Name: John Benz
Title: Director of Power and Accessory
Company: Core Brands
SCN: To what do you attribute Furman’s 40 years of success?
John Benz: You don’t reach a milestone like this without having the perfect circle of great products and very loyal customers. They are both very inter-related and there is simply no way we would be here today without the continuing support of our customer base—both our dealers and our end-users. I like to believe we��ve helped build this loyalty by continually bringing great products to market that are reliable and deliver peace of mind. Then consider that many of our products are based on direct input from our customers, and you can really see how it all of comes full circle. It’s this sustainable ecosystem that has allowed us to thrive for four decades.
SCN: In the face of an ever-changing industry, what are you doing to stave off competition and remain the market leader?
JB: It’s important to always build for tomorrow’s needs. Our products are designed, engineered, and manufactured to be real-world problem-solvers, and the only way to build real-world problem-solvers is to listen to your customers. Power management isn’t the sexiest product category but it’s one of the most important—so we focus on identifying pain points and removing what is causing them.
SCN: Looking back over the last 40 years, what were the key products that established the company as a market leader?
JB: Many people do not realize that Furman was founded on some fantastic signal processing products for live sound and pro audio long before we got into power. The PQ-3 Parametric Equalizer is still a highly prized vintage analog EQ, as is the classic RV-1 Spring Reverb.
Furman’s early products had incredible sound quality and the rugged construction that Furman is still known for. However, it was really the original PL-8 that put us on the map in the early ’80s. A rack-mount power conditioner with great protection, AC filtering for best sound, and pull-out lights on the front panel that illuminated an artist’s rig on stage was just an incredibly clever, “got-to-have-it” idea.
We took the concept of power purification and convenience and ran with it, and now provide a large assortment of professional power management solutions, from an entire range of rack-mount power conditioners to AC isolation transformers, voltage regulators, power sequencers, and much more.
SCN: The power conditioning market has changed dramatically over the last 40 years. What do you see driving the market in the future?
JB: We see power as a very important part of the infrastructure of an electronics system—but just a part of it. At the end of the day, our goal is to keep systems up and running as reliably as possible and limiting service calls, downtime, or unexpected issues.
Today, with IP networking being such an integral part of just about every type of system, we recognize the importance of keeping the network itself healthy, and that there is a key fundamental relationship between power and network. This is why we have introduced network management features on our BlueBOLT platform.
Moving forward we expect power delivery to continue to change—we will see more renewable energy, which may provide better power quality but stands to raise utility prices dramatically—making energy monitoring and management much more important.
As technology gets smaller and more efficient we expect to see less of a need for rack-mount power; compact solutions are becoming more important. A lot of very smart people are working on wireless power. It may sound like science fiction, but what didn’t 20 years ago? No matter where the market goes, we will be there to make sure power is reliable and convenient to integrate.
Having been in business for 40 years, Furman’s fans span many generations of rock and roll.
SCN: Furman began as an independent, founder-driven company. How is life different now that it is part of Core Brands, itself a part of an even larger Nortek?
JB: Much has changed, but much is the same. Integrating the brands together was not without its challenges, but the logistical headaches are behind us. At a high level, we have always been driven by passionate people that take pride in delighting our customers. That hasn’t changed and as much as the common perception dictates that we should become a huge faceless corporate entity. Our day-to-day is still comprised of a creative and caring team developing cool products and bringing them to market. Now we are realizing some really nice tangible benefits like more stability and better control over our supply chain. We have added great internal talent and have very interesting opportunities to integrate technologies together and deliver an even more powerful level of innovation to the marketplace.
SCN: How can Furman keep the entrepreneurial spirit that made the company great in the past even greater in the future?
JB: An entrepreneurial spirit, by definition, must be willing to take risks. This is also a standard that must be held by a leader. In our culture here we haven’t been revoked this right—we are encouraged to take risks, to think outside the box, and to innovate. We have a huge amount of respect for the legacy we carry forward with the Furman brand name, we understand that we have the obligation and privilege to exceed expectations of a very loyal customer base, and we are completely pumped up to execute as we move into our next 40 years.
SCN: What new products will you be introducing at InfoComm and how do they fit into your long-term vision?
JB: We have this little black box called a BB-RS232—it’s not much to look at, and its name isn’t very exciting, but what it does is pretty exciting. In short, it’s an adaptor box that allows our Furman Contractor product line to talk to our BlueBOLT remote power, network, and energy management platform. BlueBOLT has really been game changing in the category—one huge benefit is the ability to hard-reboot problem equipment without being on site—along with some really cool power and energy monitoring features. Enabling this level of system monitoring and management for our contractor grade power sequencers is a huge step forward and will provide systems integrators, facility managers, systems engineers, and other users of our products with an entirely new level of interaction with our products.
SCN: How will Furman integrate its solutions into larger Core Brands systems solutions? Are there specific plans under way?
JB: We have some pretty powerful stuff in the works. Stay tuned.
SCN: Are more resources being invested into R&D?
JB: If you had told me 10 years ago that we’d have an entire software team dedicated to our power management products, I would have said you are crazy—when I should have said you are brilliant. We have built a very talented power engineering team, and now they are integrated with the great minds from Core Brands’ other engineering groups. These are the minds that drive us forward and I truly believe this is the best team we’ve ever had.
It’s a beautiful thing and we expect big things in the future.