Each week, I am highlighting some of the incredible people who are in the Audio Video Industry. As this blog is mostly about AV insiders, today we are profiling Marc LaVecchia .
Here is a brief intro about him.
Marc LaVecchia has worked in the Audiovisual industry for over 20 years. As of this article being published, he is the owner of BMA Software Solutions, Inc.
Please drop your questions in the comments below and I will make sure that he sees them.
1.Describe your journey in the AV industry? How did it start?
It started as a union of two desperate entities in the very early 90s. I was an unemployed marketing writer in Orlando, FL and my resume got a hit from a small projector manufacturer named AmPro in Titusville, FL. Their marketing manager had just quit, five weeks before INFOCOMM came to town. Not only was the company introducing a new line of CRT projectors, but it also hired a half dozen recently released Barco sales employees, while also hosting a dealer event at Cape Canaveral. I never worked as hard as I did that five weeks — 18 hour days, seven days a week — and I keep a photo of my scrawny, undernourished, overworked self on my desk to remember to never do that again for any living being.
Before AmPro went belly up, I worked briefly outside the industry in the Silicon Valley before running the gamut of AV manufacturers; Hughes-JVC to Stewart Filmscreen and ultimately to Crestron Electronics, where I spent almost 10 years running west coast operations. It was at Crestron where I saw firsthand how desperately the industry needed good controls programming services. Thirteen years ago I partnered with Barry Kunz, widely considered one of the best coders in the business, to start BMA Software Solutions. Today we have seven people, providing controls and DSP programming exclusively to the commercial AV market. We’re known for being at our best with complex systems, or to steal a line from former Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy, “When it’s too tough for them, it’s just right for us.”
2.What do you think are the challenges facing a new person who wants to join the industry.
To my eyes, there is one primary challenge facing a newbie to our industry: you have to be ready to do everything, preferably without being asked. Most everyone who has been in this business for years started in the trenches, and since they’re the ones hiring you, it’s a good idea to be ready to show your grit and do what it takes to move up. Find me a 20-year VP of Sales in our business and I’ll show you someone who crawled through dusty attics with a crimper in one hand and flashlight in the other to troubleshoot a lost video signal.
This isn’t the place to walk in with your new degree expecting a nice salary and benefits while sliding into your sexy new huddle space to sip latte handed to you from the company barista. But it is the place that will embrace you and train you, support you and promote you, for your entire career if you bring your grit and ability to take initiative.
3.What are the positives of working in this industry?
I’ve answered this differently over the past 26 years, but in the end it comes down to two things: people and opportunity.
This industry will always have opportunities for anyone willing to work. There’s a lot of talk about how few opportunities there are in this country for skilled workers to land jobs that pay well and offer growth. Our industry is the unsung hero to answer this call. Our industry is chock-full of upper-level managers, supervisors and business owners who started out as cable-pullers. But again, you must be willing to work; pay your dues, bring your ability to multi-task, think independently and take initiative. This business remains old school: nothing of value ever gets handed to you. You must earn it.
And then there are the people. I talk often about how one of my best customers today used to sit in AmPro’s factory over a quarter century ago, soldering resistors to circuit boards while I wrote marketing copy two rooms over. If this industry ceased to exist, I’d probably have two friends; my wife and my son.
4. What in your opinion would you change in the industry? What are the negatives that are prevalent ?
There are two things I would change, and they address the two primary negatives in our industry: misleading specs and trunk slammers.
Manufacturers must be more honest about features when they introduce new products. I understand the need to be progressive and forward thinking, but if we’re going to give end users the same early access to specs and products as we do for consultants and integrators, then everyone benefits if we are more honest about what they can really do in the field versus what they’re told they can do on a trade show floor. Being successful in this industry is difficult enough without having to explain why we can’t deliver something that was promised six months ago as a good idea, but is no longer part of the product development plan.
And trunk slammers? They still prevail because anyone can buy anything and pass themselves off as professional while doing terrible harm to the reputation of the industry as a whole. They buy jobs in hopes of change-ordering their way to profitability, and leave unhappy customers everywhere they go.
I grew up a pre-teen in the 70s working in my father’s little diner in a tiny town in the Catskills, and whenever a local bounced a check and wouldn’t make good on it, he’d tape it to the front of the register with the big “insufficient funds” stamp all over it. Every time someone came up to pay, they’d see all the bounced checks and immediately know who the deadbeats were.
I’d love to have a giant virtual cash register to which we could tape a list of all the trunk slammers giving our industry a bad name.
5. Describe your ideal client? What do you wish clients to know before hiring you.
First, our ideal client understands that programming for control systems, DSPs, and asset management needs a seat at the adult table at the kickoff of every project. Countless projects fail in the end because programming is considered that thing that needs to be done at the end of a project. Successful companies in our industry lead with functionality, standards and the user experience at the onset of a job.
Most every client/project we entertain gets held to what BMA calls The TMC Principle: three requirements for every job: Time to do it properly; Margins to ensure we can do it properly and stay in business; and Competency in the design and build of the project. The best program in the world can not run on a poorly designed and installed system that had to be rushed at 2% margin because someone planned and priced poorly.
If they know and accept this about us before hiring us, they will embrace it after they hire us.
[RELATED] : If you have missed any of the previous interviews, please click here.
6. If you were going to start over, what would you do differently ?
The first thing I would do is embrace the value of being wrong and making mistakes. Individually, these two things make terrific tools with which to beat yourself up. Together, they can be powerful enough to make you want to quit, run away and hide. It took me a while to understand and accept that being wrong and making mistakes are actually treasure troves of strength and growth, not just for me, and not just for my company, but for anyone watching you deal with them. Once I learned to openly and unashamedly admit them, accept them and work to avoid repeating them, everything changed for the better in all aspects of my life.
The second thing I would do differently is drill deeper and sooner with employees to find what makes their lives easier, either personally or professionally. You can put a process in place, but programmers are a special breed of cat in our industry, and you need to give them the flexibility and independence to do what they think is best at any moment. You also need to ensure that quality of life is a priority for them. Overworked programmers burn out quickly and they’re not very productive from the fetal position under their desk.
7. Describe a typical work day for you. What are your daily disciplines?
BMA is incredibly blessed because fully 100% of our business is referral and word of mouth. That said, while I own a programming company, I’m not a programmer. I subscribe to the Dennis Miller theory that successful people surround themselves with successful, smart people like a hole surrounds itself with a donut. So my typical day is to play traffic cop and ensure the donut is maintained by clearing distractions for the programming team and doing my best to give them smooth entrance and exit ramps for their projects. It also involves reviewing projects for pricing, updating schedules, shifting resources for support, tracking down device protocols, developing proposals for new jobs, or managing billables. Boring stuff, really.
My daily disciplines? Just one. I start each morning quietly in my office with a cup of coffee, reminding myself of my day’s priorities: my faith, my family and my job. In that order. You’d be surprised how much better your day goes when you start it that way.
8. Describe the apps and gear that you use daily which makes you more productive?
We turn to the usual suspects like Zoom for conferencing and online collaboration, but most recently we were turned on to Slack. The ability to communicate with the team, individually or collectively, on specific topics (like module searches or bugs or schedules) and have that data show up on your PC, phone and tablet without having to keep your emails in front of you has been a tremendous help to us. It cuts down on texts and emails, and gives us the ability to not just collaborate seamlessly, but also search previous discussions so easily. A great tool recommended by a great friend.
9. How do you stay relevant in this industry.
This is where I’m supposed to talk about keeping up with training on new products and certifications, and always being willing to have an answer or find the answer, but for me, the better answer is simply this: always be honest and always finish what you start, no matter what. You can be trained and certified out the nose, but if you are unable to be honest, and refuse to finish what you start for any reason, you’ll be rendered irrelevant very quickly.
Please connect with him on LinkedIn.