Last November, LightSoundJournal visited Germany, specifically Karlsbad-Karlsrue in the Baden-Wüttemberg region. Located here is the headquarters of one of the most dynamic companies in its sector, one which has paved the way in innovation since its conception in 1994. “Dynamic” is not a term that we use all too commonly on LightSoundJournal, it can often be inflated and flirtatious. However, when applied to GLP – German Light Products – it fits perfectly. Our findings during our visit actually caught us somewhat by surprise. On the one hand, GLP reflects the stereotype of what it is to be a German company, with absolute attention paid to its order, rigour and organisation. On the other hand we had the opportunity to meet an approachable and relaxed team, headed up by CEO Udo Künzler, a man who mixes positive energy with a good dose of healthy assertiveness, who doesn’t hesitate when faced with challenges and isn’t afraid to operate beyond convention.
“We always listen carefully to the feedback and requests of our customers and above all we try to interpret the needs of the Lighting Designer, because in the end what you need to do is produce really useful products that help to improve the work and performance of professionals” Udo confessed to us during our long talk. “Knowing how to listen is always a winning weapon, but also a virtue of the few…”
The story behind GLP’s birth and history certainly contains traits that could be considered to be romantic. As with all passions, this started from a dream, as the eclectic Udo Künzler told us as he personally accompanied us on a guided tour through the company’s recently renovated headquarters. Although the product components are assembled in China, the Karlsbad office is of enormous strategic importance. It is here that new products are designed, developed and tested, taking full advantage of the spacious facilities available. Here we find bustling offices, state-of-the-art laboratories and a very specialised showroom – inside a real club. What amazed us most during our visit was the great vitality that one experiences whilst walking through the rooms of these headquarters. This atmosphere of optimism is reflected in the words of the CEO himself, and echoes a national economic situation that is, in general, prosperous for the German people. Below we offer the full interview with Udo Künzler, with whom we spoke in depth at the end of our visit to the company.
LightSoundJournal.com: Let’s start from the beginning, how was GLP born?
Udo Künzler: We have to go back in time a little here, back to before I started GLP and when I worked at Siemens as an electrical technician. To be honest, it was a good job, but in no way was it exciting. At that time, I helped my uncle Hartmut Braun, who was head of B&K Showelectronic, a company that had become a leader in supplies for nightclubs and discotheques. It was after my military service within the army that I decided I would work solely with my uncle. So, after some special “training”, I became head of the technical department and started, with the help of my team, to modify the fixtures. It was at this time that the idea of developing a fast scanner, with a moving head and a 360 ° beam rotation in pan and tilt mode, was born. This was an idea that led to a very important product for us, because it was the turning point that forged the way to the birth of GLP in 1994. Initially, our products were almost entirely destined for clubs and small rentals. It was only later, in parallel with constant growth, that we moved into other segments of the market.
LightSoundJournal.com: From what we understand, you have developed rather quickly?
Udo Künzler: We were very ambitious at first, and we still are! This allowed us to hold upmost belief in what we were doing and we worked hard to achieve the goals we set. I do not deny that there have been some difficult times for us, and if I think back now to some anecdotes, it makes me smile…
I was once asked to fulfil the contract for a very important sporting event, supplying a large number of fixtures that, at the time, we were not able to produce in such a short space of time. However, I was careful not to admit this lack of capacity in front of my client, and I remember nodding and reassuring the client for the whole meeting. It was a strange mix of ambition and unconscious thinking! It was only on the journey back in the car that I realised what I had promised and I kept telling myself “what have I done, what have I done…”. But the story ended well, we all worked through night and day, and in the end we were respected for the commitment and gained a great deal of trust from an important client, with whom I often collaborate even now.
LightSoundJournal.com: You have had many successes, but also some flops, would you agree?
Udo Künzler: Of course, but I believe that even a failure can prove a useful experience in some form. I certainly remember the great success that the Patend Light 575 had at the PLASA Show in London in 1996. In many ways, it was the event at which we stood up and began to get noticed, and that success formed the high level of expectation that the market has of us today. However, because of the success of that product, we had a lot to live up to. So, a few years later when we released a couple of products which we believed would be met with equal success, and didn’t receive this praise, we were shocked. But all of this stimulated us to improve and learn from our mistakes, above all to understand what the real needs of the market are, thanks also to our customers with whom we have an excellent relationship.
LightSoundJournal.com: What words would you use to define yourselves today?
Udo Künzler: There are so many words that are the essence of GLP: people, relationships, quality and listening! We are a company made up of people who offer something to other people and for us the relationship with the business partner is essential.
LightSoundJournal.com: What do you think is the characteristic that most distinguishes you?
Udo Künzler: I would say ‘innovator’ is probably the one that best describes our essence, our being. Our intent is to provide innovative products at economical prices. We are very aware that this is not a simple thing to achieve and it often happens that the development department tells us that some things are physically impossible to do. But instead of giving up, we try to achieve these things, perhaps by choosing a different and less “beaten” path. Persistence in what you do is vital. However I don’t think this is anything new, any entrepreneur will know perfectly well what I’m talking about…
LightSoundJournal.com: So where do the ideas and inspiration for new products come from? Do you have any particular stimuli, research techniques etc?
Udo Künzler: We are in contact with many lighting designers and we try to help them in their work as we work together. We also help them when the products are already on the market, for example on how to use them in the best way, enabling users to fully express their creativity. We try to be close to our customers when they need us most, and this is a very important aspect because there is a real exchange of ideas and information that takes place in these times. To answer your question I can tell you that we do not necessarily want to be the first to achieve something, but rather to offer concrete and tangible help to professionals. Obviously we want to grow as a company but our main goal is to create for and with professionals, providing solutions based on the actual needs of the market. People choose us for quality and come back to us not only for this characteristic but also for the relationship that is established with us. I want to be honest, despite everything I think we’re still a small company, but I’m really happy with how things are going and I always like to be on the front line with customers who know they can trust us. This trust is a very important aspect and unlike the bigger companies one of our strengths is the ability to create a real feeling of interconnectivity. You must be inside the market, in the truest sense of the word, to understand it thoroughly. That’s why I attend as many venues, television studios and trade shows as possible, so as to always be in the forefront.
From these words we can better understand how humility, a focus on facing tasks with determination, and continuing to have fun form the fundamentals of this company. It is therefore no coincidence that GLP continues to innovate, recently giving birth to JDC1, a creative and original hybrid fixture that is gathering success wherever used. After having seen the true essence of the company, it is easy to see how a team of this nature envisaged a product of this kind. GLP is a company that looks at development not only as a mission closely linked to business, but as a functional creative process that is part of an open, fun and dynamic environment.
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