Full Compass Systems

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Full Compass Systems, Ltd.
IndustryPro Audio, Video, Lighting, and Musical Instruments
HeadquartersMadison, WI
Key people
Craig Johnson, CEO
Jonathan Lipp, co-founder
Susan Lipp, co-founder, Chairman
Mark Nash, President
ProductsPro Audio, Video, TV, Photo, Musical Instruments, Lighting and Theatrical, Computers and Software
Number of employees

Full Compass Systems is a US retailer of professional audio, professional video, lighting equipment and musical instruments. In addition to offering more than 800 manufacturer brands and over 100,000 products, the company also provides services such as computer systems integration and equipment rentals (rentals available in WI only). Full Compass is an authorized service center and parts distributor for many brands they carry. The company was founded in 1977 by Jonathan and Susan Lipp and is located in Madison, Wisconsin.[1]


Full Compass' 140,000-sq. ft. corporate headquarters serves as the distribution center for all shipped merchandise, as well as a walk-in retail store for local customers. The 80,000-sq. ft. warehouse stocks over 800 manufacturer brands.[2] The facility also features two working production studios, a technology museum that is open to the public, and an on-site "Backstage Bistro" with a full-time kitchen staff to serve employees and visitors.[1]

Highly trained sales professionals make up about one-third of the approximately 200 employees at Full Compass. The company is recognized as one of the largest woman-owned business in Wisconsin.[3]


Early Years[edit]

Full Compass Systems began in 1971 as a professional sound studio in Madison, WI. The company was founded by Johnathan and Susan Lipp. In 1977 Jonathan Lipp incorporated Full Compass Systems, Ltd. to provide professional sound equipment to a wider market.[2] His wife, Susan Lipp, joined the company as President and 2nd employee in 1978 and added her experience in marketing, personnel management and theatrical production.[4]


The company opened its first retail store in Madison, WI in 1979 with a staff of four, and offered lighting equipment in addition to audio equipment.[5] By the end of the 1980s, the company expanded its product line to over 350 equipment manufacturers, including video and theatrical equipment. During the 1990s, Full Compass offered its first color catalog.[6] In 1995, the company's enormous growth prompted the need for expansion into a 72,000-sq. ft. building with a 42,000-sq. ft. warehouse in Middleton, WI.[7] In 1998, the company formed its computer Integration department to address the increasing use of computers in the industry, and opened its Compass Xpress division to serve customers in off-hours.[8]

2000 to Present[edit]

The 2000s continued the retail industry's shift to eCommerce.[9] Full Compass responded in 2003 and 2004 by beginning to sell products on eBay.com and Amazon.com, respectively. Shortly thereafter, the company launched its own eCommerce site in 2006.[5] By 2008, the company's inventory had grown too large for the Middleton facility. A new 140,000-sq. ft. facility was designed, built, and occupied by July 1, 2009 and is the current headquarters for Full Compass.[10]

Currently, Full Compass employs a full-time staff of approximately 200.[2] The company regularly releases a semi-annual catalog for the Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter seasons.[11]


  1. ^ a b Newman, Judy (2009-10-07). "Growth at Full Compass leads to new $13.5 million building". Wisconsin State Journal.
  2. ^ a b c "SBA 100 - Full Compass Systems".
  3. ^ Zaferos, Barb (2011-07-22). "Top-of-the-List - Women-owned businesses, software companies". The Business Journal.
  4. ^ Newman, Carlise (1999-06-27). "Lipp takes family approach to build audio firm". The Business Journal.
  5. ^ a b "Full Compass Systems - Company History".
  6. ^ Hawkins, Lee Jr. (2000-09-10). "Microphones help entrepreneurs amplify sales". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. p. 1D.
  7. ^ "News Release - Full Compass Celebrates Grand Opening". 1996-01-25.
  8. ^ "Full Compass Systems - Integration".
  9. ^ "History of Ecommerce".
  10. ^ "Full Compass Systems Begins Move to 140,000 SF Facility". 2009-06-17.
  11. ^ "Full Compass - Catalog".