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Industry Role Models

Who are the pros that got you into the game — and help you stay in it?

Todd’s Role Models:

I started out in this industry running an install team for Best Buy. When I struck out on my own, it was important to me to find role models. I wanted to find ‘silent’ role models — people and companies I admired from afar and could use to benchmark my work against and aspire to be more like. I also wanted more traditional role models — people I could rely on to bounce ideas off of, to turn to when I was in a bind, or to just talk industry trends.

Early on, we did a lot of takeover work. EDG is a big player in the New York City market, and often jobs they had done years earlier were too small for them to do the rehab work, so we would win the upgrade project. I was immediately awed by how well they built their racks. I modelled our rack builds and wire management after what I saw from EDG. They gave me the outlet to channel my OCD — I didn’t know racks could look that great. Remember, this was before all of the industry Facebook groups filled with rack porn!

Also by Todd Anthony Puma and Mark Feinberg: A Tale of Two Touch Panel Strategies

Gary Cullen from J&G Audio Sales was the first manufacturer’s rep who really took me under his wing. He helped expose me to the world of high-end audio with Paradigm Speakers and Anthem electronics. We then picked up Nuvo back in the day to do distributed audio, before Sonos and wireless audio took over our industry. Along the way, Gary and I became close friends and to this day we still sell Paradigm and Anthem. Gary is still a huge part of my professional and personal life.

More recently, John Clancy, VP residential at Crestron, is someone for whom I have developed a deep respect. Not only is he running the Crestron residential business, but he was EVP and CTO of one of the largest integrators in the New York area, Audio Command Systems. His depth of knowledge in the industry always blows me away. Every time we talk, I come away with new information and even more respect and admiration for what he does for our industry.

Finally, one of my peers who has really helped me elevate my game is Mosey Levy of Backstage AV. Talk about elevating my rack game! I haven’t seen prettier, more elegant rack builds than what Mosey puts together. We have become especially close as we are both huge proponents of Crestron Home and spend a lot of time talking about the product, which inevitably leads to talking about our businesses. I continue to push myself not only because of my internal drive, but because I can’t let Mosey get too far ahead of me!

Role Models
Clockwise from top left: AVNation’s Tim Albright, Mark Feinberg, Rich Fregosa, Ken Eagle, and Todd Anthony Puma on a recent edition of ResiWeek.

Mark’s Role Models:

I only started in the custom business in 2009 when I became head of product management and marketing at ADI. That was my introduction to this crazy world. Just 18 months later I founded Home Theater Advisors and struck out on my own. While at ADI, I read all of the industry trade magazines and one of them did a profile on Todd Anthony Puma. In a sidebar to the article, Todd talked about the Home Theater Rebuild — his effort to work with new business owners or those who needed some help getting their business model straightened out (remember, this is right in the middle of the Great Recession). I saved that article and, when I started Home Theater Advisors, I reached out to Todd. I know it sounds like I’m trying to suck up to him, since this is his blog and I’m just guesting here, but he’s been a huge inspiration and had an enormous impact on my business in the past 10 years. I can honestly say that, without Todd, my business would not be where it is today. He got the through that Catch22 time when I needed more employees to grow, but I wasn’t big enough yet to hire someone and be sure that I could pay them. Todd saved the day — he allowed his lead installer work with me on an as-needed basis, so I only paid for top-tier install talent when I needed it. He has helped me with everything from product knowledge, to introductions and access to product lines I might not otherwise have known about or had access to, to being there to bounce ideas off of or provide expertise on product selection or system design. He’s been a great friend and I owe him so much.

OK, enough kissing Todd’s behind.  Similar to Todd, I do have a company I admired from afar and I have learned some great business practices from them. CytexOne was a dominant player in the NYC market with Control4. They have since closed up shop and we have taken over a lot of their jobs. I have learned a lot from their system design and their system documentation. While I have been regularly tweaking it, my basic network and system documentation is based on what I learned from taking over some of their jobs

More recently, I have been so fortunate to become friends and colleagues with Matt Scott of Omega Audio Video in Canada and Tim Albright of AVNation Media. I was introduced to both of them by Todd at CEDIA Expo years ago. I vividly remember Matt taking time out of his incredibly busy day on the show floor to take me over to the Lutron booth, introducing me around and showing me product, all because I had mentioned to him that I was trying to decide what to do about lighting control and which way to go, Control4 or Lutron. He must have spent 30–45 minutes with me, and, as most of you know, that is precious time on the show floor. Matt’s generosity and helpfulness hasn’t ended there. I know I can reach out to him for help or advice on any number of topics (and I have!), ranging from commercial work to networking to whole home audio, and he’ll spend time with me. Tim has been equally gracious and generous with his time and influence, talking to me about our businesses and the industry, giving me invaluable exposure on AVNation’s media properties — most notably Matt Scott’s ResiWeek. I always love being on the show and getting to talk shop with Matt, Tim, and the other amazing professionals from the industry they have on the show.

AVNation is teaming up with Residential Systems‘ sister publication Systems Contractor News for AVNetworkNation, where industry all-stars are set to take the virtual stage on Dec 10 to discuss the future of pro AV. Keynote speakers include Manolo Almagro and Ben Gauthier from Q Division. Click here for details. 

I will admit, I have not been as good at networking throughout the industry as I should be. I really need to meet more Control4 dealers in my market beyond just making the introduction, but also reaching out over time to keep the relationship going. Anyone who wants to bounce business ideas off of each other or network together in any other way, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].  I hope someday I can help someone as much as others in this industry have helped me.