Lakewood, NJ–James Cowan, president of Neutrik USA, passed away on November 5, 2008 due to cancer at the age of 52.
Jim worked for Neutrik for 20 years, starting out as general manager, then vice president. He was named president in March of 2000 and was well known and widely liked by the pro audio industry.
Werner Bachman, CEO of Neutrik AG and a friend for 20 years says, “Jim was a wonderful leader with just the right combination of business skills and personal qualities. But more than that, he was an industry icon and a genuinely caring person who touched everyone with his kindness. He would always take time out to ask how you or your family were doing and looked you in the eye with a true look of concern. He was sincere and never took himself too seriously. No matter how busy Jim was he always made the time to talk to you, especially at trade shows. He never missed a show until recently. I know he will be sorely missed by an industry he so significantly impacted.”
In addition to running a company, Jim was also concerned for others and was instrumental in Neutrik’s numerous donation efforts, offering the company’s equipment to such organizations and schools as Brookfield Academy, La Sierra University and Michigan State University. Jim was also a proud member of PAMA (Professional Audio Manufacturers Alliance), an organization for senior executives leading the companies that manufacture professional audio products.
Beyond those organizations with ties to the professional audio community, Jim was a philanthropic benefactor to organizations such as Oceans of Love, which provides help for children with cancer, ALS Association (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a.k.a. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the Food Bank of New Jersey, among others.
Prior to joining Neutrik, Jim held various positions with such companies as Texas Instruments, Panduit Corp. and Dialight-Kulka-Smith. He received a bachelor of science in marketing and economics as well as a master’s degree in marketing from Monmouth University in New Jersey.
In addition to his role as company president, Jim was also the proud father of his two sons Gregory and Dan, and the loving husband to wife Kate. Following the example set by his grandfather to work hard and never give up, Jim believed in the values of giving and keeping your word to others, respecting others for their opinions, listening, and not forgetting the roots in which you started from in life and in business.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Ocean of Love, 1709 Highway 37 E., Toms River, NJ 08753. Or by visiting their website at http://ocean-of-love.org/.
Many of Jim’s colleagues have shared their thoughts. Following are tributes compiled by his co-workers and friends at Neutrik USA.
“My partner and I first met Jim Cowan at a NAMM show in 1994 when our company, English Technical Sales (ETS), was newly representing Neutrik,” remembers Cameron English. “Although NAMM was a bit rougher around the edges back then, Jim was the consummate professional right from the start. For the next 14 years, ETS and Neutrik worked together and had both experienced many changes. At one point during that period, in 2003 with technology and economic cycles being what they are, ETS found its business in serious jeopardy when two of its major suppliers merged and were acquired by competitors. We had two major suppliers remaining, one of them being Neutrik. Many of our employees and suppliers started to speculate about the future of our company, especially after one month when, due to factors totally out of our control, we lost over 50% of our income. Between the collapse of the telecom boom and the merger/acquisition trend, we knew our future would be challenging.
“In the months that followed, one of our suppliers responded by putting us on notice for termination “just in case” things did not work out. Our meeting with Jim and Neutrik, however, was a complete contrast to the one we had with our other supplier. I mentioned to Jim that I had good news and bad news, the good news being that Neutrik had just become the company’s largest supplier partner. The bad news, however, was that we had to let three of our 15 people go as part of our recovery plan.” Jim responded by saying, ‘I want you guys to know that you have our support. Do what you have to do to rebuild your business. Just know that Neutrik will stand by you and not jump to another representative just because you are struggling. We respect the job you have done for us, and believe you guys will recover… You have our commitment.’
“I will never forget the leadership and integrity of that type of a commitment during a difficult time. I am happy to report that our company continues to thrive, and Neutrik continues to remain our single largest supplier. Jim’s loyalty, leadership, and warmth always showed in the friendships he maintained with his partners and employees. Although we were his representative, he made us feel like valued partners and friends. Jim will always be remembered as one of the best friends and partners my team and I have ever had the pleasure of knowing in this life.”
It is very sad for me to write about Jim’s passing as I’ve always considered him to be a true mentor and friend,” says Gregory Schwartz, President, BTX Technologies, Inc. “I met Jim 16 years ago when I had just joined BTX (Bi-Tronics). He immediately took an interest in how I was trying to grow my company. He supported my efforts by suggesting spiffs, sales games and other things he’d seen work over his career. When I asked him to participate, he always said yes first, and asked how much it would cost later.
“Over the years, Jim genuinely took pride in our growth, both with his product line and in general. Jim always requested our honest opinion about potential new Neutrik products and gave us ideas as well. Whenever I saw him, at a trade show or on a sales call, he always had encouraging words to say. He challenged me, laughed at me and educated me–often in the same sentence. As I got older, Jim always asked about my family and spoke about his. And when I came home from the hospital with my first child, a huge gift basket was waiting for my baby boy with a stuffed teddy bear at the top.
“There was something uniquely sincere and meaningful about Jim Cowan, and his passing is a terrible loss. I will think about him often and miss him greatly.”
“I first met Jim in 1982 when he was with Dialight/Kulka-Smith as a product manager,” says Larry Mills of Mills Marketing, Inc. “We worked closely with the customers to develop business with existing products and also to listen to the customers’ needs and develop new products. Jim’s enthusiasm and love of the industry was unbelievable. Dialight, at that time, was the U.S. agent for Neutrik AG and was one of the product lines under Jim’s management. As Neutrik’s business grew in the U.S., a decision was made by Neutrik AG to start a U.S. division of Neutrik and Jim was chosen as the manager to develop that market. And what an unbelievable job he did. He put together a team of people to service the customers and continued to listen to the customers’ needs while developing new products to broaden the Neutrik product line to what it is today.
“I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to work with Jim over all these years and to have been a good friend as well. Jim will truly be missed by all.”
Debbe Stephenson, President, Pro Co Sound remembers, “I first met Jim Cowan in 1990 when he was visiting Pro Co Sound. We were able to spend time together not only discussing business, but talking philosophy, world affairs and our passion for good wine and fine dining. Every time Jim and I were able to get together, whether a trade show or a visit we made time to talk about our personal lives as well as our business. Jim helped me throughout all the years with his advice and unending belief in my abilities to be successful in this industry.
“I know that not only will I miss his warmth, his sense of humor and generosity, but also his strength and never-ending belief in all people. Jim made the world a better place and he will live on in the hearts of many.”
“As I sit down to collect my thoughts about my dear friend Jim Cowan, I can’t help but think about his family as I am now focusing on cooking Thanksgiving dinner for mine,” says Lisa Williams, President, The RapcoHorizon Company. “Jim and all of the staff at Neutrik have been more than just business associates to Dale and me. Jim’s passing, like all of the ones of people we love, was very difficult for his family–including his Neutrik family, his music industry family and for us. The full impact of his loss hasn’t really even set in yet, but I know over the next six weeks, as we share the holidays with our loved ones, the toughest part of his passing will be felt by his family and friends because this is a time to share, be joyous and thankful for the goodness in all of our lives. For me that is what I will always remember about Jim Cowan, all the goodness, which I shared with him. I am so thankful to have had Jim as my friend. I know that he is in a better place, still reminding all of us in everything we do that his memory lives on. As this holiday season is fast upon us, remembering Jim and his family in our thoughts and prayers, I know would be greatly appreciated by Jim; God Bless you, Jim, and thank you for being a part of my life.\”
“What a terrible loss,” says Paul Gallo, Executive Director, Professional Audio Manufacturers Alliance. “Jim was the best, a truly caring man who touched everyone he knew with his kindness and concern. He was a loving family man with two wonderful sons he adored, and was remarkably smart, with a keen business sense. An honorable business colleague, Jim cared deeply for Neutrik and his family of co-workers. A key supporter during my tenure at Pro Sound News, he was a founding member of PAMA and served on our Board. Jim was one of the finest human beings ever to grace our business and the world we live in. His warmth, caring and especially his friendship will be missed by all of us who were blessed enough to know him. I was one of those lucky people and am thankful for the good times and knowledge we shared.”
“I had known Jim for close to 30 years,” says Fred Besnoff, Product Applications Manager, Neutrik USA, “first as a friend and then as a friend and employer. In life we are surrounded by many constants as well as many variables. The variables we may not be able to control but the major constants in Jim’s life were his love and pride for his boys, his love for his company and employees, and his passion for people. Whether they were his customers, friends or family, Jim loved people and people loved him. Jim worked hard and was very proud of his accomplishments. Don’t confuse pride with ego. Jim was proud and pushed himself to extremes that surprised most people. Those who had the pleasure of knowing Jim loved him. He will be greatly missed. He will also be a tough act to follow!”
Julie Applegate, Executive Manager, Neutrik USA, asks, “What is the measure of a person? Is it the number of friends they amass? Is it the important people they surround themselves with? Is it their wealth or possessions? Could it be their position or station in life?
“Perhaps it’s none of these things. Maybe the sum total of a person isn’t what they’ve accomplished or left undone, or what they’ve achieved or failed to do. I believe that the measure of a person is calculated by the affect their life has had on ours. It is in the collective experiences we share that give us a true understanding of the impact their life had on ours.
“In fact, the only things left behind after we die, other than personal possessions, are the memories we leave in the hearts and minds of others.
“It is in this spirit that we remember Jim, whom I had a 20-year business relationship and friendship with. It is in the testimonies and stories we share when we recall the impact he had on our lives. It’s in the knowledge that Jim had a tremendous influence on those around him and provided us with many wonderful memories. Indeed his love for us is reflected in each one of these memories. God bless you Jim Cowan.”
“I worked with Jim Cowan for many years,” remembers Gina Rider, Customer Service Manager, Neutrik USA. “He was a great guy; he knew so much about our industry and was well liked by everyone. I was surprised when we first started to travel together how much time he would take to talk to everyone we met on the road, and he always would ask about each person and their families, that always meant a lot to me, and he was always very sincere.
“Jim had taught me many things in these last 19 years, and I will use all he has taught me. For instance, even when things get tough, we have to be tougher and work harder and smarter. He believed that no matter where we went on the road, it was the people that we met along the way that meant the most and the relationships that were formed would last a lifetime. He also always told me to not forget the small things and to take time to smell the flowers.
“It is not the same without Jim and he is sorely missed by us here at Neutrik USA. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t think of him and reminisce for a moment of what he would think or say. He had a plaque over his office door that read: “Nobody gets in to see the wizard; not no way, not no how.” The truth is, everyone and anyone got in to see the wizard–and what a wonderful wizard he was.”