Beck: Hi Randy. Thanks for your time this morning.
Morgan: Good Morning Doug. Nice to be here.
Beck: Randy, for the readers not familiar with Westone and the amazing growth and success of your family run business, I was hoping youd give me a brief review of the Westone story?
Morgan: Sure. Westone was started in 1959 by my father, Ron Morgan. He previously sold hearing aids across southern Colorado. One day he decided to get involved in the earmold business because he thought it would allow him to stay at home, and he was getting kind of tired of being on the road. So he started the business in our little log cabin, and it worked out pretty well.
Beck: How did the rest of the family get involved?
Morgan: It was pretty much a requirement! Dad liked having all of us involved, and there are 5 sons in the family, so we all worked in the lab after school and during the summer.
Beck: And of the five of you, did all of you stay in the business?
Morgan: Four of us did. My oldest brother, Rusty, is the manager of our Kalamazoo facility, Rick is in charge of research and development here in Colorado Springs, Robin is the youngest brother and he manages one of our facilities up in Seattle. And theres me too, and I work here in Colorado Springs.
Beck: How many locations and how many employees do you have across the nation?
Morgan: We have four complete facilities including nine labs, and theyre staffed by about 130 employees.
Beck: Wow, I had no idea Westone was that large! Randy, please tell me about the service end of the business. I guess most ear impressions come in and are managed and shipped within 24 to 48 hours?
Morgan: Actually the majority of the impressions come in and go out as earmolds the same day. We start at about 5 AM, gather the mail, open, sort, manufacture and ship the same day. Often times, the last QC person is working until 7:00 in the evening.
Beck: What percentage of the business is air expressed overnight, as opposed to US Mail?
Morgan: Seems like about 25 percent of the business is air express, and that continues to grow.
Beck: And when someone goes to the time and expense to ship the impression via overnight, and they REALLY need the earmold back the next day.theyre obviously in a hurry, and thats when mistakes are likely to happen.So given that scenario, what are the primary mistakes you see time and time again?
Morgan: Youre right, that is when the mistakes often happen. One major mistake is that the impressions are just not deep enough. In other words, they did a fine job with everything, but the impression is not deep enough, and as you know, we cant guess at which way the canal is going to twist, bend or turn each one is different. The other big mistake is they dont give us enough information regarding what they want us to create. So we call them, and we call them again, and then we eventually get them on the phone, but sometimes its just too late to get it out the same day when it takes all day to find out the material or the style, or to answer a basic question that was on the order form but went unanswered! So, that tends to stop things dead in the tracks until we resolve the issues.
Beck: Oops. I know Ive been guilty of not filling in the whole order form, and I have been on the receiving end of those phone calls. Good point! So the biggest mistakes are lack of information and/or an impression thats not adequate for use?
Morgan: Yes, those are the primary issues.
Beck: What about the powder & liquid impression materials? Does anyone still use those materials?
Morgan: Yes, I would guess maybe 20 to 25 percent of our customers still use powder & liquid mix. Theres really no benefit, its essentially a personal preference issue, but powder & liquid mixes do make it more difficult for all of us.
Beck: Randy, would you please review the pros and cons of powder & liquid versus silicone?
Morgan: Sure. With powder & liquid, even the most perfect impressions will change before we open the box! If youre shipping impressions via the mail, or using overnight express, theres no way to know what the temperature and humidity conditions will be for that little box as it travels across the country. Another thing is that the ratio of powder to liquid is very important. We measure the powder to a tenth of a gram and we measure the liquid to within one drop of the ideal mixture, and those exact measures are so important to maximize the impressionbut you never know what will happen in the office. Maybe some of the powder gets left behind in the container, or a little bit spills, or a little liquid is retained in the vial, and even if everything else is great, if those proportions are off, the mixture is less stable!
Beck: All good points Randy, thanks. I know you guys make about a zillion different earmold styles and materials, and those are all available on your website, right?
Morgan: Yes, the website gets better all the time and we have information for both consumers and professionals there. But for your professional audience, I would urge them to take a look at the options, and they can review earmold styles, options and materials here: http://www.westone.com/hhc/hhp_earmolds.html
Beck: Besides earmolds, supplies and related accessories, can you tell me a little about the other products youre working with?
Morgan: One of the fun areas were involved with is in-ear musicians monitors. These allow musicians to hear themselves clearly at the loudness level they want while theyre performing. Musicians monitors replace the on-stage wedge speakers performers used to use, and they really are a great benefit.
Beck: And I believe you also make custom made earpieces for cell phones and related technologies?
Morgan: Yes we do. We can make a custom earpiece for just about any cell phone or boom microphone set-up, to allow hands free use of the phone. We can make custom earpieces for many land-line phones as well.
Beck: I think youre also involved with noise reduction technologies, noise suppression, and hearing protection?
Morgan: Yes, thats another fun and interesting area for us. Were actually working with several branches of the US military to design and manufacture products that can be used with their radios in noisy combat situations, allowing clear communication without having to battle the ambient noises.
Beck: You guys really are involved in so many technologies, its quite amazing. Between earmolds, noise control products, custom tips for stethoscopes, custom sleeves for CIC products, telephone products, swimplugs, ear impression materials, tubing, hand tools, in-ear monitors and so many other products, youve really taken Westone to new heights.
But the thing that still amazes me is the Westone Bandstill playing at the annual AAA conventions, and still the only RocknRoll band you cant hear! Who are those guys?
Morgan: Those guys are Westone employees. They play electric instruments; guitars, drums and keyboards, and the only way to hear them is to wear the in-ear musicians monitors set up in front of the booth. Karl Cartwright, the bass player, is our New Product Development manager and hes been with us for 25 years! His twin brother, Kris Cartwright, is the drummer. Kris has been with us almost as long as Karl, and he heads up our Creative Services department. Greg Morgan is one of our Technical Services people, and he plays an awesome guitar. Those three guys create amazing music, and we always get lots of positive feedback about them. They play their instruments and the sound is piped through a mixing board and then out through the in-ear monitors, and thats the only way to hear the band. It really helps for hearing healthcare professionals to see and hear the band live so they can understand the use of in-ear monitors, how they work, how amazing the sound quality is and the vast market potential.
Beck: Randy, before I let you run, what can you tell me about how Westone is reaching out to the end-user?
Morgan: Im glad you mentioned that. We have eight new brochures that are available covering 16 of our product lines. They come in nice acrylic desk stands and theyre totally free for any hearing healthcare professional. The brochures are also available as PDFs and they can be clicked into at the end of this interview, for anyone who would like to learn more about the products.
Beck: Randy, thanks for your time today. I always enjoy catching up with you, and Ill look forward to our next discussion in a month or two on Making a Perfect Impression.
Morgan: Thanks Doug. Its fun for me too.
Fun Clips to Prevent the Loss of Your Child's Hearing Instrument & Secure Clips to Prevent the Loss of Your Hearing Instrument, select A or B to view. A / B
AquaNots Swimming Gear from Westone & Custom Swim Plugs from Westone, select A or B to view. A / B
Telephones & Assistive Listening Devices & Hearing Aid Telephone Interconnect Systems, select A or B to view. A / B
Hearing Protection for Hunters and Shooters & TV Ears -- The Wireless Television Listening Device, select A or B to view. A / B
Custom Hearing Protection from Westone & Hearing Instrument Storage and Care Products from Westone, select A or B to view. A / B
Clear, Translucent & Skin Tone Earpieces for Your Hearing Instrument & Fashion-Forward EarArt from Westone, select A or B to view. A / B
Hands-Free Mobile and Cell Phone Products from Westone & Hearing Protection for Musicians and Music Lovers, select A or B to view. A / B
- Westone Custom Listening Solutions for Music Lovers & Westone Universal Fit In-Ear Musicians Monitors for Music Lovers, select A or B to view. A / B