This June will mark the first anniversary of Kevin Nolan’s stewardship of GE Appliances as president/CEO. The former VP/chief technology officer, with 23 patent awards under his belt, succeeded Chip Blankenship, an aviation engineer by training, who oversaw the company’s handoff from GE to Qingdao Haier.
Now, assisted by COO Melanie Cook and former Covergirl marketer Rick Hasselbeck as chief commercial officer, Nolan is free to unleash his technical background and Haier’s financial backing on a brave new world of home appliances.
TWICE: How have your varied roles at GE prepared you for the top appliance spot? What still surprised you most about the job?
I have spent the last 28 years at GE Appliances preparing for this role, although I didn’t realize it at the time. My various positions have ranged from a very specific technology focus to others, especially as VP of technology, where I was involved in just about every aspect of how a new product comes to life.
For example, the product not only has to have great features and quality to delight consumers, but those products also have to be designed to be manufactured in a timely, efficient way so we can be competitive in the marketplace. There are an incredible amount of moving parts that come into play — finance, technology, design, consumer insight research, sales and so forth.
I think what has surprised me about being CEO is that what it takes to succeed is fairly straightforward: Focus on the consumer with great products and service. It can be easy to get distracted with the day in and day out managerial responsibilities that come with this job, but I still have the passion for great products and making our consumers happy, and I work to foster and lead this throughout the organization.
TWICE: How is GE different under Haier ownership?
Well, first I would have to say it is refreshing being part of a company that not only wants you but wants you to win — to be the best appliance manufacturer in North America. Being the largest appliance brand in the world, Haier gets what it takes to win in the marketplace. Also having accesses to Haier’s R&D capabilities around the world is huge.
TWICE: What is the most exciting development at GE Appliances we should watch out for?
I would say from a business perspective, growth. We have the resources and encouragement from Haier to grow, try new things. Haier encourages an entrepreneurial spirit. We like to say we are a 100-plus-year-old company that is just turning two. Stay tuned. We are excited about what the future holds.