Oral Histories

Interview of John C. Best

Founder of Ponder & Best, Inc. and the Vivitar Corporation which were manufacturers, distributors, and marketers of photographic and optical equipment.
Subtitle:
Entrepreneurs of the West: John C. Best
Series:
Entrepreneurs of the West
Topic:
Business
Interviewer:
Roberts, William H.
Interviewee:
Best, John C.
Persons Present:
Best and Roberts.
Place Conducted:
Best's office in Santa Monica, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by William Roberts, intern, UCLA Oral History Program; B.A., Anthropology, Yale University; M.B.A, John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management, UCLA. Roberts prepared for the interview by reviewing the Ponder & Best catalog, other Ponder & Best data at the Graduate School of Management, and John Best's files containing photos, news releases, house organs, Vivitar catalogs, and news clippings.
Processing of Interview:
Catherine de Pury, editorial assistant, edited the interview. She checked the verbatim transcript of the interview against the original tape recordings, edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names. Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed. Best reviewed the edited transcript and made minor corrections for the purposes of clarity. He made two additions to the text. David Gist, assistant editor, reviewed the transcript and prepared the table of contents, biographical summary, interview history, and index.
Length:
13 hrs.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series is a cooperative venture between the Oral History Program and the MBA Program in UCLA's John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management and has been further supported by the Price Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.
Abstract:
Childhood in Germany; working at Gebrüder Simon; expansion of father's business; marriage to Ina Best; the Prussian work ethic; international barter system; departure from Germany; arrival in New York; looking for work on West Coast; photographic equipment sales; birth of Ponder and Best partnership; sales of photographic supplies and services to American troops; division of duties at Ponder and Best; Ponder and Best represents Rollei after World War II; expansion to national distribution; Dodger Camera Day; a new 35 mm line; selling Japanese-made lens under Ponder and Best name; first contacts with Japanese; Matsushita; management and labor philosophies in Japan and America; product development; competition; international financial dealings; Vivitar's future; diversification beyond photographic industry into computers and security systems; Best's unofficial roles at Vivitar; top-level decision making; risks of entrepre-neurship; entrepreneurial decision making; America provides healthy entrepreneurial environment; how to recognize and correct entrepreneurial failure; Japanese work ethic; government regulation hinders trade; Matsushita's involvement with Vivitar; Japanese industry's increasing infiltration of the United States; interest in art and art collecting; fight against World War II German-Jewish internment; Jewish organizations; chari-table affiliations; diversification; international banking and the unpredictable United States dollar; Vivitar's involvement in lens design; practical versus academic education; Best's greatest achievements and greatest disappointment; advice to Americans doing business with the Japanese.