MUSIC lovers would have been fascinated to listen to yesterday’s guest on the Go Radio Business Show with Hunter & Haughey as chief executive Gilad Tiefenbrun told how his Eaglesham-based family business, Linn Products, has evolved to reach this year’s 50th anniversary with input from legendary Apple design guru Sir Jony Ive.

Leaving San Francisco-based Apple in 2019 after a tenure of nearly 30 years, Sir Jony formed the creative collective LoveFrom with friend and fellow designer Marc Newson. Recalling how Linn’s collaboration with the designers came about, Mr Tiefenbrun told the radio show: “Amazingly it started with a LinkedIn request from his PA but I wasn’t sure and just threw it in the bin.

“About three hours later, I had a nagging feeling that what if it actually was Sir Jony Ive so I had to google how to retrieve a message from LinkedIn and sure enough it was from his PA. Soon after we had a FaceTime meeting and it turned out that he’d been following the company for years – as a student he’d been on a tour of Linn and had been inspired by us.

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“He’s also good friends with Ruthie Rogers of The River Café in London, whose late husband Sir Richard Rogers was the architect of the Linn factory so there was another link there. He told me he was interested in buying our new products but wanted to talk to me first to make sure he was buying the right thing from the right place – and then he said if there was anything he could ever do for us because he’d launched a new company.

“Jony explained how he and Marc Newsome had agreed to work on projects out of love so when I mentioned that it would be our 50th anniversary, and also the 50th anniversary of our first product – the Sondek LP12 record player – he said he’d love to help design a special edition [to mark the occasion].”

Now available, the Sondek LP12-50 is the culmination of that initial LinkedIn message that was nearly lost forever.

It’s a “magical” highlight in the history of the company founded by Ivor Tiefenbrun in 1973, a mechanical engineer who loved music and wanted to use precision-engineering to improve the sound quality of his own music system at home. “Dad always said that me and my two siblings would never go into the business so we all went off and did our own thing,” Mr Tiefenbrun explained.

“I’m so glad I did because I went down to London after graduating from Edinburgh University as an engineer where I learned about the art of fast networks,” he explained. “At that time, everyone was playing CDs and I could see then where mobile phones were going in the future.

“I made a little prototype on a Nokia phone and dad gave me the chance to join him at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas – everyone who walked by us, journalists, consumers, retailers, all said no-one is ever going to control their music from their phone.”

While Mr Tiefenbrun worked in and around the business as a student, it was only when his father started to experience ill health that conversations started to happen about him possibly joining Linn.

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“We’re a family of engineers,” he noted. “My grandfather was a refugee and got out of Vienna in 1938/9 although the rest of the family wasn’t so lucky. Him and his sister got over to Glasgow and were taken in by a family who looked after them. They both got jobs but my grandfather was a natural engineer and one of the guys helped him to started – he started up Castle Precision Engineering in Castlemilk which is still going to this day and is now run by my cousin, Jan.”

Joining the Linn business in 2003, Mr Tiefenbrun found it less “harmonious” than it had been when he was student. “The ethos had started to drift, especially in the R&D department – there were a lot of unhappy engineers. The culture had changed, there were too many manager after a big expansion that divided the company and made it more complicated and lose that family feel.”

Coming out of the global financial crisis in 2009, which had been challenging for Linn, “we stripped the business back to what it had been in 1999, made it profitable and got everybody back working on what they loved doing”.

Mr Tiefenbrun, with his father’s support, went to Harvard in Massachusetts where the renowned family business expert Professor John Davis teaches. He founded Harvard’s family business management studies programme and is co-author of books including Generation to Generation: Life Cycles of the Family Business.

“It was a month a year for three years and when I finished, I presented a blueprint for our succession which crucially included setting up an independent board with external, non-family members and non-executive directors. It was just the family before – it wasn’t a professional board.

“Harvard prepared me from being an engineering leader to being a business leader – it’s where I studied finance and accounting, marketing and negotiation, and all the things I had not been exposed to in a disciplined way.”

Looking to the future, Mr Tiefenbrun said “I can look at a tech roadmap and see what’s coming down the line” – but he stressed the importance of spending a lot of time with customers, both retailers and end users. “That’s really the value I add to Linn – being out there presenting the business and selling our products, gauging the response and hearing what customers want and what retailers think will sell.”

Today the business supplies 60-70 countries with more coming on board. “We have a healthy order book and are on track to achieve £27 million in revenue.