Charlie Vogt – I am in the HR business
April 2014 - At NAB , we had a chance to sit down at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas for a few minutes and talk to the new CEO of Harris Broadcast, Charlie Vogt. The company has undergone a number of big changes lately. First by being spun out from the parent company, Harris Corp, in 2012, and then this past March, splitting the iconic company into two pieces – the over-the-air broadcast portion – which is now called Gates Air (www.gatesair.com) and the connected software-based broadcast portion – which is now called Imagine Communications (www.imaginecommunications.com).
Charlie is now the head of these interdependent, yet independent companies, both of which are driving down separate paths to provide technologies for entertainment, sports, VOD content, advertising, and metrics. These tools monitor the whole environment for content delivery to a global audience and customer base.
In the midst of these major business dynamics comes a myriad of technology issues going on at the show, we wanted to get to “who is Charlie?” and “why does he want to do this?”. So who is the man behind this innovation and market leading machine that was known as “Harris Broadcast”?
On how he got into the broadcasting industry
CV - I got to the industry though the KORONOS, Gorsch Group, which is a private equity firm, based in LA. Senior leadership tried to recruit me for years to run one of their portfolio companies. Life is all about timing. This happened to be an opportunity that arose at a time that matched the comfort window I had about being able to leave Genband. I took that company from zero to 800 million dollars in 8 years, and finally got it to a place that I felt was sustainable.
I saw this as an amazing opportunity for me. it gave me the chance to use a lot what I have done in the IT and Telecom spaces over the last decade, and use that knowledge along with my management skills to migrate the company from antiquated technology to become the leading supplier of next generation IT technology. The broadcast industry is a very hardware- and proprietary-centric business, with a multi-generational (over 30 years active use) installed and lifecycle base.
The migration that is upon us is to an industry that is open and excited about leveraging common computing platforms and software to introduce new products and services on a customer demand basis, rather than its former glacial pace. That is something that I feel I will be able to do, and help add a lot of value to our company and the industry. Our employees are responding to the new ideas very well. I also think the industry and customers are receptive and responding very well, because they recognize that this is a path that everyone has to take.
On why he is a good fit for the broadcasting industry
CV - I believe I am a good fit because this is an industry that has to go through some pretty significant transformations. It needs leadership that is willing to make a bold decisions and bold moves. Because of the legacy and lifecycle issues, it is very easy to just be a follower, but it not easy to be a leader. Taking the position to lead the industry, especially though emerging technology phases, brings with it a lot of risk.
When you are an equipment supplier, you can’t afford to make wrong bets, because you have such a heavy investment in developing the technology. So, I think I am a good fit, because I have a long history of matching technology trends and the industry needs with companies that are capable of delivering technology solutions. I believe we are in right place at the right time. We have a well established customer base of over 3400 customers in 185 countries. These customers need help to transition the network to the next generation of software-based IP networks while maintaining their current over-the-air technology for both television (video) and radio.
On being a CEO
I have been a CEO for 12 years. I have been running companies for some time. People ask me all the time what I do for living and I tease them and I tell them that “I am in the HR business.”
M&E Tech inquired – “What you mean by that?”
CV- By being in the HR business, I mean that I slave myself to good people. It is so true, because I have been both lucky and fortunate to have fostered a great culture and great chemistry with my management teams and the other teams in the companies I have run. The employees as a whole are where I relate, and that is what I want to be part of. I tease them all the time that we could be “just boiling water” and having fun, if we do it the right way. So for my companies and our teams, we have the opportunity to develop some of the neatest and most advanced technology that will end up transforming the entire industry.
In retrospect, I do not remember a time in my professional life that I actually went to work. When you doing what you love, it become an extracurricular life, the time for fun. Mondays are the same days, 10 o’clock AM & 5 o’clock PM are the same time. That is the kind of the culture I helped create, and my team is helping bring that concept to our new company. I believe I am visionary, and that I am unique. I am been able to bring the right ingredients together to get employees to do the things that they never thought they could do. Challenging employees to do things and achieve things that they never thought they could – that is the fun.
On what he finds fun
M&E Tech - You have fun doing the things that you doing for business, but what would you be doing if you weren’t doing this? In prior interviews, people were saying they would be a rock musician or they would work on cars, etc. What would Charlie Vogt be doing? Do you have artist hidden in, there or a novelist?
CV - I played division 1 baseball, I love paintball, I love boating, but mostly I love running companies. There is nothing else in life where you can get the most rewarding feeling than building a business with the support of employees. It is hard to explain it if you do not run a business with a large number of employees. I would tell you that there is nothing that I would do that could replace the feeling I get by being a CEO and running a company. I have an opportunity every single day to touch the lives and families of people that who otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to influence. Doing an individual sport does not give me the same rewards and pleasure that I get every day by knowing that I touch 1500 employees and their families. It is something very rewarding.