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Passion for Perfection

I am by nature a perfectionist, and I seem to have trouble allowing anything to go through in a half-perfect condition.
Howard Hughes

While Im no Howard Hughes, my nature is also one of a perfectionist. Its what drives me to do more and better things and always strive to be the best. Its the thing that fuels my passion for life and our industry. Go big or go home! I like to say. Be the first, be the best, be a winner.

As those who know me well will attest, numbers come naturally to me. In fact, if you had to assign a number to me, I would prefer 1.61803399, or the Golden Ratio as it is also known. Developed in 1202 by the Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci in his quest to determine how many rabbits would exist if they were allowed to breed freely, the Golden Ratio is created by adding the previous numbers in a list together to form the next (i.e. 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21,34, etc). Fascinatingly, if you divide any number in a Fibonacci series by the number before it, (i.e.55/34) the answer is always close to 1.61803399. This ratio stresses perfection and balance in the most classical sense. The shape of the Nautilus; the perfect artistic composition; and the ideal placement for loudspeakers in a roomare all based on this Golden Ratio or the Divine Proportion. The Divine Proportion is where art and science meet. Its where perfection and balance come together and its what inspires me in both my personal and professional life.

At Niles, my passion for perfection has driven the company to a leadership position in the custom installation industry. For me, it reaches back to elementary school. Thats when I discovered the Beatles and developed a passion for music. At 10, I taught myself to play guitar, and with a close friend, formed a band and began writing songs. While I had no commercial success, it set me on a lifelong path of music appreciation. In junior high school came a more formal musical education where I learned to read music and play classical bass. I found I had a natural sense of timing and an intuitive comfort with the mathematics of music. As my appreciation for classical music grew and my critical listening skills developed, I quickly became an audiophile. I spent hours devouring magazines about audio products and hanging out at the local stereo store. It just so happens that my home was only a few miles from Infinity Systems and I became something of an Infinity groupie, eagerly waiting for Arnie Nudell to bring his latest state of the art speaker to the store for testing and evaluation. It was then, at the age of 14, I decided I would make my living in the audio business. I had found the thing I loved, and from there it was easy.

As Steve Jobs said in a recent commencement speech he gave at Reed College, Youve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you havent found it yet, keep looking. Dont settle…like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.

Today, Im proud to serve as executive vice president and COO for Niles Audio Corporation and I must say, even after 23 years making my living in the consumer electronics business, Im as passionate as ever about our industry. I started with Niles in 1992 when Custom Installation was barely a blip on the radar screen, and almost all custom companies were relatively small and unsophisticated. At the time, Niles did about $7 million in sales. This year, well be close to $60 million. Today we are at the forefront of digital technology. In fact, weve just introduced our new IntelliControl ICS system, the worlds first modular multizone receiver that can accommodate all of todays popular sources and display metadata from those sources via wired and wireless user interfaces. It has been by far the most complicated product development initiative weve ever undertaken, but at the same time its been the most rewarding.

Many times Ive looked back over the past 14 years and marveled at the growth and changes that have occurred within our industry. I must admit, while it has certainly been challenging, it has never really felt like work. When I note that Ive been right in the middle of the action since the beginning of the custom installation industrythinking up innovative ways to grow the business and service our customersI still get excited.

I can recall the first CEDIA show in a tent at Amelia Island where 40 of us gathered to launch this businesswow have things changed! In 1993 I can remember the development of the 12-channel amplifier. In hindsight, a very simple idea but at the time it was quite revolutionary. Custom installers could now power an entire house with a single amplifier. And the IntelliControl…finally consumers could operate a sophisticated home theater with the press of a single button. Its very cool and very gratifying to be a part of its creation. To me, these things represent the blending of art and science; perfection and balance; divine proportions; passion.

Looking forward, I think weve only just begun this magic journey. Recent waves of mergers and consolidation (Niles acquisition by Linear included) have only re-enforced my enthusiasm. The technology and resources available now were unthinkable just a few short years ago. Imagine all the possibilities and great things to come. Given the choice to go big or go home, Im going big.

Am I still passionate? A perfectionist? Looking for the perfect balance? You bet I am.