I was as shocked as anyone when I read the announcement that Runco International had been bought by Planar today. After all, Runco is a family business that has played a very significant role in the formation and viability of the custom installation channel. To find out that a company mostly known for manufacturing of industrial-display applications was the buyer, surprised me even more.
Planar is not a total stranger to me. I recently got to know the company a bit better when I interviewed the head of worldwide sales, Jim Davis (formerly of InFocus), for a projector story Im writing for the June issue of Residential Systems magazine. Davis explained to me that his current employer was in the process of applying its best-in-class engineering on working with ATMs and airplane cockpits to a full range of specialty home theater displays. I didnt give it a second thought. Little did I know that the custom installation landscape was about to change again.
The biggest shock to me, really, was imagining Runco International without Sam Runco at the helm. Now, it isnt as if Sam wasn’t already beginning to step back a bit. When he hired Bob Hana a couple years ago to serve as his president, it was clear that Sam wanted a little help running his business and maybe a little more time with his lovely wife, Lori, and three kids. Already, after a short time, Hana (formerly of NEC) had put his positive mark on the company, tightening delivery dates and improving communication with the press. I never imagined that he would soon find himself instead serving as vice president of worldwide sales and marketing for Runco and Vidikron, instead.
There are many questions answered in the press release and Q&A released today, but many thoughts still cross my mind. I wonder, for instance, if a company with the culture and imprint of a dynamic individual like Sam Runco, can continue to illicit the same cult-like status after its namesake steps aside to provide ongoing consultation as a key contributor. It remains to be seen.
Other companies in our industry have been swallowed up by larger entities, only to grow stronger with added resources and better supply chain management. My inside sources at Runco tell me that the same benefits are being promoted to the Runco team as they meet with their new owners. Many of the companys challenges over the years will probably be smoothed out with the worldwide resources and obvious deep pockets of Planar. Ultimately, my hope is that these added benefits will provide custom installation professionals with products quicker and more reliably, while not sacrificing the engineering prowess and, frankly, pricing model that are the hallmarks of Runco.
Runco is the kind of company where family truly matters, and where once they know you, you become part of their family for life. I hope that this sale is a benefit for everyone involved, but hopefully certain smaller things stay the same.
My dad has a saying that people want progress, but dont like change. I will learn more about this story as it unfolds, but heres hoping that things dont change too much.