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In the latest Culture Podcast, Seth Stein speaks with Win Cramer, CEO of JLab.  JLab provides an array of audio equipment for the home and office and has expanded into other office and home electronic peripherals like keyboards, microphones, and webcams.  Since taking on the role of CEO, Cramer has led JLab to become the #2 headphone brand in the US market and has initiated a global sales plan to accelerate growth further. He was named EY Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019, a top 40 under 40 in CE by Dealerscope.

Video Transcript

Seth Stein [00:00:06] Well. Hey everyone. I'm thrilled to be here with Win Cramer, who's the CEO and founder of JLab Audio. This is probably your third or fourth interview with leaders who are really passionate about culture. I kind of often joke that I was brainwashed by Ken Blanchard and all of his colleagues when I attended University of San Diego and achieved a master's degree in executive leadership. And arguably, Ken Blanchard is the founder of Culture and Values in the workplace. I had the opportunity to meet Win um, through the MSL, MCO community and was just really, really captured by what he's done with the company. And so we thought it'd be just great to learn about his company and more particularly, how culture has helped influence the phenomenal growth of his firm. And so, uh, when I, uh, I know a lot about you in terms of what you've done, um, how your company is fast growing. Um, because of your leadership and the culture you've had still. But, you know, maybe you could take a moment and just kind of introduce yourself in your company, uh, which I'm thrilled to be supporting with this, um, awesome, uh, work, bud, uh, set that you sent me, so. Thank you. 

Win Cramer [00:01:23] Yeah. So, uh, thanks for thanks for having me today. It's nice to see you again. And, uh, I am passionate about culture. It's it's something I like to talk about. Um, you know, here at Jlab, if you're if you're not familiar, if the audience is that familiar, we are a, um, a hardware tech based company, um, in the San Diego area. Um, we make things like the the earbuds Seth and I are both using today, um, to support work. Um, we make microphones, as Seth just showed, uh, consumer based earbuds, headphones, um, keyboards, mice. Uh, the camera that I'm being using today. Uh, we make, um, we've had a, um, a nice little bit of success over, over the past decade or so, really on the shoulders of of the people that work for the business and, and hopefully the culture that we, we've built to inspire said people to continue to grow in it. 

Seth Stein [00:02:22] Maybe we could start really at the top and I'll ask you to maybe describe or define the culture at your company. 

Win Cramer [00:02:30] I think the the culture here is, is one of hustle. It's one that, you know, we we try not to or at least I try not to micromanage, um, people that are successful here are the people that, um, can come in and really, you know, dive into the deep end of the pool and, and do what we have hired them to do. And that's what I, I think the if there's one message that I try to get through to everybody, it's um, and this is kind of goes against every business teaching you'll ever hear. And that is I did not hire you to multitask when you when you multitask, you become average at everything. The only person that should be average at everything in this building is me. And that's that's the truth. You know, I am, um, I have my hands a little bit in marketing, a little bit in sales, a little bit in product, a little bit in finance, uh, a little bit in customer support. And I'm average at all of it. I'm not great at anything anymore. However, the people that we've brought in for a specific task or goal or project, if we can create that silo for them to be great at it. We've done a really good thing. So I try to teach people to single task and be good at what we've brought you in to do. And don't worry about the other stuff. I'll figure that out. 

Seth Stein [00:03:53] I'm reminded of a passage from I think the book was called The E-myth. And in it it says: "If you're going to say yes to something, you have to say no to something else." And I think that's talking to multitasking. And we have a saying around here, just do less better. And if we can really have maybe 3 to 5 key company objectives that everyone is working towards, we can really accomplish some some interesting things. How do you identify in advance and interview people that you feel like will fit the hustle and focus mentality that you described? 

Win Cramer [00:04:27] To be fair, I don't do the hiring much anymore, right? I mean, I I've hired people and team leads, and I give them the freedom and the empowerment to hire the people. They need to be successful. And I think that's what it comes down to. You know, I, I hired the first 20 people here. 

Seth Stein [00:04:46] Yeah. 

Win Cramer [00:04:46] And then I let those 20 people hire the people that they need to support what their goals are. I think that's the key to all of this, is really ensuring people are empowered to do what what we hired them to do and give them the freedom, um, to go get the people to, to attach on to them to be successful. But if, if I was, you know, hiring 100 people we have globally, um, for what I think is good, we wouldn't be very successful. But I've hired people that I believe in, and they've given them the freedom to go hire people that they believe in. 

Seth Stein [00:05:22] I love that I have to follow ups. And the first one is, I noticed that you went to University of Oklahoma. Are people from Texas and Oklahoma State, you know, welcome at your company? 

Win Cramer [00:05:32] It's a great question. 

Seth Stein [00:05:34] You don't need to answer that. 

Win Cramer [00:05:35] You know, we have a couple from each age. 

Seth Stein [00:05:38] Okay. Fair enough. Um, you know, as a CEO. When I started, there was 80 of us. And the founder and CEO was really connected to the business. Scaling is a very different challenge. And what I'm really proud of is 52 years later and our founder past six years ago. I still believe that that culture and the DNA of hiring people are still with us. So if you've continued to to scale and now you've delegated those, those tasks, how have you ensured that your beliefs about culture and the people. Um, you know, resonates and cascades down to those people that are now making the hiring decisions. 

Win Cramer [00:06:24] Yeah, I you know, I think it's more about acceptance, at least for us, because I acknowledge and realize that, hey, the times are changing. Um, you know, if you talk from, you know, I'm a Gen Xer, um, you know, from millennials to to Gen Z's to whatever you want to call it. But every person that we bring into this building. I accept the fact that they're going to tweak the culture just a little bit. And I encourage that. Right. Because it it gives me a it gives me a learning moment. I get to to understand what is happening with this individual and how they can influence the culture slightly, just to be included enough that the entire thing can shift just a little bit. And, you know, it's my job to ensure it doesn't shift all the way. But but I want everybody to bring their little special gift or something to the table and let it influence the culture. I think if you're accepting to that fact, um, then you'll be in a better place. And the people that you work with, uh, your peers, will also be in a better place. 

Seth Stein [00:07:36] You know what's interesting as a consumer, especially one that looks at it not only as an individual but a B2B consumer. I think I see that a little bit in your in your brands is that you have, uh, a lot of options for everybody. And so your marketing team that set this up sent me, um, in three devices. Uh, you saw the mic. I've got this great headset and then certainly the work buttons that I'm using now. And so it just seems like it's really configurable, not only for the consumer but for the people on your team. So again, I sense that through your marketing. And I know in marketing you use a lot of real people. What else do you want? Um, consumers and your employees, uh, to take away from the marketing efforts that you put forth? And how do I know about your culture and your company through those marketing efforts? 

Win Cramer [00:08:30] Yeah, I think that's that's a good question. And I'm glad that shines through, Seth. So appreciate you seeing it, recognizing it and asking the question. But in the early days, um, we had to use the people that we had. We had to use real people, right? Because that's that's all we could afford. Um, but unless you can, unless you have the money to to to work with a LeBron James or Serena Williams or these larger than life kind of people. It's not going to move the needle, in my opinion. But what? What can move the needle is actually making something for you, or making something for me, or making something for you. Sitting to my left, making something that's that's unique and different, um, customizable and, and and potentially, um, making something that I don't like. But you could. So I really relate this business, and a lot of people get sick of me saying this, but just hear me out. Um, you know, we're in the personal technology business. We make things that stick in your ears, sit on your head, you touch with the keys. Look at it's it's very personal. So I want to ensure that we have all of these options and a broad array to ensure we have something that's comfortable, convenient, um, and likable for everybody. From my mom, Marty, to my daughter, Avery, who are two totally different people, um, and like two totally different things. But if I don't have a solution for both of them, I'm in a really tough spot. So we try to go deep with our assortment to ensure we have enough, um, options for everybody. 

Seth Stein [00:10:19] And I can tell, um, my son Josh is really into tech and he loves going to BestBuy. So whenever I'm with him and I see your products on the shelf, uh, I think of you in the diversity of of of products. I think that makes you different from your competition. In fact, um, you probably sell a heck of a lot more than the competition because of the diversity of products. But maybe you could tell me a little bit, uh, about, you know, how do you differentiate from your competition? And, um, I think, um, yeah, I think you're bigger than most people realize. 

Win Cramer [00:10:55] Yeah, I think we are, too. And that's that's a hidden little gem of the business, right? I mean, it's, you know, if I, if I look at the global, just the headphone market, the global headphone market, you know, we're like number five in terms of the units shipped. And that doesn't make us the big the biggest dollar wise because we happen to sell a lot of value price point, which I love because I have the opportunity to delight more people than most. Um, but unless your name is Apple, a one size solution doesn't work. In my view. That's the thesis and the philosophy of the business, right? So we have to have all these different choices and we sell a lot of them. Like a lot we I think we the last time I checked. We we ship something or we sell something like 55,000 products a day. That means we have the opportunity to delight 55,000 people in any given day. And that's a tremendous obligation, but also a tremendous opportunity. As most people don't know. As to your point, I don't think they know how how big the company is or necessarily what we do. But if we delight one of those 55,000 people, they're going to know me. And they might give me the opportunity to delight in again. And that's the goal. Is to make somebody so happy, to surprise them so much that they spent $25 on a product. They're like, oh my gosh, this is incredible. Maybe I'll spend $50 with them on that keyboard and have the same experience. So, I mean, we're certainly not perfect, and I'm not trying to to suggest that we are. Um, but I love having the opportunity to to delight as many people as we can. And I take seriously in the obligation to, um, to delight in again. 

Seth Stein [00:12:49] I think what I love about your price point is one, the quality is great. Um, but I can have one at the office, one at home, and if I try it and maybe it doesn't fit me, even though you gave me a lot of different ways to adjust the comfort, I could pick up another one and have a spare. So I kind of like the flexibility from a consumer standpoint. 

Win Cramer [00:13:08] Well that's right. And, um, and quite honestly, that you should have a different one at home versus at work, because what you want to do at home is different than what you want to do at work. I don't wear this earbuds at home. Because it's not what I need it to do. I wear it here because it's perfect to support the activity that I'm doing here. It helps me work. But when I'm at home, I want to relax. Yeah. And I wear a different product at home. And why not have a solution for all? I mean, you wouldn't wear work shoes to the basketball court. It's a totally different. It's a totally different activity. And we need to give you a device that supports the activity in the best way that you want. Not the best way that I want. 

Seth Stein [00:13:48] You know, you mentioned 55,000 units every single day. That's a lot. And, you know, back to culture and vision and strategy to connect your sales, marketing H.R. Finance to supporting. Uh, so many SKUs must be difficult. How do you keep everyone on the same page? Um and ensure that level of a of alignment and collaboration. 

Win Cramer [00:14:20] I think it goes back to those those silos I mentioned earlier SAP and it's it gets it goes against everything that we're taught. Everyone teaches you to multitask. Everyone teaches you to, um, to over collaborate. Everyone teaches you to overcommunicate. Everyone teaches you to do this stuff. But if you're doing all that stuff, in my opinion, you can't be awesome at the thing that you're supposed to be doing. So we recognize and accept that, hey, at times this operations team needs to go into their silos so they can focus on just what they need to do, and we're going to leave them alone. And then we know because we've empowered them to do that, that when they come out of that cocoon, they're going to communicate to everyone on what's happening. But I think if, you know, people make the mistake of trying to probe and get answers. You know, we're in in this just in time world. But the reality is you need time to do stuff. And if you're always probing and questioning immediately, you're not going to get the best answer. You're going to get an answer. But it's not the best or the right answer. So I think being thoughtful and accepting that we need time to do stuff. And give people that that freedom and empowerment to do stuff. And then let them communicate when the time is right. Mhm. Um, I think it's powerful. 

Seth Stein [00:15:50] What's the biggest challenge? Facing your company today? 

Win Cramer [00:15:56] Uh. Brand awareness. I need more people to know about this business so I can continue to evolve and grow it and do some of the bigger things that I'd like to do. And and frankly, I I'm not a patient person, but I have to be patient. And that's because, like I said, I don't have the money to to just throw LeBron James $20 million and go build my business. Yeah, we have to do it organically, which is, you know, organically a slower but it's authentic. You know, we we don't always do stuff right. But we learn from what we do. And we'll tell that customer that we didn't do something right with. We'll be honest with them. We did that wrong. But here's what we're going to do to fix it. And here's how what was wrong for you is going to influence what we're doing in the future to give everyone a better experience. And we bring that customer into essentially into the product development life cycle. And when they're in the life cycle, you've got him forever because they feel invested. And I'm not trying to make a sales pitch. I mean, that's the truth. That is, if if we learn something from somebody that we did wrong and then we can fix it and change a product for the future and make it better. Holy cow, that's an amazing accomplishment. And we now we've got this team that's not 100 people. I've got 55,000 people a day on my team that I'm learning. That's awesome.