AV People: Marty Schaffel of AVI-SPL

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marty-schaffel-headshot-0513For over 34 years, Marty Schaffel has been one of the hardest working men in the business.

In 1979, he started his first business with $2,000 selling Kroy lettering machines — machines that created black letters on scotch tape type material, transparencies and slides. He’d successfully convinced them to set him up as a dealer, and after just a year, Marty had over $1 million in recurring revenue.

From there he began selling projectors — movie, slide, overhead and film strip. Then he graduated to getting into video in the early 1980s. Marty loved AV and had the passion and the drive to keep growing his businesses and growing in his profession.

Then, in 1988, a man came walking in the door with a plastic picture frame and the first 8-bit Apple computer. Before he knew it, Marty was looking at data being projected from the computer onto a screen and was blown away by the power of the technology that lay before him.

Marty saw the opportunity in starting a display technology company and he began selling products over the Web. This all eventually evolved into complete systems integration.

“As AVI, we started opening offices around the country, Mexico and Puerto Rico and we just started growing,” said Marty. “In 2008, we were the world’s largest systems integrator and SPL was the second-largest, so we did what seemed only natural – we merged. Now, we are without a doubt the largest integrator in the world. In the past 34 years, it’s been an absolutely amazing entrepreneurial experience. I’ve worked in a wonderful environment.”

Marty is a firm believer that if you help others to be successful, the more successful you, yourself, will be come. And that’s clearly the case.

However, not only is Marty a savvy and incredibly hardworking business man, he is also a loyal and dedicated husband and father. Marty and his wife of 19 years, Mary Ann, met at a party in Tampa, Florida in 1989.

“I was so immersed in the business, I never thought I’d even give enough leeway to meet someone,” recalled Marty. “Many women before [Mary Ann] weren’t able to succeed in getting me to look past the business. But she was different; she understood my passion for the business. In fact, she quickly became the treasurer of the company and just retired in 2008.”

marty-schaffel-on-horse1-0513One of Marty’s favorite things is doing anything and everything he can with his 16-year-old daughter, Zoe.

“My daughter and I do a ton of stuff together,” explained Marty. “We take piano lessons together and play duets. We’ve taken tennis, golf and karate lessons together. We go to every Tampa Bay lightning hockey game and University of Florida football and basketball game together. And for about five or six years now, we’ve been competing in equestrian activities together.”

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Spending time and being active with his daughter is one of Marty’s priorities. And along the way, they’ve really developed a passion for horses. They currently own 12 horses, two of which just had babies. Just a few weeks ago, both Marty and Zoe won blue ribbons at the Pro-Am Saddlebread Show in Perry, Georgia. Mary Ann makes sure she’s involved, too – Marty calls her the operations manager.

“[My wife] makes sure we are in the right place at the right time, our outfits are there, hair and makeup (for my daughter) is done, and that everything is where it needs to be,” explained Marty.

And if that isn’t enough, Marty is also extremely passionate about being involved with philanthropic projects. In fact, Marty and his daughter Zoe have actually trained and become amateur optometrists. And with that, a few times a year, they travel to remote villages in the Dominican Republic to give eye exams and give glasses to people in need. They’ll go there with a couple thousand pairs of glasses and return home totally empty handed.

zoe-schaffel-eye-test-0513Marty also is involved in mentoring graduate students at the University of Florida in their entrepreneurial endeavors. He’s chairman of the board for an insurance company, on the boards of a bank, a performing arts center, his daughter’s school and a very fast-growing healthcare IT company. He donates about $1 million a year to charity, cancer research and other charitable projects that he is passionate about.

“It’s huge that people give back,” explained Marty. “And that’s something I love: giving back.”

In fact, AVI-SPL, as a company, has a community relations board that assists company employees in finding ways of getting involved in community events, charitable endeavors, walks, etc.

“When you’re in a big company that’s become so geographically dispersed, it’s so important to create the tools and templates for employees to be involved as an even further extra incentive,” Marty said.

This year, the Schaffel Cup is the newest award within AVI-SPL. It is an award that will travel every January to the office that does the most, per capita, community service hours.

In addition to his clear passion for business, family and community service, Marty explains that anyone can be successful in whatever career path they choose, “You have to be willing to reinvent yourself. Be able to self-examine and reinvent yourself constantly. Work hard. And you’ll be successful.”

If Marty’s work ethic and history is of any indication, he’s exactly right.

Molly Stillman is the director of marketing and new business development for rAVe [Publications]. Reach her at molly@ravepubs.com

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