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 Dan Freeman. Here is his brief introduction.
Dan Freeman is the Owner and CEO of VDO360, a cutting edge visual communications products and services provider located in Seattle, Washington, USA.
1. Describe your journey in the AV industry? How did it start?
I received a job offer from Boeing to be a Line Mechanic (I have my FAA A&P license) on the same day I received an offer to start as a Field Engineer for T-Line Services in Seattle. After discussing the options with my wife- steady union job vs. new technology field- she understood that there was something interesting brewing in communications and it would be something I would thrive in.
After a few years of constant learning, I found I had a real knack for not just the technical side of the business, but that the customer facing relationships were key to the business. The Field Engineer(FE) is generally the face of the industry to most users. He/She is the last person the customer sees, the FE is usually the person who gives the system orientation, the FE is the person who will generate the next sale. If they have done their job right the customer will be utilizing the equipment with confidence and the company they work for will realize a greater ROI than if they just “dropped” the gear.
During the “Dot-Com” bust of the early 2000’s, we in the industry found that the resellers were pulling back in the services department. I took that opportunity to start VCAV Services along with a partner Engineer from the East Coast and we began the first “Tech as a Resource” organization. VCAV was a place that resellers and manufacturers could go to get quality installation and technical troubleshooting, first nationwide, then world-wide. A lot of great relationships were made and we set the standard by which many organizations have followed in our stead.
In 2010/2011 I was noticing a change in the mix of products requiring our services, a lot less boardrooms, a lot more small space installs. I started researching this new software based collaboration and saw the potential very early on. I left VCAV and started VDO360 specifically to address the lack of affordable peripheral products for this burgeoning market.
Having a huge resume of over 3000 conference spaces personally installed all over the World, and having trained face-to-face well over 10,000 new users, I have some unique insights into how the industry needs to address the “user”.
VDO360 products are all designed with that end user in mind as well as the actual consumer of the video stream.
2. What do you think are the challenges that are facing a new person who wants to join the industry?
The business today is only different in the technologies driving the data- ISDN was a real challenge to learn and then excel at troubleshooting, computer networks of today are that same challenge. Knowing how to do the technical aspects of an installation are vitally important, but having great customer facing skills will do just as much for your long term career. Learn networks, but learn how to present yourself and communicate clearly as well.
Hardware will change, software will adapt, but people skills are the base that you can always depend on.
3. What are the positives of working in this industry?
I have a driving philosophy that Visual Collaboration is one small way that we can break down the barriers between the multitude of “tribes” that humans establish. The democratization of the video space- the move from the boardroom to the desktop- is a great way for people who may have never had the opportunity to see their co-workers, or even their clients, to become comfortable with a person that doesn’t look like them, that doesn’t have the same culture as them, and from that experience perhaps have a different perspective of people outside of that video call.
There is also the chance to always learn something, and maybe even come up with a unique way to do or build something every day, and that keeps me interested in researching new technologies. I am not the only one doing that- this cycle of creating products and services is exponential in growth.
And, of course, the people that are working in this business are passionate as well as intelligent. They are all a part of the community I am proud to call myself a part of.
[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?
I see two changes as primary, I strive against them daily.
Silos, tear them down. There is absolutely no need for me to ask “What Platform do you like” when setting up a video meeting. I have no issue in calling from my cell phone to someone’s satellite phone, from my desk to someone else’s desk, from my home to someone’s office. All without asking about who their carrier is or what kind of device they are on- the same thing should be true of video.
“Good enough”. This one really gets me- it seems that there is a large number of companies and people that feel that the end user experience can be degraded and that will be OK in the long run. I feel exactly the opposite- “good enough” is the bane of the industry. It will cause people to not want to experience their communications in the fully immersed way we want them. Why bother with video if it is just “good enough”? “It doesn’t look as good as I saw on TV last night” or “My grandmother can’t use it”, etc.. It is our responsibility to make things better, not just good enough.
5. Describe your ideal client? What do you wish clients to know before hiring you?
We deal with a wide range of clients, from distribution to dealers, to large enterprise, to the smallest single device buyer. All of them have different requirements, but I would have to say, my favorites are the ones who share my passion for what we can do as an industry and not just what we can do for ourselves.
As to what customers should know- I, and VDO360, can be your partner as you navigate the process of selecting hardware to outfit your rooms and will use our experience in the market to help select the correct items.
6. If you were going to start over, what would you do differently?
Marketing, marketing, marketing- while our products are considered by our customers to be of the highest quality, our brand name is not as well known as it could be. That limits who gets access to our line. Our competitors have a leg up in marketing as we are completely self-funded. Head to head comparisons we will win.
7. Describe a typical work day for you. What are your daily disciplines?
At email exchanges by 0600 and meeting via video (what platform? LOL) several times during the day. Product development is always forefront and I am sitting here at my desk with at least 6 different camera in various stages of development. Try to shut down for a few hours at 1700, but back at it as the day goes on for our clients in other world markets.
8. Describe the apps and gear that you use daily which makes you more productive?
Obviously, our amazing cameras and peripherals, along with our partners different collaboration apps.
9. How do you stay relevant in this industry?
Read, listen, and participate in learning new technologies every day.
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.