Wired For Success
Christian PoulsenWords Paul Watson
DPA's Christian Poulsen is one seriously driven CEO. With a hint of the Apple ethos in his approach to business, he is firmly at the heart of everything productive in his company – and he wouldn't have it any other way...
It's quite rare to see someone at the top of the tree so clued up on the technology behind the products – how do you keep focus?
I think I've taught myself over the years to take a step back when necessary and say, 'OK, if I was coming into this fresh, what would I actually do?' I mean, when you're involved in daily things, it's exciting and it's fun, but it's also difficult; I find if you force yourself to think like that then it's a good way of keeping on top of things. I try to involve myself a lot because when you're trying to deliver so many products to multiple markets, there will always be plenty of decisions and compromises that need to be made. If you want to get a lot of things accomplished in a company, then you need to be efficient; and if I take responsibility, any wrong decisions are always on me, which relieves pressure from the rest of the team.
I know you don't want to be tagged as 'the Apple of microphones', but there are some parallels, no?
DPA and Apple are clearly worlds apart, but DPA is a product management driven company and Steve Jobs was probably the best product manager the world had ever seen; he drove the company and put himself at the centre of everything. I think most management and consultancy firms would say that this approach ultimately hinders growth, having to participate in all decisions, but personally I think it's the opposite way round.
How much of your business structure is focused on products?
It's all about the products for us. If you have management meetings every two weeks with lots of administrators then you think your business is administrating, and that is not DPA's business; we would die if we started to administrate. You don't need to talk about finance strategy every two weeks; it's product strategy and communication strategy that we need to talk about all the time. We need to innovate and bring in new products, and we need to do this with end users and technology leaders.
Your d:facto II mic looks like being a real breakthrough for DPA; al- though it's analogue, users can also use the d:facto capsule with a string of leading wireless systems using your wireless adapter. What was the thought process there?
We would never have have brought out a vocal mic unless we felt we could beat a mic as good as the Neumann KSM 105, which we thought was the world's best condenser mic. A lot of our industry now is driven by wireless and the investment in wireless is so heavy due to the high cost, but it annoyed me that people were locked with a wireless system and a capsule, as there are some very big differences in capsules. I wanted to break that up, so we carried out some serious tests with all of the leading wireless systems across various different parameters; and then we found out that because of the way wireless works, there is capacity to choose some of those. We deliberately limited some of the amplifiers because some of them will distort a lot, even though a mic capsule can take high sound pressure; that's why we made probably the most thorough test of sound quality through wireless systems that anybody has ever done – and we don't even do wireless systems! [laughs] It was important to us that our capsule could work with as many of these preferred wireless systems as possible.
Will DPA ever go down the wireless route?
I was tempted a couple of years ago, but it's not part of our plan, no. If you're ambitious, which I am, then you very often sit down and say to yourself, 'let's be the new Sennheiser' or 'let's be the new Shure', but luckily enough, I got to rethink and realised that our real strength is that we are a 'one of a kind' microphone manufacturer. Nobody else can do what we can do, so why not get the most out of that instead? We will never be the new Sennheiser or Shure, and actually I don't even want to be; what we think now is: 'let's be champion of our own field'.