America's leading dock leveler manufacturers.
We are transforming the way our brands interact with consumers by providing smarter, connected access solutions with enhanced user experiences, like the first garage door opener with a built-in wide-angle camera and 2-way communication, and the ability to have Amazon Prime packages delivered into your garage.
Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?
A: In 2016, we had 4,000 employees worldwide, today we have 6,000. In 2016, we had 300 engineers, today we have 600. We don't expect this type of growth to slow down anytime soon.
Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the next year?
A: We are always seeking top talent in the tech arena who not only hold the skills we need but also are a good cultural fit.
Q: What's the hottest trend in your industry?
A: In addition to our standard myQ technology, which allows you to monitor and control your garage door from anywhere using a smartphone, consumers want increased power of access and knowledge at their fingertips. Smart access devices like LiftMaster's smart garage cameras and smart locks will likely see the largest gains in household adoption in the next year.
Additionally, more homeowners controlling their garage door openers with our myQ App will be able to safely receive and confirm in-garage deliveries for Amazon Prime packages instead of having boxes left on their front porch.
Q: If you had one tip to give to a rookie CEO, what would it be?
A: Choose a role where the company values align closely with your core values. Then you won't have to guess if your decisions align with what's expected of you -- you will already know what's expected of you.
Q: Do you have a business mantra?
A: David Allen said, "You can do anything, but you can't do everything."
Focus and prioritization are critical, especially from an opportunity cost standpoint. I work to be sure that every employee in my organization knows the direction we're going and how to prioritize their own time and resources to help us advance.
Q: From a business outlook, whom do you look up to?
A: I am inspired by other female CEOs. Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Melody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments interview Rosalind Brewer, COO of Starbucks and former CEO of Sam's Club, at Chicago's Economic Club and was impressed by their eloquence, leadership and accomplishments.
Q: What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?
A: Unfortunately, we're still one of the most used, least known brands. The average American opens and closes their garage door eight full cycles a day, but never looks up to see what brand is powering the door. Odds are it's a Chamberlain or LiftMaster. Plus, with myQ technology partnering with Amazon Key, you can get Prime packages safely delivered directly into your garage instead of leaving them on your front porch.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: Well-being and fitness are important to me -- in fact, sports are a family event. I exercise every day; sometimes by running into work or back home, strength training and yoga. My son is a talented swimmer (if I do say so myself!) and we spend many weekends at swim meets. My husband, a former football player, is still an active college football fan. You will always find us cheering for Navy in the Army/Navy football games!
Q: What book is on your nightstand?
A: A wise person once told me that buying a book didn't mean buying the time to read it! Nevertheless, there's a stack of books on my nightstand, more on my Kindle and audio book app. That said, one that I'm glad I made the time for recently is "Women of Influence" by Jo Miller. It gives concrete advice to women who are stuck waiting for their potential and accomplishments to be noticed and rewarded.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: In addition to CEO, I consider myself to be our Chief Culture Officer. I worry all the time about whether we're making the right hires -- people that have undeniable skills that will also continue to help us grow our culture.
Q: If you were not doing this job, what do you think you would be doing?
A: Regardless of the job, industry or mission, I would want to be in a people leadership role. My background in the Navy emphasized leading people; I am far less energized when asked to be an individual contributor than when I'm leading a team.
Q: What was your first paying job?
A: The first thing that someone other than my parents paid me to do was babysitting and mowing lawns. My first "real" job was as a Midshipman in the Navy.
Q: If you could put your company name on a sports venue, which one would you choose?
A: I personally funded displaying our company logo at my son's swim team venue -- does that count?
Q: What is one funny thing that has happened to you in your career?
A: I was convinced to film a rap video to announce the elimination of our dress code. I was thoroughly embarrassed, but our employees seemed to love it. So much so, that one of our software interns captured a clip of me doing the running man during the video and posted a GIF on Slack, while other employees bestowed at least 2 rap nicknames on me!
Q: Two people to follow on Twitter and why. (besides your company)
A: @DuPageChildrens -- A fun and educational children's museum where they're doing wonderful things for children and families, We are a partner and support their mission of empowering youth.
@FrenchieManny -- I might be bitter that a dog has more followers than I, but I give him props for being #myQconnected.