John Dixon Of MicroTouch On 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective C-Level Leader Of A Retail Tech Company

Executives are responsible for a wide variety of things. As your organization grows, it’s extremely important to take stock throughout the day and address the highest priority items first. Furthermore, those priorities must align with your company’s strategic goals and growth initiatives. It’s sometimes been difficult to make decisions not to do something, but it’s essential to keep projects and your company on track.

The retail industry is undergoing a seismic shift, largely driven by technology. From e-commerce to AI-driven customer experiences, technology is redefining how consumers interact with retail brands. This rapid transformation presents unique challenges and opportunities for C-level leaders in the retail tech space. Effective leadership is more critical than ever to navigate these changes, drive innovation, and maintain a competitive edge. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing John Dixon.

John brings over 20 years to the touch solutions industry for the digital signage, point of sale and retail markets. John is passionate about bleeding-edge technology, advocating for customers, and new product development. Prior to joining MicroTouch, John held senior product management positions at Christie Digital Systems and Planar Systems.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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?

I’ve been in the display industry for 23 years. I worked as an audio-visual technician in college, which is where I discovered my passion for this industry. Then, I found I could use my education and my work experience to build a career and find opportunities.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some great leaders in our industry. There have been several over the years that have helped shape who I am and my approach to being an effective leader — four specific people who were instrumental in different ways in my professional development. Jeff Dowell, Director of Product Marketing at Clarity Visual Systems, was a great visionary. I learned from him to be more forward-thinking and focus on tech advancements on the horizon. At the time I knew Jeff, we were working on the first digital menu boards for McDonald’s. That experience helped me understand how important it is to design solutions that meet the customer’s objectives but that would also evolve with their needs.

Ed Kiyoi, Product Marketing Manager of Clarity Visual Systems, helped me discover my interest in product management and marketing. He taught me that a project manager is the “CEO of the product.” I learned to multitask and take a broader view of the project to make a positive impact not only on the product but also company wide.

Dan Schwass, Solutions Group Manager of Clarity Visual Systems, was an early mentor who taught me how to develop and organize technical knowledge and expertise. He stressed that it wasn’t only important to learn technical specs but also the value the technology would deliver to the customer.

Steve Seminario, VP of product marketing at Planar, has been the most instrumental mentor in my career. I worked with him for almost 15 years, and he provided the guiding principles that showed me how to grow as a product manager leader.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early in my career, I was scheduled to travel from Portland to a trade show in Vancouver. I had traveled a lot domestically, so I kept my passport in a safe deposit box in my bank. When I was getting ready for my Saturday flight, I realized I didn’t have my passport. Needless to say, I wound up missing my flight, waiting until Monday to go to the bank to get my passport, and then rushed to get to the show.

At the time, it was pretty stressful, but looking back, it’s an amusing memory.

The lesson is preparation is key to success.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Within the last 6 months, we began shipping our Android flagship product, and more Android devices are launching this year. Historically, retail digital displays have been primarily Windows-based. However, now we’re seeing more Android apps for retail markets. Android will only fuel the advancement of more digital displays in retail. It provides a good balance of performance and price. It’s the beginning of an exciting transition that will bring more flexibility and expanded functionality to the industry, and it will be interesting to see how it takes shape.

Another example is the evolution of kitchen display systems (KDS) with touchscreens. Restaurants are taking more digital orders, and instead of having orders from the front of the house, online ordering, and kiosks all going to a kitchen printer, businesses are transitioning to KDSs for greater efficiency. Restaurants that used kitchen display systems often used a bump bar that allowed them to change the status of an order. Now, with touchscreen systems, the system is easier to use and takes up less space. It’s a hot application for touchscreens that businesses are taking off and running with.

Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the central focus of our discussion. The retail industry has seen a significant shift towards digital and e-commerce solutions. How have you adapted your business strategy to this digital transformation, and what challenges did you face in this transition?

Digital transformation in retail has created demand for new technology, like our Android-based displays, and we’ve been able to respond quickly with new, updated hardware. However, as our customers deploy new devices connected to their networks, they can create new security vulnerabilities. We’ve had to balance our products’ security with reliability, performance, and a good price point to meet market demand.

Retail technology is heavily focused on enhancing customer experience. Can you share a particular innovation your company has implemented to improve customer engagement and satisfaction? How did this innovation impact your business?

Our company doesn’t sell directly to retailers; we sell to the channel. So, we’ve spent significant time and resources building a program that makes our products accessible to them, enabling them to make margin, and maintain good inventory levels. The latter is within our control since we don’t use OEMs — we manufacture all of the products that we sell. We’ve also made sure our company is staffed at the right level with channel managers to engage with our partners. Furthermore, our products are designed with not only the features that retailers demand but also features for our channel resellers. We have optimized our enterprise solutions, which make our displays easier to deploy.

While this doesn’t directly affect end-user engagement and satisfaction, it does have an impact. It allows us to equip our partners to understand the available products, find the best fit for the retailer, and provide it at the right price. It’s not innovation from a product perspective, but it’s innovation that has led to more success for our company and our customers, both channel and end-user.

Leading a retail tech company often means keeping up with rapid technological changes and market trends. How do you stay ahead of these trends, and what practices do you follow to ensure your team remains agile and innovative?

A few things help us stay ahead of the curve. One is our experience, which gives us a solid understanding of retailers’ needs and what works and what doesn’t for their applications. Our team is comprised of people with industry experience and who have regular touchpoints with retailers to ensure the success of their projects. MicroTouch is also involved in a range of industry organizations and associations that help us keep a finger on the pulse of the industry — and share our insights that drive the industry forward.

We have also forged good relationships with our suppliers and supply chain. These connections allow us to influence suppliers as they make decisions about future demands and guide them toward what retailers need and want. Being able to share the voice of the consumer with our supply chain partners helps advance the industry and gives retailers more options.

In an industry increasingly dominated by technology, how do you balance the use of tech solutions with the need for a human touch in customer service and team management?

It’s all about effective communication. As a leader in our organization, I encourage our team to make a strong effort to engage with our channel partners, distributors, and end users — and to do it in person. It’s easy to set up a video meeting, but I find that in-person interactions are a better way to connect with people on a personal level and get a clear picture of their motivations, needs, and wants. Our entire team makes an effort to attend trade shows and events and give in-person demos to engage with our customers.

Based on your experience and success, what are the “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective C-Level Leader Of A Retail Tech Company?” How have these 5 things impacted your work or your career?

The five principles that can help C-level leaders do their jobs more effectively are:

1 . Always put the customer first.

Doing the right thing for the customer will always benefit you. Early in my career, an issue came up with a product. We made the decision as a company that no matter the cost, we’d make it right and replace the units. It wasn’t a step that a lot of competitors took, even though they were larger brands. I know it served us well. Years later, customers mentioned it was why they chose to continue doing business with us. Since then, in my career, I’ve seen that when you put the customer first, choosing what’s right for them, whether it’s adding new features, developing new products, or offering better credit terms, it will have payback.

2 . Prioritize based on company goals.

Executives are responsible for a wide variety of things. As your organization grows, it’s extremely important to take stock throughout the day and address the highest priority items first. Furthermore, those priorities must align with your company’s strategic goals and growth initiatives. It’s sometimes been difficult to make decisions not to do something, but it’s essential to keep projects and your company on track.

3 . Be a product leader.

Technology evolution is a given. With the responsibilities a C-level executive has, it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day business. However, it’s important to dedicate time and energy to focus on technological innovations. We have monthly meetings where we share customer asks and input and insights from our engineering team. We also discuss information from our suppliers, for example, an advancement in touchscreen sensor design. And Android advancements are a dedicated topic. Although we just launched the most advanced Android display system out there, we’re already thinking about the next two or three releases.

4. Balance flexibility with process.

In my career, I’ve been a part of a startup team and part of larger, established organizations. When you’re at a startup, you have to wear a lot of hats and cover many responsibilities that are necessary to survive. But you can also react quickly to market changes. Large organizations, on the other hand, tend to be strictly process oriented. That allows them to fine-tune products to business case development. But it can also mean it takes longer to get products to market.

The best strategy is to find a balance between agility and process. You need enough process to make good business decisions and control product quality and manufacturing processes. However, you also need to be nimble enough to respond to customer demand and get products to market.

Depending on business maturity and the products you offer, your organization may naturally lean one way or the other, but I always strive to find that balance.

5 Schedule time for physical exercise.

It’s important for me to regularly schedule some time for physical exercise, usually during my lunch break. It allows me to manage stress, keeps me sharp, and gives me the opportunity to think through issues from different perspectives. I’ve found it’s key to my effectiveness as a leader in my organization.

Looking ahead, what do you believe are the key trends that will shape the future of the retail tech industry? How are you preparing your company to adapt to these trends, and what role do you see your leadership playing in this adaptation?

A macro trend is further digitization and process optimization. I still think back to that project at the start of my career to implement digital menu boards for McDonald’s. It was one of the first iterations of display technology in a retail environment. Now, we’re seeing digitalization in the back of the house. I expect to see further digitalization, with displays used in even more places in the retail environment.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also unlocking possibilities in retail technology. The industry is just discovering what AI implementations will look like, the tools and displays that will deliver optimal performance, and how it will enhance both customer engagement in brick-and-mortar retail and operational efficiency throughout the enterprise. It’s definitely something we’re keeping an eye on and plan to facilitate.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Over my 23-year career, I’ve seen interesting advancements in display technology. In the next 10 years, I expect to see more change — really, an evolution similar to the change from CRTs to different types of flat screens.

With that in mind, a movement I’d like to see is more of a sustainability focus, with an emphasis on recycling and reuse of materials and components. I’d like to see more social governance of the manufacturing process while technology evolution remains at the forefront.

It shouldn’t be just about how to make a bigger, better, brighter display. It should also be about doing it wisely, supporting social and environmental goals.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Please follow MicroTouch’s LinkedIn page and me on LinkedIn

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

About The Interviewer: Kieran Powell is the EVP of Channel V Media a New York City Public Relations agency with a global network of agency partners in over 30 countries. Kieran has advised more than 150 companies in the Technology, B2B, Retail and Financial sectors. Prior to taking over business operations at Channel V Media, Kieran held roles at Merrill Lynch, PwC and Ernst & Young. Get in touch with Kieran to discuss how marketing and public relations can be leveraged to achieve concrete business goals.