Ron Camden At the beginning of December, news broke that Highlander Partners had acquired Biamp Systems, and that the former had appointed industry veteran Rashid Skaf to the role of CEO. A couple weeks later, it was announced that Biamp’s vice president of global sales had decided to postpone his retirement to stay onboard at the company (now as VP of North American sales).
SCN caught up with Camden to learn what lured him back, and what we can expect out of the company in its new form.
SCN: From what I understand, you’d been looking forward to your retirement for quite a while; what made you decide to remain with the company?
Ron Camden: It's pretty clear: that’s Rashid Skaf, our new CEO. Rashid and Highlander Partners came onboard on December 1, and we met soon after that. I was scheduled to retire on January 2, and if you’ve met Rashid, he is a very dynamic guy, he’s a sales guy at heart, as I am. And he laid out some things about where he wants to take Biamp, and that was all very, very exciting for me.
So we came to an agreement: I’m living in Arizona where I was going to retire, so that’s awesome. I’m in Beaverton whenever I need to be; today, I’m talking to you from New Jersey because that’s where I need to be. And I always say ‘my office is where my computer is.’ So it really comes down to Rashid and what his vision is for Biamp, so it’s an exciting time for the company.
SCN: What exactly was the agreement you came to? When the news came out that you were staying on, it was that you were remaining with the company until you could find and train a replacement.
RC: True, and I’m doing that, but I’m doing it within his process. When Rashid came onboard on December 1, he laid out that he was going to do a review of the company in the first 90 days. I think he told me earlier today that he’s through something like 55 of those, and at the end of those 90 days, we’re planning on having a strategic management meeting where he will have been able to accumulate the knowledge of what Biamp is all about up until December 1, and then he can participate with the management team on what the outlook is.
And then we’ll get more serious about finding a replacement. That still is a goal, but it was very important to me—as well as important to Rashid, and I believe Biamp in general—for there to be a good consistency through this transition from Biamp of pre-December 1 and the Biamp going forward, because of our customers; that’s what they expect out of Biamp, that there’s a good consistent approach, a solid way of doing business. So that’s still the goal, it’s still the intent. One day he’s going to say ‘OK, we’ve got our guy, get to Arizona, and get outta here!’ But I will feel better [knowing] that our customers feel like it’s been a seamless transition. As you know, there’s a lot of companies not only in our industry but other industries that get acquired, or there’s mergers and things, and things don’t go too well. I’ve spent 30 years at Biamp. I just want things to be as seamless as possible; I feel that we owe that to our customer base. They expect it, we promise it, and we’ll deliver on it.
SCN: Highlander has said that their philosophy has been “to buy and build.” Can you talk about the influence of Highlander’s acquisition on the company?
RC: That’s a very, very exciting part. Rashid and Highlander have been looking at our industry for a while. Rashid’s told me that he actually delved into 150 different companies; he was looking for that one base company that had all the right benchmarks or ways of doing business. The things that jumped out at him about Biamp were that we consistently ship on time, very quickly; our manufacturing facility is spotless (we say you can eat off the floor in our manufacturing facility); that we’ve got a five-year warranty. So this is a great company to build on.
Now, when Rashid was with AMX—and this is what he’s planning on bringing with Highlander Partners—he bought nine separate companies, and built on this base. So he’s established that Biamp is his base now, and I think it’ll be sooner rather than later that you’re going to see acquisitions or additions to this base. But once you have this core and this culture of the way of doing business, that’s an easy thing to do.
I see this—and I’ve told the Biamp team this—as a tremendous opportunity. We had a company that was very strong, had a great reputation, but we weren’t working aggressively enough, fast enough, and making all the right moves to make us bigger. Rashid’s brought that, and the Highlander Partners with him, to make that. We’re going to be a faster organization, a bigger organization, and better—and it’s all because you’ve got that base.
Is there anything else new that you’re working on and can tell us about?
RC: The new things, I’m going to let us release those at ISE; that’s only a couple weeks away. I can tell you that we have 70-plus engineers on staff and that we have got a defined focus of where we want to go, and you’re going to see a lot of new products, and you’re going to see a lot of new emphasis on programs for both integrators and our distributors internationally, to grow our business faster. I know that’s being vague, but I owe it to our marketing team and the people in product management to let the new products release on schedule, and I assure you that February 6 there are going to be a lot of people hearing and talking about Biamp Systems. There’s a lot of new things coming; we’ve already got a roadmap for things that we’re planning on bringing at InfoComm, and we’ve always got great attendance there and excitement in the booth.
SCN: Anything else you’d like to add in conclusion?
RC: We enjoy very much being a part of this industry. We’re very excited about the new Biamp as of December 1, and we’ve been having meetings with many of our key customers and they’re excited as well. It’s a great opportunity—there’s a lot of mergers or things going on in our industry that are maybe looked at as disruptive and not building on what’s possible; it’s just the opposite at Biamp. It’s very, very exciting in every different direction, and the 320 people or so who are working at Biamp are pumped up and ready to take our business to a whole other level by doing all the right things for our customers.