Sandy Gross has co-founded three legendary audio companies: Polk, Definitive Technology, and GoldenEar Technology. The last two he was also President and CEO. With a track record of great products and successful companies, I figured it’d be worth it to get his thoughts on life, the universe, and everything (at least when it comes to audio and business).
Geoff Morrison: What was your first job?
Sandy Gross: My first job was as a member of Team Russkit East. When I was in high school I was a professional, champion slot car racer. I was hired by Russkit, a west coast manufacturer, to be a member of their racing team. I travelled around the country representing them at major races, made store appearances and helped with product design.
GM: What was it about the audio industry that attracted you to it?
SG: I became an audiophile in college. I was attracted to audio as a hobby because it combined an association with music, which I love, along with a connection with gear, which I also love. When I graduated, it seemed natural to get involved, and along with two friends, helped start Polk Audio in a garage. Sort of a classic American entrepreneurial story. I suppose I am what they call a serial entrepreneur.
GM: In a garage?
SG: Yes, we started Polk in a garage in 1972. We weren’t trained for a profession in college, so had no choice but to pick a direction and go.
GM: Was there a course in college you’ve found particularly useful over the years?
SG: I suppose I would say that my minor, creative writing, has been surprisingly useful.
GM: Any books?
SG: Early on, I took a one day seminar in marketing. We were given a marketing book as part of the course. Although I lost track of the book years ago, it was very useful for many years.
GM: What’s your favorite product you’ve created?
SG: I suppose that I tend to be most excited by what I am currently involved in, so at this point I would have to say that my favorite product is our new Triton One loudspeaker, which we introduced in January at the CES Show.
GM: How about your favorite product some else created?
SG: This is a hard one to choose, so I’m going to talk about three products that I love: First, my Ferrari 599. The 599 is an extraordinary achievement in both industrial design (it’s absolutely gorgeous) and performance (it handles like it’s on rails and is gloriously fast). And, best of all, it is fun.
Second, my Apple iPad Mini. I carry my iPad Mini with me almost everywhere. It connects me to the world with a much larger screen than a smart phone, but still is an overall size that is very manageable. And it allows me to have my art collection at my fingertips. Also, wonderful industrial design, which I am very into.
Third, I suppose I should also choose a piece of audio gear. I choose my Line Magnetic 219A SET tube integrated amplifier. I love tube amplifiers and preamplifiers, and have wonderful ones from Audio Research, Atmasphere, Aesthetix etc. However my Line Magnetic 219A is something truly retro and very cool. It is huge, weighs 120 pounds, and puts out only 24 watts a channel. Being single-ended, which is a very pure way of handling the signal used in very early amplifier designs, it is very inefficient, but does sound wonderful. And industrial design-wise, it is a beast but beautiful in its own way.
GM: What is a general design philosophy you think is important for products from your company?
SG: In terms of our products, I would say that our general design philosophy is expressed well by our two mottos: “We Make High-End Affordable” and “A Passion for Sonic Perfection.” We are very focused on creating ultra-high-performance products that deliver extraordinary value. Also, as I’ve mentioned, we are also focused on excellent industrial design: simple, elegant and special.
GM: What’s a trend in the audio industry you like?
SG: One trend that I like is a refocus on listening to music and in high-resolution formats
GM: And one you don’t like?
SG: The disappearance of high quality specialty retail stores that can demonstrate the gear as well as provide expertise and advice.
GM: Since I’m rather terrible at interviews, what’s a question you wish I’d asked?
SG: Why did you start a third company, rather than retiring? As I said, I suppose that I am a serial entrepreneur. I love staying busy creating wonderful products and playing with the many friends I’ve made in my over 40 years in our industry. The satisfaction of imagining a product and then, a year or two later, having the dream become a reality, is very exciting and satisfying.
GM: If someone is reading this, someone just starting out, what advice would you give them?
SG: My words of wisdom for would be entrepreneurs: Work very hard and never give up on your dream.
Sandy Gross graduated from the Johns Hopkins University in 1972, initially majoring in engineering, but switching to majors in social and behavioral science. He is currently the president/CEO of GoldenEar Technology, which he founded in 2010 with his wife Anne Conaway and Don Givogue. Previously he was one of the founders of Polk Audio and Definitive Technology, where his responsibilities included product concept and design, sales and marketing as well as CEO and presidential responsibilities at Definitive.
Source: Forbes Auto