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Executive Suite: Diana Cecchini, Melville

Diana Cecchini says Korg stays relevant by lending

Diana Cecchini says Korg stays relevant by lending out equipment to artists big and small, and developing apps. (July 12, 2012) Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

When musical instrument and amplifier distributor Korg USA hired Diana Cecchini as its auditor 22 years ago, it gave her a chance to leave her traditional background behind, "hang" with bands such as the Rolling Stones and become a rare woman executive at a Japanese company.

Now chief financial officer, Cecchini has grown with the Melville company, navigated the Japanese culture and is in charge of accounting, finance, credit, warehousing operations, service operations and human resources.

Through the years, Korg has shown its resilience by acquiring the VOX amplifier brand the Beatles made famous, surviving the 2011 tragedies of the Japanese tsunami and Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown, and the death of Korg founder and chairman Tsutomu Katoh.

Biggest challenges in your industry?

There are a lot more distractions, like mobile phones and games, especially for kids. They're not picking up instruments as much. We have to make musicians. With school budgets cut, it's difficult to get these kids even interested. Hip-hop and rap have pervaded the music marketplace, and the musicians don't play guitars. How do you compete? We allow up-and-coming musicians, and famous musicians, like Madonna, to borrow our equipment. We also have apps, like the Kaossilator and ESX-1, that make beats for musicians to use and for people to rap to.

What was it like during Japan's nuclear plant meltdown?

For them, trying to get to work was hard. Some told me, "I had to sleep here today because I couldn't get on the train." We did have some supply issues from not getting parts into our factory. The Japanese are very resilient. There were some major issues, as far as getting people to the office, because they had a lot of power outages, but we really didn't skip a beat.

How have things changed since the company's founder died last year?

His son was his succession plan, and he's very involved with the business. He actually was our president at one time in the U.S. The Kronos keyboard came out under his watch. They're always developing.

What's it like to be a female executive in a Japanese company?

The company's very male-dominated. Just in general, musicians are male. But in a Japanese company especially . . . when I first started, I went over to England to do my due diligence . . . we were sitting in a conference room. They brought in food, and after we ate all the men got up and expected me to clean up. I just stood up and left too.

Do you have career advice to other women?

Keep your head on straight, know what you’re talking about. If you can show your skill set and what you’re capable of, I think you can make it. Find that person that will help you. I mean, everybody needs a mentor, but especially as a woman in a male-dominated industry. I’m also part of a CFO group of women called FEW (Financial Executive Women).

Corporate Snapshot

NAME: Diana Cecchini, chief financial officer and vice president of finance for Korg USA in Melville

WHAT THEY DO: Company is the exclusive U.S. distributor for five top brands in the music products/musical instruments market such as guitars, music keyboards, guitar amplifiers, nontraditional electronic instruments/gadgets, PA systems and musical accessories. Sell to music dealers and chains, and provide consumer technical support services.

EMPLOYEES: 88 full time; 57 on Long Island; 4 part time

ROLES THEY PLAY: Distribution operations, marketing (advertising/video/social media/artist relations, PR and more), inside sales, executives, customer service, accounting, product management and consumer technical support. Company also has a national network of sales managers and R&D facilities in California for specific product areas.

REVENUE: $70 million to $71 million

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