The Tale Of How The Jands Export Business Started

The Tale Of How The Jands Export Business Started


Story by Paul Mulholland - Jands Owner & Managing Director

On a family trip some 15 years ago I was standing in Disneyland California with my 4 and 8 year old sons waiting to see a performance by Mickey and his friends. As the crowd built to my surprise out of the ground rose the FOH audio and lighting equipment and there in all its glory was a Jands 24 channel ESP lighting console. I think this was my first realisation that Jands were making inroads into the international market.

As I am sure any Australian manufacturer will attest it is not an easy road, you make mistakes, receive set-backs and at times wonder whether you will ever make it. Luck has played a tremendous part in our international success along with our heritage and Australian ingenuity.

Jands commenced business as a rental company in an era where many of the audio and lighting components used in a concert application were domestic based. This meant we were always prone to reliability and fragility failures. A story I like to tell many of our international suppliers, in order that they understand the importance of reliability, is when, in the early 70s I stood in front of 20,000 screaming fans enjoying a concert and told them the mixer power supply had failed and the concert was over! This was a reality in the 70’s and Jands crew fearing for their safety, should their equipment fail, became obsessed with reliability and redundancy. Out of these experiences was born a culture within Jands for quality and reliability that remains today.

The 80’s was a golden era for Australian manufacturers. Protected by high tariffs against international competition, companies like Jands could sell most of what they built. By the mid 80’s Australia was committed to lowering tariffs and Australian manufacturers had to compete internationally or close up shop. Jands decided to get out of the manufacture of audio products and concentrate on lighting consoles and developed what we hoped would be our first international product, the ESP 24 lighting console.

Full of optimism I left with a console under my arm bound for the UK where we had several leads for potential distributors. My first 3 visits resulted in thanks but no thanks and on my last day in London I headed for High Wycombe to meet a small company named AC Lighting who had been suggested as a potential distributor.

Arriving on British rail at the High Wycombe railway station, I was met by an employee, jumped in their car and headed off for my meeting. As we chatted about the weather and the like the driver commented that my accent was strange for someone from Manchester. I told him I had never been to Manchester and I was an Australian, to which he commented “You’re not here to see Frank about machine tools” and I replied “No. I’m here to see David about a lighting console”. As we went round the round-a-bout and headed back to the railway station I felt the day was not going well.

Back at the railway station we found the tool salesman and a driver in a black ACDC t-shirt comparing notes. Having quickly exchanged pleasantries and passengers I headed off to AC Lighting.

20 years later AC Lighting have gone from 3 employees to over 100 with offices in England and America and selling and promoting Jands products in these markets.

It was AC Lighting who suggested we have a drink with the principals from Flying Pig Systems after a PLASA trade show in the early 90’s. After several beers we had a business plan on the back of several beer coasters to jointly design and develop the Jands Hog systems. Jands recognised Flying Pig Systems as innovators in software and FPS had a great deal of respect for Jands’ ability to manufacture cost effective, reliable platforms. As the night progressed a relationship was born and went on to contribute to the Hog system becoming a world standard. It certainly enhanced Jands’ reputation worldwide.

Following FPS sale to High End, Jands realised we needed to take responsibility for our next console and embarked on the development of Vista. Australians are known innovators who enjoy pushing the envelope and I feel Vista reflects this attitude.

It is fair to say Vista has captured the attention of many operators around the world. It is particularly strong in the church market in the USA and the AV market. There is now a strong Vista community worldwide who actively contribute ideas and suggestions. Jands have excited the world with Vista, but in doing so, realised there is so much more we need to deliver! Armed with considerable feedback from our users, knowledge of current requirements in the lighting industry and significant new innovations suggested by the development team, we commenced re-writing the software over 2 years ago. First preview was at PLASA in September followed by LDI where there was universal acclaim for our new offering. Early next year it will be shipping and we look forward to continuing Jands reputation around the world.


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