AV Interview: John Maier, Bose Professional
Newly installed CEO, John Maier, talks about the private equity purchase of Bose Professional and what’s in the pipeline.
This year Bose sold off its professional division to Transom Capital Group, a private equity firm that has history in the audio world. John Maier comes in as CEO to bridge the worlds of private equity ownership and pro audio salesmanship/management. We talked with him at InfoComm23, when he was only five weeks into the job.
Christopher Holder started by asking him to set the scene of the sale, with some background of who he is and where he fits into the bigger picture.
John Maier: I’m actually from the pro audio industry. I’ve worked in it my entire career. I’ve taken the ‘chief cook and bottle washer’ route, where I’ve started as a musician, worked music retail, did some install and then eventually became a rep. I was a sales rep at an independent firm for about seven years. And at the time repped companies like Harman brands, JBL, Crown etc.
Eventually, I came to run a company called Blue Microphones. That company was owned by a private equity firm named Transom. We had a very successful run. Eventually we sold to another private equity firm and I continued to run it, and in the end sold to Logitech. I spent a few years at Logitech but all the while stayed very much in touch with Transom and joined the board of a couple of other companies as an advisor.
When I left Logitech, a few of us thought, ‘let’s get together and see if we can find other interesting audio opportunities for the private equity firms’. So when the Bose Professional opportunity came along, we jumped on it. It’s not often that a Top 100 brand in the world sells off something of its business. The process took a very long time. But during that process, I was the operating partner, driving the connection that would essentially take over the business, managing the business from the owner’s perspective, kind of as a board member.
Along the way, it came to me as an opportunity and as an offer from the board. They said, ‘look, what about you running the business?’ At the time, we had Mike Bennett, a great leader and did a really great job through a tough period of time for the business. His background was very much focussed on operations, supply chain etc. He’d been been part of Bose for many, many years — 25-plus years. So we really liked Mike and had a great relationship with him, but we also felt that we needed to have an outsider’s viewpoint. We wanted to have someone from the market, from the industry, with an outside-in view rather than an operational inside-out perspective. And so the board offered me the position and I jumped at the chance.
I’ve always loved the Bose brand. I’ve admired it for decades, really, and and been involved in the brand. I’ve actually sold the product and used the Bose Pro product over the years.
Because I’ve got some background both in the industry and with Bose Pro in the last year, we were able to hit the ground running. I’m four and a half, five weeks into the job, but we’ve already made some moves and we’ll continue to make moves.
Essentially, we want to get our product roadmap dialled in and be able to get product availability issues fixed and really get the thing on a track that is consistent and is focussed in driving our core business.
AV: Private equity ownership doesn’t always end well. What reassurances do you have that you’ll maintain the Bose Pro DNA of innovation and sticking with passion projects?
John Maier: It’s actually a great question. I think private equity has a pretty bad rap and, in some cases, it’s well earned. Certainly the bigger private equity firms. I’ve had a really good experience. I’ve been a CEO owned by private equity, actually a couple of different firms. And in both cases, we added value. We grew the business. We added jobs to the community, we innovated, and we actually created a lot more value to the business and to the world, based on that ownership.
Most good private equity firms don’t want to come in and tell you how to run your business. They want to help you run the backbone of it because they’re good at it. They know how to do it. They can help with the things that every business struggles with, right? The finances, the operational stuff, the logistics, those kinds of things. But they’re not going to come in and tell us how to make a speaker. They don’t know how to make a speaker. It really is up to leadership to drive that.
We have no intention of becoming a me-too, also-ran brand. We’re going to continue to innovate. We’re going to continue to partner with great brands as well and do really interesting products. We have some fun things in the works that are longer term. And as I said, we’re working on the roadmap now to to get some shorter term wins. And we’re working really hard on product availability. We’ve improved it greatly as asI think most companies have. We still have a few issues that over the next quarter and quarter and a half, we should have those dialled and we’ll be in really good shape.
AV: What’s the focus of the roadmap in the short term?
John Maier: The focus is on our core. What got Bose Professional where it is today, is that middle market of hospitality, retail, restaurant, house of worship, higher education and, in certain regions, the arena space. So that’s what we want to redouble our focus on, to make sure that we don’t give up our position there.
We still have aspirations to do other things. We obviously entered the videoconferencing space in a ‘bring your own device’ world. We think that is very viable. And we’re already seeing success there. So we’ll continue to play in those fields. But ultimately, the short term is focusing on the core.
The second thing is focusing on the channel: our customers, from patrons to end users to integrators to distributors — making sure we’re addressing the needs, that we understand what the problems are and we’re solving those issues.
That’s the early focus. The long term is the work we’re doing now in the background. So the combination of both long term vision for the brand and the roadmap that’s going to get us there, we’ll be able to share that over the coming months.