In my biweekly blog series, I am highlighting some of the incredible people who work for the Audio Video Industry. In this post, we are profiling Chad Allen. Here is his brief introduction.
Chad Allen is a Group Advisor at Pulse Group LLC, an automation solutions and software development firm located in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
1. Describe your journey in the AV industry? How did it start?
As a child I had the ability to take apart and fix anything. By the time I was a teen, it transitioned from putting together bikes from scrap metal to tricking out car stereos. At 16, I applied to go to a vocational high school in Las Vegas for electronics. At the time, I was just coasting through with little to no direction on what my future would look like. I was not a troubled kid by any means, but being raised without a father, I certainly had an edge and developed a disdain for authority. My electronics teacher saw through my rough exterior and challenged me to grow. He met with my mother, took me golfing, and was proud when I won the silver medal at the vocational yearly competition. Unfortunately, we had a falling out in front of the class one day and I believe he realized I needed a different kind of challenge than the one he could provide in a high school setting. He got me a job and the school put me on work study.
I took the job he found for me and turned it into a career throughout high school. Not long after I graduated I started a company by merging with a phone, data cabling and phone system company. My partner and I added a security and AV division to the firm that we ran until we sold it in 2012.
When I was old enough to realize how lucky I was to have someone who cared, he had passed from kidney failure. I never got to apologize and say thank you. One of my greatest regrets.
2. What do you think are the challenges that are facing a new person who wants to join the industry?
People have to have the ability to constantly learn and change. That’s all the industry does. AV is not for those who crave stability. You have to be inventive and stay ahead of the curve. You have to evaluate what will stick, what won’t, and what is on the way out.
This space is a luxury space. It’s feast or famine depending on the economy, technology, and overall industry trends. Without recurring revenue for stability, smaller companies struggle through the downtimes. A huge problem I find with smaller firms is that they struggle with figuring out where they start and stop. Knowing the size and types of jobs you should take on will allow you to grow in your focused business model. You have to be able to walk away from some jobs and refer them out if they’re out of your wheelhouse. Go slow to go fast. If turning away work is not feasible, make partnerships with outsourced programming firms to expand your bandwidth without jeopardizing client satisfaction.
3. What are the positives of working in this industry?
Getting to be on the bleeding edge of technology. You get to be the gatekeeper of what to try and what not to try.
I also love seeing jobs finish strongly. I have been fortunate to see 70k square foot homes and everything in between, massive industrial spaces, 89 meter yachts, beach houses, casinos and more, all come to life – it’s an unreal experience that most people will never get.
Most recently, my company launched a new division into software development. I realized everything I learned about keeping jobs organized in the AV industry would benefit in this other area. It’s been a fun process and helping us to expand and push past our comfort zones.
[RELATED] : If you have missed any of my previous interviews, please click here.
4. What in your opinion would you change in the industry? What are the negatives that are prevalent?
Our industry used to be an elite one that you had to work your way into. You were not guaranteed access to the best lines because you had to prove you could first sell the product and deliver the best outcomes. Now everyone can have everything.
The playing field is not even comparable to the way it used to be. Great opportunities are spec’d completely wrong, typically based on experience and not budget or even customer’s desires. This means our customers are less satisfied with their experience because they were not necessarily looking for the best deal in our industry but rather the best partner and the coolest project.
Relationship means everything, and we need to get back to that.
5. Describe your ideal client? What do you wish clients to know before hiring you?
My ideal client for either my AV Division or Software Division is someone who understands programming and the value of an outsourced team.
I want all my clients to know that their project working matters more than their final payment. Specifically, two key things:
- They are very excited and satisfied with the outcome and that includes getting the final 10% perfected (the final 10% is so often overlooked).
- We are married. Make sure you like me. As integrators we are simply bringing a bunch of manufactures and their products online and in sync. We are not responsible for every failure, and there are many, but we do have to take ownership of keeping the customer up and running. This means there is an agreement you accepted before we started to help fund maintenance outside of continuation items.
6. If you were going to start over, what would you do differently?
I believe in the power of recurring revenue for businesses. It allows business owners the freedom to endure the down times, which are very common in the AV industry. I would have made sure my business had a recurring revenue model from the beginning.
7. Describe a typical work day for you. What are your daily disciplines?
I can’t dilly dally in the morning. My family knows that it’s key to just help me get out of the house and get to the office as quickly as possible. From the moment I arrive, I have folded in half a new piece of paper, grabbed my blue medium marker pen, and begin to compile my list from the day before and any notes I made in my phone the night before and put them all into a new list for the day. I then prioritize that list by:
A. Items that need immediate resolution
B. My schedule for the day
C. My role and the specific needs of the company for the day (marketing, sales, admin duties, leadership, or specialty)
I take an hour per day for BJJ or kickboxing 3 days a week to keep my mind prioritized and focused. I am always home between 5-6 and spend quality time with my wife and kids. At night, before bed we all read a chapter of the bible and usually watch a show together.
8. Describe the apps and gear that you use daily which makes you more productive?
My top 3 apps are Adobe XD, Visio, and Slack.
Adobe XD: Since we are a programming firm wasting my time (since I don’t program) is much better than wasting a programmers time. You would be surprised how many hours and how much more money you can make putting all parties on the same page with documentation and user interface. This also helps draw the line with change orders. If the customer scope creeps like crazy, the signed off UI really helps have a conversation and many times it is not even asked for as the customer knows what they purchased.
Visio: I work with programmers already and don’t want to work with more (you know that programmer personality). Talented CAD folks tend to have similar challenges. Visio is much easier to train and we are not asked to provide CAD specific even though we can do it. Less divas!
Slack: My inbox is finally clear!!! Enough said, if you haven’t already, join slack.
9. How do you stay relevant in this industry?
if you’re paying attention you’re not talking granular with a customer you’re talking big vision, you’re talking passion. To stay relevant in technology is letting the customer lead. This evolves your company. I like to use the extreme makeover home edition example. Each house had nice floors, walls, granite, etc – but each house ALSO had one special element that was unique to that family – the “Ty Room”. Each customer you work with will want the same thing, you just have to listen. That is how you stay relevant and create new ideas to showcase going forward. Find the Ty room.
Side Note: Never introduce the latest product without setting proper expectations and even providing a discount so the expectations can be patient ones.
To know more about him or his business, please connect with him on Linkedin.
Also please drop your questions in the comments below and I will make sure that he sees them.