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Leon Speakers

715 West Ellsworth Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48108

Noah Kaplan on evolving a company to match its culture

Different businesses are about different things. For Leon Speakers, it's all about the culture of the company.

The high-end electronics company in Ann Arbor is leveraging its culture of utilizing the arts, integrating new technology, and always working to improve to achieve is rapid growth. The firm has recently executed its first acquisition, revamped its factory, hired a dozen people, and established an international presence.

"Culture is the most important thing with Leon Speakers," says Noah Kaplan, founder & president of Leon Speakers. "Part of that culture is to immerse ourselves in the arts and always be learning."

Kaplan launched the company out of his University of Michigan dorm room in 1997, making custom speakers. It has evolved into making high-end electronics for entertainment centers, such as sound bars for big-screen TVs. It acquired Florida-based Media Decor, which makes custom frames for flat screen TVs, last year.

Today Leon Speakers employs about 50 people who are creating double-digit revenue gains for it. A big part of Leon Speakers’ recent evolution is the revamping of its manufacturing facility. The company upgraded its factory to employ lean manufacturing techniques that allow it to make its products price competitive with similar ones produced overseas.

"Aligning the factory with Leon Speakers' mission is extremely important," Kaplan says. He adds, "The results are incredible. We are almost able to put out 2.5 times as much product on the same line with fewer people."

Kaplan likes to say the factory is attractive enough now that he plans to give tours of it to customers and anyone interested in home entertainment centers next year.

"I want it to be a beautiful and artistic experience in and of itself," Kaplan says.

Executing that transition didn't come without some significant change. Leon Speakers did watch some of its longtime employees move on, mostly because they were ready to take the next step up the career ladder.

"That was a big challenge for me," Kaplan says. "It caught me off guard. It's something I even needed to be shaken by."

But it also meant that Kaplan could hire more people with attitudes that fit neatly in with Leon Speakers’ company culture. That meant employing people who were always working to improve the products, the company and themselves.

"It helped us really shape what the leadership team looks like today," Kaplan says.

- Written by Jon Zemke

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