113THE IDEAL STORY—The 100-year History of IDEAL Industries
hours to 25 years. The new technology also allowed IDEAL to incorporate a switch
inside the connector, which enables the user to turn on a light remotely. Still in
development, Audacy promises to be a major advancement in lighting technology,
and one that could conceivably launch IDEAL into a new world of possibilities.
“Basically, we combined lighting controls into a connector, and hence, the
concept of a smart connector,” says Nolan Bello. “That was one of the key
elements of our whole lighting control system. So now we have technology in
areas we’ve never been in before. We have HVAC sensors, low-voltage DC lighting
control, and AC lighting control. And all of this is wireless.”
A SUCCESSFUL SUCCESSION
In 2014, Dave Juday retired from IDEAL Industries and handed over leadership
responsibilities to Jim James. For more than 40 years, Dave had helped IDEAL
remain a viable family-owned business, and he was able to look back at his tenure
with no small degree of satisfaction.
“I remember my ﬁrst day as chairman of the board,” he recalls. “I remember
being in my dad’s ofﬁce, but now it was mine. My ﬁrst thought was, ‘Don’t let it
go south on my watch.’ I asked myself what I would have to do to provide for my
grandkids the way my granddad provided for me. I think what I did, and what the
next generation has done in terms of managing the family, is take the long view.
We really do plan for generations and not for quarters.”
Today, the family that owns IDEAL Industries has come together around the
concept of stewardship, recognizing that their role is primarily to protect and
preserve the legacy of the business J. Walter Becker established a century ago.
“In a sense, stewardship is exactly what J. Walter started with,” Dave explains.
“He talked about ideal relationships, and that’s the basis of stewardship. It’s how
you relate and engage with those around you over time, and he put that into action
by providing employee insurance, medical insurance, paid vacations and a proﬁt
sharing program. So I think stewardship was always a part of what we did, but we
never talked about it that way.”
Among his accomplishments as chairman of the board, Dave Juday points to
three speciﬁc areas. Each one speaks to the constant theme of forward-thinking
leadership that was passed down from one generation to the next. First, his efforts
to create a family governance system brought about greater communication and
synergy between IDEAL’s shareholder group and its management team. His efforts
to ﬁnd the right management style, and the right CEO to implement it, led him
ultimately to Jim James, who has already demonstrated the vision and energy that
will propel the company forward into its second century. And ﬁnally, Dave Juday
acknowledges that he is the last of the “benevolent dictators.”
“I was third in line as a benevolent dictator,” he explains. “My granddad was,
my dad was, and I was. The buck stopped with me; but there won’t be one of those
in the next generation. The next generation’s role is completely different, because
there is no place for the old model anymore. Getting that on the table, and having
that group rise up and embrace those principles, that’s a good thing.”
development teams embarked on a
mission to develop new or improved
products that would meet future
demands in the marketplace. However,
that was not enough for Jim James.
In one meeting that quickly became
legendary, he issued an unusual
challenge to his product development
teams. He asked those in attendance,
“What would it take to put IDEAL out
of business?” After some discussion,
the obvious answer rose to the surface.
A company that built its reputation on
wire-related products, especially wire
connectors, would quickly go out of
business if wires became no longer necessary.
“Throughout our history, we have made improvements to the wire nut,” recalls
Dave Juday. “The original was ceramic, with a straight-sided spring. Then we went
to cold mold plastic, then better moldable plastic. Then we had a different kind
of spring, but a different shell, then a different spring in a different shell. There
were Wingnuts® in the sixties, but very little change in wire connectors during the
seventies and eighties. Around that time came push-in technology, but we decided
that was not for us. After Jim came along, we started trying to ﬁgure out push-in
technology, and several of us made trips around the world to see if we could buy
the technology, but to no avail. Finally, one of our engineers, a brilliant guy named
Sushil Keswani, said we can do this and went to work on it.
“So, from the 1920s until about 2005, the wire connector was our signature
product, and we had improved it somewhat, but not radically. That’s when Jim
James comes along and says, ‘You guys are doing a great job on connectors, but
now I want you to make them obsolete.’ I was stunned, but his reasoning was
clear. If we don’t make them obsolete, somebody else will. That’s what led us to
developing the Audacy products.”
Basically, the Audacy technology gives new meaning to wire connectors. The
essential ingredient is utilizing ambient energy – a very low current – that was
already being developed to improve the life of a cell phone battery from about eight
DEAL’s founder, J. Walter Becker, established his business with an innovative product, the commutator dresser, which signiﬁcantly improved
productivity and quality in industrial environments. Since then, innovation has remained at the forefront of IDEAL’s strategy for expanding
and maintaining its customer base. In 2012, the IDEAL Networks SignalTEK® II Qualiﬁer was named one of the Top Thirty Technology Innova-
tions by Security Sales & Integration magazine, just one example of IDEAL’s commitment to bringing innovative products to the market.
SIGNALTEK II QUALIFIER CITED FOR INNOVATION
112 THE IDEAL STORY—The 100-year History of IDEAL Industries
IDEAL engineer, Shushil Keswani, successfully led
the company’s effort to develop the technology to
produce push-in connectors.
Top: An easy-to-install component of Audacy
Wireless Controls. Bottom: The Audacy Remote
Switch controls Luminaire lights with the touch
of a button.