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Leon Speakers

715 West Ellsworth Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48108

CORDIAL company culture spikes Leon Speakers' growth

CORDIAL is an important word at Leon Speakers. So important that the Ann Arbor-based high-end electronics company has made it the basis of its company culture.

CORDIAL is an acronym that stands for Creativity, Optimism, Responsiveness, Dedication, Initiative, Accountability and Loyalty. Leon Speakers' leadership wants all of its team to embody those words with the idea of creative something special. It's that type of company culture that drives Leon Speakers' growth and answers some key questions about its future.

"What's the personality of the business?" says Noah Kaplan, president of Leon Speakers. "What is at the core of the business?"

Kaplan started Leon Speakers in his off-campus house while attending the University of Michigan in the late 1990s. His father loaned him $600 to buy woodworking tools at a time when Kaplan was making a living through art and music. Over the years he combined the two into making customized speakers. It became his craft and then his thriving business.

Today Leon Speakers is a $10 million company. It consistently hits 10-15 percent annual revenue growth and is on track to do it again this year. It employs 46 people after hiring six engineers and factory workers this year. Kaplan and his team are looking to make a significant push next year to spike its growth even more, eventually making it a $25 million firm in the next five years. However, Kaplan is being careful not to grow too fast.

"Pace can really burn out people at times," Kaplan says. "We are focused on company culture so we don't want to sacrifice that for growth."

An subtle-yet-overarching-theme of CORDIAL is self-improvement. The idea that pushing the team to be the best it can be will mean the company overall becomes better at what it does. That means everything from designing the next generation of entertainment system to figuring out the best way to make Leon Speakers' American-made products competitive with electronics produced overseas.

Kaplan likes to point to an example of when his team came to him with the idea of bringing lean manufacturing practices to Leon Speakers by learning Six Sigma. The move made the company much more efficient and enabled it to grow to its current size.

"When they came back with a plan for lean manufacturing it was way more than I ever thought it could be," Kaplan says.

He credits that type of company culture as the driver of Leon Speakers' growth, and why its American-made products will become price-competitive with overseas-manufactured products sooner rather than later.

"Leon Speakers is a company filled with leaders," Kaplan says. "It's not just about the president and executive team as leaders. Every employee should be a leader."

Welcome to the Year of the Gazelle, an exploration of the fastest-growing startups in southeast Michigan by the Startup team and the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan (NEI). Not only will we identify the local gazelle companies that are perfecting innovative new products, creating jobs, and generating lots of revenue, we will give you a full accounting of each one. The stories behind the entrepreneurs that build these businesses. The investors that back them. The resources they leverage. How they have all worked together to build Metro Detroit's new economy, and how they plan to do it in the future. In return we will only ask you to do one thing: keep up.

- Written by Jon Zemke

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