THIS IS A PROMOTED POST FROM AV DESIGNS NOW
Introducing Tony Sprando, aka Tony, the AV Guy, who joined our BlogSquad in the winter of 2016 and is now in the process of creating a new and different type of AV business. As an industry veteran, I wanted to share and highlight his past experiences, what he’s learned along the way and how he hopes to serve colleagues and customers in the future. Here we go:
rAVe: How did you first get involved with this industry?
Tony: I was always the one in my family who read the manuals to all the electronics my dad brought home. He bought the tech and I learned everything about it from the new Apple computers, digital cameras, MIDI musical instruments, etc. I continued this pattern and I was hired by the largest AV rental and staging company at the time, Audio Visual Headquarters or AVHQ. I got my hands on commercial grade projectors, sound systems, lighting and all the interface equipment. Then, I read the manuals and operated the gear for live events with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. As time went on, I was promoted and I worked my way up the ladder to managing hotel Av accounts and then on into sales of the gear and installation. Along the way, I also took advantage of training courses as well. My last W2 job was in 1999 and I have been running my own AVL design, build and staging company ever since.
rAVe: What successes and challenges have you faced as a business owner and AV technician?
Tony: My successes are all based on my relationships, which give me a chance to provide a level of customer service that they were not getting before. I built my business on the attention to details, listening and communicating often, willing to invest time into each project as if my life depended on it. I have a lot of repeat customers and this is what I call success. If you can prove you can do something over and over, producing the same or better results, then I would say I am successful.
The challenges are not having all the resources to do the job at my fingertips, whether its talent or finances to do a large project or carry terms. I have been very fortunate to have the right people show up at the right times, which I would then hire and build a technical team. I know how I want the jobs and my business to look like and I want it all to happen, right now. The reality, I’ve learned, is that it will happen with pain staking perseverance.
My most painful memory is being told by a potential customer, “I won’t let you touch my job because you don’t have enough bandwidth to do it.” Ouch! I then pursued to define what that meant and in a year’s time, I had that “bandwidth” and started taking on some incredible projects. Many “feathers in my cap” since then and getting turned down was the best thing that ever happened to me.
So, how have these successes and challenges shaped your personal and professional goals over the years?
Tony: I was able to build confidence in my work, take on more large projects and form a business model that was not only successful but could sustain a healthy lifestyle for all who worked for me. Even through the tough years, we all stood the test of time, as the competition gave up or sold out.
Describe your new venture, AV Designs Now. What makes this different from what you have been doing?
Tony: The idea for this business model came to me in 2004. I can remember staring out my sliding glass door into the sky and getting a call from on high, “There needs to be a company dedicated to just design, a non-bias design work flow to help people plan their audiovisual projects, not making it an after-thought, like most project.” I registered the company as Audio Video Design Group, LLC the very next day, but it took 14 years for it to become real. In other words, I felt it was time to “go live” in 2018 and reveal it at InfoComm 2018. Roll back the clock three months, I needed a DBA name to use to help it be more marketable, so I came up with a business plan and launched http://www.AVDesignsNow.com.
This is a self-service design site purposed to get you started with a design and we’ll (my team) finish it up. “Have a room that needs an audio / video installation? We make it easy,” as the site says. After we receive some crucial information from the user, they can expect a response from the design team in just a few hours. We will go as simple or as detailed as needed depending on the customer’s needs. And the work is scalable to assist the frugal.
What makes this different is that it is relevant to the online world we live in and I have testimonies from the millennial community who have agreed with me. The greatest differentiator is the online accessibility and relevancy, and the feature I am the most excited about is that I get to help Av dealers. The site allows the small to mid-size Av dealer or consulting firms to use this service as a pre-sales tool. We will white label the design, so they can present that design to a potential customer. This will make them look really smart and I have gained a partner in the industry whom I am committed to. The smaller Av companies and consulting firms don’t have the bandwidth or resources to keep a designer on staff and this gives them then power to present a first-rate design for almost any project. The short list of design categories and expertise of the team includes 1) Commercial AVL, 2) Residential AV, 3) Live Events and 4) IT.
Here is the big kicker — we have a plane and a pilot on staff. We do site inspections anywhere in the continental U.S. There are jobs that require a site visit and so we offer to “come to you” if a videoconference won’t work. On-site project management is one of our Advance Service Offerings.
It’s all about relationships here. Meeting in person and navigating the installation process on location is always the proven measure of success. So many issues can be resolved on-site and very little “lost in translation” failures occur as well. We are not only designers, we are general contractors, safety and ADA coordinators as well, speaking the language a general contractor will appreciate to keep the job moving.
Compared to when you first started in AV, who are you now? What are your goals and aspirations?
Tony: Gary Kayye puts it best when he says, “AV is Life!” I can’t get out of this industry and so while I am imprisoned, I might as well do great things. With my wife, I am blessed to have raised my three sons on this AV journey. My central Oregon and Pacific northwest community has been good to me and it seems to be growing faster and faster. So, I will stay in the game as long as it takes, offering solutions. My one outlet has been writing e-books based on that knowledge and sharing my customers’ stories and projects. Being a part of what is happening in the Av world is important to me. I plan to engage as much as possible by traveling to events and trade shows around the world. It’s time to go global!