October 6, 2009
As published in InBusiness.
Hundreds of business well-wishers braved beltline rush hour traffic complicated by fierce thunderstorm winds to attend a formal ribbon cutting ceremony on October 1. Full Compass Systems’ founders/owners Jonathan Lipp (CEO) and wife Susan Lipp (Chair) hosted a gala event in the building’s expansive recording studio to commemorate their new 140,000 square foot facility, located in the Silicon Prairie™ development on Madison’s far west side. (Far, far west).
During its 31 years in business, Full Compass has outgrown three previous facilities to become one of the nation’s largest professional audio, video, A/V and lighting equipment retailers. The latest move was from a much smaller facility in Middleton. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz appropriately opened the stage presentations with a “welcome back” speech and presented the couple with an official proclamation from the city honoring their commitment to Madison.
Cieslewicz was followed by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, who proclaimed the month of October officially to be “Full Compass Month.” Not to be outdone, Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton then quipped that she would have to go back and wrangle a year-long proclamation from Governor Doyle to pay proper tribute to one of the state’s largest female-owned companies.
Next up: Three employees with 25-years of service to the company, each of whom was presented with an elegant watch from Jonathan Lipp. “And we also have another small gift for Mark Nash,” he noted, reaching for a small box from Susan.
“This will make you cry,” promised Susan as Nash, company EVP and General Manager, stepped forward again. Though Lipp whispered the comment to him as an aside, the Full Compass sound system (a company flagship) broadcast her comment throughout the sound studio, capturing again the full attention of the standing-room-only crowd.
Nash already had been given a sapphire-embedded watch (“complete with a four-page manual”). “We’re now giving him new business cards,” Jonathan Lipp announced. The audience laughed a little awkwardly (was it a gag gift, or an internal company joke?); then Lipp added, “Because his new title is now company president.”
There was a momentary hush in the studio and then applause for the obviously surprised and delighted Nash, as it became apparent to all that he had just been promoted to the role of president on the spot.
Nash took the microphone but he had to pause a few times to get his emotions in check before thanking the Lipps for their trust and for the opportunity. He concluded his brief remarks with the promise not to let them, or the company, down.
It was a delightful moment to be a businessperson in the Greater Madison marketplace, where it is really a small town after all. It was refreshing to feel the pride and kinship in the room and to remember what it feels like to celebrate business SUCCESS. To witness a promotion, for gosh sake!
Stepping away from a backdrop of the recession (and all those cutbacks, layoffs and hard decisions), exhausted but optimistic people came together in a sparkling new building bedecked with politicians, live music and lavish foods to celebrate — and what better way to do it than in true Susan Lipp style? The woman known for planning incredible charitable events for Circus World had a little taste of the spotlight herself that evening, and she was radiant, standing beside her beaming husband and excited employees.
As George Gialamas so succinctly put it that evening, the politicians in the room were, in fact, damn lucky to have people with their vision. Susan and Jonathan Lipp could have taken the company anywhere. Instead, they persevered, built and invested here — in this city, this county, and this state.
Certainly Mayor Dave had good reason to welcome them back to Madison. Silicon Prairie™ Parkway is going to be a jewel in Madison’s crown, and home to a lot of new enterprise and employment opportunities, thanks to developers and business owners and builders who share a like vision with Full Compass.