Who has had the same boss for the last 20 years? Has it been the VP of sales? The head of R&D? How about the Director of Acquisitions?
Well, in the case of MAC Group, who has been distributing high-end photographic gear for the last 20 years, everyone in the company, including its president, has reported to just one person: the photographer.
No one has to ask his or her manager what to do. If it involves meeting the photographer's needs, satisfying an immediate problem or just making friends, MAC employees just do it. If they keep that philosophy in their sights, employees know they'll help MAC Group continue to grow, just like it has over the past two decades.
In 1987, when MAC Group was founded, photographers were shooting film - Kodachrome if you had enough light - although Fuji was fast making inroads. A 1 gig hard drive for a computer was the size of a power saw. High-powered strobes took five seconds to recycle and weighed 20 pounds.
But in the same year something called still video cameras were being introduced. In fact, the Canon RC-760 was used by USA Today for a cover shot. Talk about being on the precipice of change. The Associated Press announced began converting from analog to digital for faster transmission of photos (that effort took about five years to be completed). Young pioneering scientists were developing graphics programs for the popular Apple II computer. It would later be introduced as Photoshop 1.0 in 1990. Boy, the times they were a changing, for sure.
The visionaries at MAC Group felt those changes, and planned for the transition into this new digital world. At the time, Henry Froehlich and Jan Lederman had, along with Paul Klingenstein, formed an important tenet for MAC Group: take a premiere product that has been under-marketed and turn it into a premiere product designed to "enable the photographer or student to create the best possible images."
The first product line they undertook was Mamiya. The camera was known for having razor-sharp lenses but the brand was languishing in the marketplace. In its first five years, Mamiya sales went from 20% market share to about 50% market share (in units). The MAC name (Mamiya America Corporation) actually comes from this first product line. Sekonic was the first addition after Mamiya (and Toyo), and is the photographer's standard brand today for spot, flash and color temperature meters. Sales went from 20% of the market to an astounding 80% today. Profoto, the world’s gold standard for high-performance strobes, increased its presence in the U.S. tenfold thanks to MAC Group's efforts.
Tenba bags and carry gear increased sales by three times. As of today MAC Group represents ten brands: Eizo, Induro, Leaf, Mamiya, PocketWizard, Profoto, Sekonic, Tenba, Toyo-View and X-Rite. But two of those brands, Tenba camera cases and carry gear and Induro tripods are marketed and distributed worldwide by MAC Group.
The company has manufacturing and distribution facilities in Asia and the U.S. for these two brands.
MAC Group is a family with about 100 members. They work together, laugh together but surprisingly get things done the old-fashioned way: immediate customer satisfaction and a "do unto others" philosophy. As a result, the company has grown from simply a camera company to one that provides multiple tools for photographers, graphic artists and students. Instead of a prism finder, today's viewfinder is an Eizo precision monitor; color corrected and calibrated, of course.
Instead of a medium format film camera, today's photographer uses a Leaf AFi or Mamiya 645 AFD III auto-focusing digital camera that shows every pore on a model's skin, every sparkling detail on a diamond ring or every thread on the newest fashion collection. The photographers covering the Olympics this year all had PocketWizards on top of their cameras to trigger flashes and other remote cameras. Studio photographers looking for a pure white background all reach for a Sekonic meter. On and on the list goes, with MAC Products occupying the top rung for each and every need.
At a party celebrating their 20-years in business, president Jan Lederman described the phases of the company's growth. "The first was becoming a well-known camera company," he said. "The resounding success of Mamiya did that for us."
Like every successful company, MAC Group grew by focusing its energy and efforts toward a carefully-designed vision. It went from being solely a camera company to "a sales and marketing company dedicated to supplying photographers, educators and students with the finest tools and knowledge they need to create an image."
In order to communicate that mantra to dealers, representatives and consumers, the company started its own in-house advertising and public relations company, MACmar. Its team of writers, artists, photographers and Web designers work efficiently as a team with MAC's various Product Marketing Managers. MACmar professionals have an intimate knowledge of the company’s products, and can turn on a dime when speed is of the essence.