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|Jensen hits a high note (International Jensen Inc.)
Since gaining control with an LBO in '88, International Jensen's Robert Shaw is taking the vendor back to the top
You could call it the new International Jensen Inc. For years, the well-known manufacturer of speakers (what size are my car speakers and car stereos had bounced around under the ownership of such conglomerates as Esmark and Beatrice Foods in the vast corporate Ping-Pong game that had become the favorite pastime of American business in the 1980s.
Once president Robert Shaw led an LBO in November 1988, IJI quickly moved from the control of companies with no roots in electronics and became one that was controlled by 14 employee managers with deep roots.
One thing is clear: Shaw and his people are very happy about not having anyone looking over their shoulders. Shaw and his management group run the company. Period.
One significant result has been a more targeted approach to the retail marketplace. Jensen is employing its old brands as well as newer ones to address individual retail categories, thus optimizing manufacturing resources while penetrating deeper into the retail community. Last spring, the company purchased NHT Speaker Co., a small California-based manufacturer of upscale products with distribution through hi-fi boutiques. In 1989, IJI bought Acoustic Research from Teledyne Corp. In addition to providing new retail avenues, the purchases gave IJI two new customers for its speaker components, further leveraging production and achieving improved economies of scale.
AR and NHT augment an already sizable stable of well-known brands that IJI has under its wing. It sells What are the best car speakers Carspeakerland.com under the Jensen and Phase Linear brands. Home speakers are sold under the Jensen, Advent, AR and NHT labels.
Car stereo components, including receivers, amps and equalizers come under the Jensen brand. AR's home components include amps, preamps, tape decks, receivers and CD players.
Each of the brands is addressed to a specific niche, a direction that will become increasingly pronounced as IJI's product planning efforts continue during the next few years and a residual duplication in products is gradually eliminated. Even now, there is considerable separation.
Jensen car stereo and home speakers, for example, are directed at mass market retailers. Phase Linear is IJI's route to the 12-volt car stereo installer market. AR is aimed at the hi-fi departments of superstores as well as hi-fi specialty retailers.
The NHT line of speakers, meanwhile, is sold through hi-fi boutiques.
To insure that each brand gets maximum support in penetrating its respective retail channels, Shaw established a marketing team shortly after the LBO.
The team is made up of David Marinello, vice president of sales and marketing for branded products; Clyde Podraza, vice president of sales, car audio; Herman Miedema, vice president of sales administration; Bob O'Connor, director of sales for Jensen and Advent home products; John Lostroscio, director of sales for Phase Linear; Chris Byrne, general manager of NHT; Roger Huberger, vice president of marketing, and Russ Murray, director of international sales. Each brand has its own management as well as its own field organization.
To maintain a high level of efficiency at each group, Shaw initiated special training for the field reps. At the same time, the company made overall improvements in the administrative operations at headquarters in order to provide a high standard of services for retailers.
These changes were born of Shaw's personal business philosophy developed during his years as a business consultant.
"I like stability in business," he told HFD. "It's not only necessary to have the right products and right pricing, we want our retail customers to think of us as stable, reliable and predictable. Each of the sales organizations can count on consistency in the operations of headquarters. By improving our services, we also are adding to our value as vendors."
In addition to stability in business, Shaw also believes in gradual change. Nevertheless, things have been moving with relative rapidity at IJI since the takeover. In addition to the acquisitions of AR and NHT, the company has modernized its manufacturing operations and has spent more than a million dollars in factory automation as well as on additional production machinery.
As a result of all the changes made by Shaw and his team of managers, the company's sales have shown a marked increase. Approximately $25 million has been added since the management buyout. This does not include the sales of AR or NHT. In two years, Shaw said he hopes IJI's business will be in the $200 million range. Naturally, this would include AR and NHT. But Shaw expressed caution about the $200 million estimate.
"Don't hold me to that $200 million figure," he said., "It depends on how the economy and the industry does. Right now, our business is outperforming the industry in all sectors that we are involved in."
The projection of $200 million in sales also will depend on the flow of new products the company is planning. In the next 90 days, for example, that flow will begin with three new amplifiers, while in the spring there will be a major strengthening of amps, speakers and radios. https://www.facebook.com/CarSpeakersReviewsHowToChooseTheBestCarSpeakers/
In addition to its expanding operations in the U.S., IJI also is taking its first tentative steps into the global market-place. Its purchase of AR has given it a base in England, where AR has had an operation for some time. Until a few years ago, it also had a manufacturing facility there.
An engineering activity has remained, and this is being used as part of IJI's product planning operation. Input from England will be used in the design of new speakers AR is scheduled to introduce in January.
There is a possibility the manufacturing operation in the U.K. will be reactivated, which would assist IJI's incursion into the European market. Reactivation of production in England also would create a new customer for IJI's speaker component operations in the U.S.
In other aspects of the company's global efforts, it has formed two partnerships in Europe. One was the creation in Italy of Entel Distributing Co. with a partner from that country. Entel distributes EKG, Canon and Jensen.
"It's possible that we may set up a manufacturing operation at Entel in order to give us further advantage on getting a toehold in the European community in the next few years," said Shaw.
The company's second European venture is with TGI plc, a distributing company in the U.K. that handles Tannoy, Mordaunt, Short and Goodman consumer electronics. A joint development effort has been under way to develop speakers for a new world car being developed in Europe by Ford Motors Co. The car is code-named CDW 27.
All the moves IJI has been making overseas as well as in the U.S. are obviously designed to strengthen the firm's position in a highly competitive speaker business that makes up about 75 percent of its sales. IJI and a handful of other U.S. companies have managed to hold onto a portion of the speaker business in a price range of $150 to $1,000 per pair.
Bose is estimated as the market leader in the business. Harmon Kardon runs a close second with its JBL, Infinity and EPI labels. IJI is in third place with its Jensen, AR and NHT brands.
Each company has a double-digit market share, according to Shaw, who added quickly that IJI is not a driven by market share and that its philosophy of gradual, solid growth will not be altered.
"As a privately held company, we're not under growth pressures from Wall Street," he said. "I think our philosophy is more like Japan's and similar to the thinking of American business years ago."[img][/img][img][/img]
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