Guest blog by Kev Ashcroft, Blinkered
Our Evening Exchange with Gilad Tiefenbrun commenced sonically with Glasgow’s own legendary jazz vocalist, Carol Kidd, played through Linn’s stunning Klimax DSM digital streamer and 350A loudspeakers.
Gilad’s approach was laidback and relaxed, no script was in sight and some intriguing images were displayed, which certainly added to his story.
Linn Products was founded by Gilad’s father, Ivor Tiefenbrun, on February 19th 1973 – I was exactly 1 year old that day. The company became very successful over the years, particularly through the creation of the Linn Sondek LP12 turntable.
However, in the early 2000′s, the business lost focus somewhat, having branched into consumer electronics like CD players and unfulfilling partnerships with Aston Martin to name but one. (The latter may sound good on the surface, but the reality was that dealing with the Ford Motor Company presented a whole range of unforeseen everyday challenges.)
Meanwhile, within the company some individuals favoured their own interests over the interests of the business as a whole. It appeared that Linn Products had quite possibly become a collection of mini empires.
As Ivor’s health started to decline, conversations began with his London-based son with a view to him coming to work in the business.
Depending on who tells the story, you get a different version of events.
Ivor’s account is that Gilad asked to come to work in the business several times, while Gilad insists that Ivor requested his presence repeatedly before he finally relented and began working in the product development side of the company.
As Linn Products moved further into the second half of the 2000′s, previously unheard of debt started to build in this once prudently-run company, even though the turnover had actually risen. In fact, the economic climate had completely changed and banks were putting increasing pressure on businesses like Linn. Action needed to be taken.
Stepping up to a leadership role, Gilad pushed for the company to remove itself from the low-cost, low-profit areas of operation especially CD players , and instead investigate products of the future, including the aforementioned Klimax DSM digital streamer range, which provides studio-quality listening pleasure from the home network rather than the spinning disc.
He worked to retain the people who had the best interests of the business at heart and on whom he knew he could rely.
The company went through a painful few years, but with the right leadership in place (Gilad became the MD in 2009), a new, transparent way of operating emerged. Now all staff can see how well the company is performing, there is a great team spirit and a highly supportive non-executive board. The company is once again going from strength to strength.
In summary, it was an entertaining and enlightening talk about how a strong, vibrant and high-quality business can suffer if it loses focus and has the wrong personnel on board, but also that ultimate failure can be avoided if people taken decisive action early enough and all share a common vision.
From a personal viewpoint there were many things I took from Gilad’s presentation; these would be my top three:
1. Always plan for succession, not only for that of your own role, but also for everyone else.
2. Don’t let your staff hide – make sure all main business performance metrics are displayed for all to see in an easy-to-understand manner (ask Gilad about his ‘whiteboard’ system).
3. Don’t let managers or supervisors ever prevent you from personally talking to any of your team or allow them to ‘have a little word’ with them beforehand.
As Gilad wrapped up the talk and prepared for questions from Exchange members, we were treated to the music of Katherine Bryan and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Liebermann Flute Concertos, recorded at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.
The night had been a thoroughly enjoyable, insightful and useful event and another timely example for all entrepreneurs that we aren’t alone in the dark times or the successful times. The Exchange provides a great peer group with whom you can share the good and the bad, and helps us all focus on our individual targets.
Thanks Gilad for such a thought-provoking and open presentation, which no doubt will be of great use to many who attended your evening.
Kev Ashcroft – Blinkered