Reflecting on his 20-plus years in the audio industry, Steve Johnson, CEO of Chester, PA-based Community Professional Loudspeakers, turns to a quote from The Godfather III to sum up his experience so far: “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.”
Steve Johnson joined Community Professional Loudspeakers as its CEO in September 2013. “I remember someone telling me many years ago that once you’re in pro audio, you’ll never get out,” Johnson elaborated. “My career path seems to suggest this is really true.”
From a young age, Johnson wanted to pursue a career in electronics, specifically audio. After graduating Kansas State University with a degree in electrical engineering, Johnson joined Motorola as an RF engineer, working with many early-generation cell phones, including the original flip phone, the MicroTAC. While at Motorola, Johnson decided to shift his career focus to product management, earning an MBA in marketing and finance through Northwestern University. It was this shift that eventually led him to apply for a job with Shure, which was looking for a product manager for its wireless microphone business.
“Having been an RF engineer, I knew a thing or two about wireless, and having played saxophone in bands throughout college, I also had experience with microphones. I joined the company in 1993, combining electronics and audio—two things I was passionate about,” Johnson said.
Johnson joined Community Professional Loudspeakers as its CEO in September 2013, having spent 10 years with Shure as its product manager and later as vice president of global marketing, followed by a return to Motorola for a few years as director of product marketing.
“While it was nice to be back in a familiar environment, I missed pro audio,” Johnson said about his second tour with Motorola. “I joined Harman Music Group as vice president of marketing in 2007, and more recently, I worked for Bosch as business line manager for pro sound and global brand manager for Electro-Voice, Dynacord and RTS.”
Coming into his position as CEO of Community, Johnson said he was always familiar with the company’s products, but was amazed to learn about the applications the company designed beyond outdoor loudspeakers.
“Community also makes many of its own transducers and has extensive manufacturing capabilities in the United States and China. I figured if I didn’t know these things, then many others in the industry were also not aware. I saw an opportunity to shine a light on a great brand—one of the originals of pro audio—so I jumped at the chance to become part of the team,” said Johnson.
Johnson said his extensive background in management and marketing, plus his early experience in engineering, has helped him to strengthen Community’s product over the last eight months. However, one of his biggest challenges coming in as CEO was filling the role left vacant by the company’s previous CEO, Tim Dorwart, who passed away in the summer of 2013.
“In the brief time that he served as CEO of Community, Tim had helped the organization to see the potential for much greater growth and to believe in itself and its future. While I never had the pleasure of knowing Tim, he was well-respected by the organization and is missed. He’s a tough act to follow,” Johnson said.
Johnson said it also took some adjusting for him to fully understand Community’s product line, setting goals for the company to simplify its full line catalog to make it easier for customers to understand the brand and its offerings.
“I’ve enjoyed the work we’ve done to lay the foundation for our brand-building initiatives,” Johnson said. “I’m excited to debut a new visual identity at InfoComm, along with the I Series, a new line of installed loudspeakers featuring great performance and a more contemporary industrial design.” The I Series is specifically designed for house of worship and live theater applications. Johnson revealed that the company is also working on a series of products that will incorporate the “Multisource Waveguide” concept introduced last year with the R Series R.35-3896.
Community Professional Loudspeakers’ headquarters is located in Chester, PA, with space for U.S. manufacturing at that site as well. Community also has a captive factory in China, majority owned by Community’s founder, co-owner and chief technology officer, Bruce Howze.
“Under Bruce’s leadership, we have an engineering team that is responsible for new product development and has access to the latest development tools including 3D CAD, loudspeaker modeling software and a large, new indoor test and measurement facility,” said Johnson.
For sales and marketing, East Coast reps are based out of the Pennsylvania office, while West Coast sales manager Loren Robinson is based in a home office in California and international sales manager Max Lindsay is based in England. The company has two warehouses as well—one in Pennsylvania and another in Amsterdam for European distributors.
Community takes pride in customer support. “Our Technical Applications Group, headed by Dave Howden, is comprised of highly skilled individuals, and I am confident that it provides a significantly higher level of support than similar teams of larger pro audio manufacturers,” Johnson said. “Making it easier for our customers is an important part of everything we do. We are passionate about audio and strive to create and deliver solutions that bring big, beautiful sound to bold visions.”
Looking forward, Johnson said his main goal is to continue to develop Community’s team and execute his long-term vision for the company. A big focus now is in the global markets, putting more emphasis on selling outside of North America. “We will continue to put more emphasis on working with our international distributors to better support them and to ensure our brand-building efforts have the necessary global reach and are regionally tailored for appropriateness,” Johnson explained.
“Community is a great brand with a rich pro-audio heritage that is focused exclusively on the installation market,” said Johnson. “It’s my responsibility to chart a path that will enable the company to grow profitably far into the future. Part of the challenge is to not allow the organization to be distracted by opportunities beyond the installation market. If we truly understand the needs of customers and stay focused on delivering system solutions that meet or exceed their needs, then I am confident of our chances for continued success.”
Community Professional Loudspeakers