Tim Albright is arguably the most successful podcaster in AV.
He started his career in radio, and somehow wound up becoming and AV consultant.
He’s also worked as a control systems programmer and university technology manager before founding AVNation.
AVNation is a network of AV professionals whose goal is to further the AV industry through education and knowledge. They do that through blog posts and covering industry events and they are most well known for podcasting.
Their flagship podcast, AVWeek, was first recorded in 2011 and provides a weekly overview of the AV industry.
Over the years they have launched several other podcasts like ResiWeek, EdTech and my personal favourite, A State Of Control.
This transcription was created with IBM Watson’s Speech To Text service. Computers aren’t perfect. Please keep that in mind when reading the transcript.
Pat: Greetings everyone in AV lands my name is Patrick Murray and welcome to software defined survival, where we interview the people and companies in AV that you software to re invent themselves and the way they do business. We listen to their stories and asks for as for tactics and device on how to survive and even thrive in this software defines world.
I’m excited about our first guest on the show he is arguably the most successful podcaster in AV and before you run away saying what the heck does podcasting have to do with software, I kind of see podcasting and blogging as software defined media. Right? That the podcasts and the blogs and things like that, they don’t care where you are and they don’t care how you consume it. They don’t care what time it is like a radio show and things like that so this is definitely a software defined solution and that’s why I’m excited to have this guest.
He started his career in radio and somehow wound up becoming an AV consultant I’ll have to ask how that happens and he also worked as a control system programmer and university technology manager before founding easy nation alienation is a network of AV professionals whose goal is to provide to further the AV industry through education and knowledge something that is near and dear to my heart and their flagship podcast TV week was first recorded in two thousand and eleven and it provides a weekly overview of the AV industry if you’re in a movie you should definitely check out a few weeks it’s a great way to get a a download of what’s going on in the industry.
Now over the years they launched several other podcasts like crazy week ed tech and my personal favorite state of control if your navy programmer definitely check out a state of control well ladies and gentlemen Tim Albright.
Tim: Yeah, way too flowery.
Pat: Welcome to the show Tim. Is there anything about that introduction that you’d like to add or expand upon?
Tim: No you don’t need me on the show now! Yeah yeah I’m good.
Tim: How are you doing?
Pat: Yeah I’m good I’m good.
Tim: I’m excited for this dude.
Pat: Thank you I appreciate that. I got a couple questions lined up here. We could also let this meander and go wherever it takes us.
Tim: It probably will.
Pat: It probably will. So I know you have kids I have a couple kids myself and one thing you’ll never hear a child say is when I grow up I want to be in AV. At least, I haven’t heard that one yet.
So there’s usually a story behind how people wind up in this industry so tell us how did you get started in AV?
Tim: Why are you mention my broadcast and my broadcast background and I was working for radio stations and Lois and must show my my my wife and I Michelle had had had our first child and it was not conducive to having a child was not conducive to being on morning radio which is what I was because you know you get up at stupid o’clock in the morning and you go to bed at you know really early at night and just wasn’t conducive for that and so I was starting to look around and the armada the college that I had had gone to school to school at was needing what they described as a in an engineer and somebody to take care of some projector installs once a month once a year and I was annoyed that day I’m, I’m somewhat technical and somewhat you know I can do that and I was already teaching already a production for them and so I was like sure I can do this and so they they they hired me on and what turned in what what started out as being do a couple of projector installs a year turned into holy cow we have no money and we have to upgrade all of these rooms and we have to adjust the programming in these rooms and we have to learn how to properly designed these these rooms so I quickly found myself taking Infocom classes and taking classes from various manufacturers and getting certified to program Sir your fax first and so I buy it we ended up having our own little small band of of designers and installers for our little college I mean we had a hundred ninety rooms which is not it’s not small but it’s not it’s not the size of let’s say young university of Illinois which is also listed above out for me but it was it was significant for us and so that got me only involved in AV almost from the get go. I mea, I went to my very first Infocomm shortly after starting there because of the lack of knowledge that I had and I need to get ramped up on so that’s how I got involved was you need to do a career change and of finding myself you know in the ceiling trying to put together a five wire BNC and and getting a multi meter out to figure out why the heck my yellow look weird.
Pat: Exactly switching that the black and white wires.
Tim: Well, I started making cables with all kinds of short so that’s why I that’s what I used to multi meter is yeah every yeah eventually got better at it .
Pat : So you mentioned your first visit to Infocomm do you remember what your first impressions were kind of walking into that hall?
Tim: Holy crap, are you kidding me? I fell in love I honestly it well it wasn’t the work and it was in the I love the work it was it was good work and I I still I still control is still my favorite part of of a B. and and probably always will be , but when I walked in the show floor this is this is back in the mid to late two thousands arm so wasn’t the size it is now I was absolutely flabbergasted me, I had never been to anything like that like it before my life I’d never to the C. S. as as a as a journalist I’d been to a number of junk it’s a movie junkets where they fight about interview people in this up now and go see movies and those are smaller by by a large margin but I never been to any be a detriment to CS and so this is my first trade show experience and I walked in the show for and I’m just awestruck and I’m like I don’t want to do anything else I simply don’t want to do anything else and I remember walking around and talking to folks and you know that was when I got to meet a lot of folks that I still you know consider friends today I mean I it was when when I will I met body mind his name is Kevin who happens to work for Crestron but you know met him there and I met them for the folks that just to kind of took me under their wing and said okay here’s this here’s as dumb kid that does not anything let’s, let’s show him a thing or two.
Pat: Yeah there’s nothing like having a mentor in those first years to know an explain things that are that are now probably totally obvious to you.
Tim: And obsolete. Just for the record.
Pat: Well, Yeah, RGBHV byebye.
Pat: So everybody in AV usually has a at least one nightmare project under their belt. Let’s not talk about that. Maybe you could tell me about your most rewarding AV projects and what made it special for you?
Tim: Oh wow, see that one is harder. I can tell you can tell you my nightmare story off the top of my head.
So this is not one that I specifically did but I was in charge of I mention the fact that I work for college and the largest the largest construction project that we were a part of the college I where I went to over the cards that I’ve I worked at was a small community college and it was it was bigger than what it should have been. It’s it’s it has delusions of grandeur at time and it’s a good thing right I’m not I’m not saying that as a negative I’m saying that they have delusions of grandeur and all the times they meet those right so this is a community college who reaches beyond what the normal community college to play does they wanted to do a research center right this organization called script switches scripts ocean Oceana ocean out ripple oceanography is that right oceanic scripts motioning research center are they study the ocean well I live in Illinois, I live in southwest Illinois just outside of Saint Louis. We live on the Mississippi, the biggest outside of the Amazon the biggest of fresh water longest waterway in the in the North America there’s nothing like that. Right there’s nothing and so they wanted to develop a research center I community college, building a research center for the for the rivers.
And where Alton is which is the whole time I live and it actually happens to be right at the confluence between the Illinois Mississippi and the Missouri rivers so not only are you on the biggest river in North America you’re also at this very unique place between where all these three rivers come togther, right.
So that’s kind of the backstory here, they have this this grand idea are they partner with a bunch of people I know like we’re gonna build this, right? It is a platinum level or gold level LEED certified building, right. I think when they started out they were going platinum and I think eventually they got gold. And we were tasked with doing all the AV in this research facility. Now there have been a couple other projects where they they built this this four story twenty million dollar research facility a year or two earlier and we spec’d out right.
That was you’re talking about thirty or forty rooms I think , six lecture halls that was subbed out we helped with the design and we we assisted with some of the direction but we did not do that. We did this research facility and at the end of the day when we had the grand opening and and this that and the other, you walk through and everything’s working and everything’s exactly you know what kind of the way you envisioned it as a designer so it was the first project as as a AV person as an A. V. professional, as a programmer, as a designer, as an installer you could sit back and go: „yeah we did that and it freaking rocks“.
Pat: Nice! It does happen once in awhile. Has it ever happened again?
Tim: No, well like that, I mean we’ve had a couple others while we were there like I said we were there and had the AV because we had to.
Pat: Is that why you had that kind of success with it, because yeah because the control you have over the projects?
Tim: Yes,absolutely! No it was one of these things where we were actually brought in early enough and every AV person in the world will tell you, the earlier we can get brought in the more successful going to half and we were able to do things like you know have conversations about you know the network and have conversations and this is early on with video over IP and integrating we used a,video conferencing system it was like the second or third video conferencing system college never had. We had two of them in this building because they were visiting scientists from all over the world who had their own water ways that they were concerned with they would come to this resurfaced research facility, because it was one of a kind of I believe it still as it was, one of a kind and so you had folks from China on you had folks from our member Argentina and Venezuela coming here. And so they needed to talk to their compatriots in a secure manner so we had we were tasked with creating a secure BTC system and something that was easy for them to use and understand and you know this was back way before anybody considered you know one button usability we had a one button system where they all they had to do was you know come in and and we were working with the the scheduling software and they can hit a button and they were connected to their people. If it was the right time and the right schedule.
Pat: Very nice. There’s a few things I want to impact there. Like somebody told me recently when a professor in a university for example. When they have a hard time with this technology, it kind of takes away from their credentials a bit. Right, if if they’re like supposed to be this really smart person and they’re fumbling around with the touch panel, it it kind of takes away from the authority that they have. So something like a one touch button, you know, where anybody could really use it, then they can get on with their own job.
Tim: So, so I have a story about that. I have over the years worked with a couple integrators in Saint Louis. I still do work for one group. Just because I’ve known him for twenty years and they’re good friends. One of the first times I was on a significant ,college and university in Saint Louis .I’m not gonna say which one. We were replacing a touchpanel and we get there and this touchpanel is concaved,right and this is an old, if you’re familiar with the old Crestron quick media systems, it was a seventeen inch quick media touch panel, so this was not a cheap device to replace. It was somewhere between fifteen and twenty grants and the the entire center of it is concave and I’m like „what in the world happened to this?“
Pat: I think, I know what happened.
Tim: There’s this professor, who has like fifteen doctorates, probably like four or five, but still has a number of doctorates and is the first time using the system and just like any other good programmer you put in a cool down screen, when you’re using a projector, especially back then right.
Tim: And he said, how dare this thing tell me to wait two minutes so I can restart the system. And put his fist through it.
Pat: Wow, he actually punched the touch panel.
Tim: No, no he wailed on the touchpanel, to the point where it was busted.
Pat: Yeah, I’m sure there’s a lot of people listening to this, or I hope there are. Thant wanted to do that themselves once or twice.
Tim: Oh, I’m certain.
Pat: I know a guy, who threw his laptop across the room once, programmer.
Tim: Laptop? I’ve done that too.
Pat: Yeah? I always wanted to, never had the guts to do it. I wanted to believe it, but never had the guts to actually do it. So the other thing I wanted to talk about on that story was. I always like it, because a lot of times we do these projects and we go away and we never see how the rooms are used and usually it’s some generic thing that you know we never really can appreciate at all. So I like the fact that you actually knew about people using the room and how they’re using it. Like scientists coming together from all over the world and actually using your technology to collaborate and really produce results. That’s something I think we don’t get to see often enough.
Tim: Well especially folks like you, right. And you know folks, who are either independent programmers right. You guys are the mercenaries of the industry you get called in or subbed out and you don’t. Alright, you go in and you know, I’ve talked about this before, you’re kind of unique, because you’re in Germany, you get to go around to different parts, different countries in you Amsterdam and done jobs. I’ve done jobs, not a whole lot of outside of Saint Louis but a couple of size and Louis. And you’re right, if you are in this position, you’re never going to go back to that job, hopefully. As long as everything worked correctly and see how they use it. Now being a tech manager, if you are a tech manager, yes, you get that you get that that ability you get that opportunity to do it on two different levels. First of all, if you’re decent, if you are a tech manager worth their salt, you should at least be there or be available for folks especially new an incoming faculty to use your systems. Now you and I both know, that if you have to have instructions on how to use a touch panel the new done a poor job of designing the touch panel.
But there are people with five doctor too that can’t turn on a light switch successfully. Sometimes.
Pat: They’ve got their minds on other things.
Tim: Absolutely they do. So we actually developed a number of modules because we still had we’re still going from one control system to another control system even when I left, because that we have had with at one standard we’re moving to another so we had about three different, types of of control systems are at our college, so we had different models we had recorded them in and let met what made them available to new incoming faculty so I can get used to it right. If you’re in this building with this is the type of system we have in this building this is how you access your but this building it’s just a bunch of you know it’s a it’s a wall plate with a couple buttons this is how you do you you access it. And so, you would still be able to go and and and and walk through and and kind of be available the first couple weeks of of classes, to make sure that everything kind of works and and kind of comes off without a hitch.
Pat: Very nice. Lets a shift gears for a minute and talk about AV Nation. Where did the…
Tim: Why? I’m not very serious Patrick, you should know by now.
Pat: Yeah I’m good I’m getting that, so I’ll try to tone it down a little bit.
Tim: No, you’re fine
Pat: It’s my first podcast , give me a break, I’ll loosen up.
Tim: I have three hundred forty one AV weeks and I am not gonna count the other ones, so.
Pat: Nice, so where the original idea come from?
Tim: Oh Lord, so you mentioned very very nicely my broadcast background. I was weaned and kind of developed as a broadcast journalist at the the preeminent news talk stations at Lewis called KMOX. I had a job before I ever left college there and so I was able to rub shoulders with and learn from some of the best in the business it was it was owned by CBS at the time and so we were trained in the CBS way of of how to gather news. And said that that is my pedigree when it comes to the broadcast journalists part. And when I got involved in the AV industry and fell in love with it, that kind of put that down for a while I still taught on radio production in audio production, but actually since 2006, I was teaching students how to podcast I wasn’t doing it myself, but I I saw it as an opportunity for up and coming broadcasters to cut their teeth and and and kind of stretch their legs and stretch their wings and see what’s possible on in the realm of audio. And in 2005/2006 I was turned on to this week in tech by Leo Laporte. It’s the twit network, yeah he has several podcasts, he’s probably the most successful podcaster period. And possibly Adam Corolla has passed him at this point from a network standpoint I would say that Leo was probably up there. And so listening to that on a weekly basis, he does tech in general, right, so he does you know cell phones, computers and switches and all kind of stuff.
Tim: Everything. And he also does for two hours a week which is way more than than I can I can do.
So I was looking for something, right and, so there were a couple of people who have who have were already doing something not what I was looking for but they were doing something Essien at the time and that’s when I see an atomic medications was doing a monthly video podcast are where they would bring people into a studio and they would talk about a specific project, right. So it was kind of white paper, a video version of a white paper.
Tim: Wasn’t what I was looking for. What I was looking for the twit version of the the AV version of twit, right.
I want the news that I wanted it in a succinct way and I want it on a weekly basis. Nobody had it.
Tim: Right and I don’t know that anybody’s still does .
Pat: Maybe in prints, but certainly not weekly, right.
Tim: But not weekly, right. And so on it’s one of these things where necessity breeds invention I didn’t have what I wanted and so I made it.
Pat: Scratch your own itch.
Tim: Yeah, I mean I could see again I’m an old radio guy in and I’ve been in television as well and and I think that that medium has a lot to offer people. You get to learn people’s voices and I don’t mean that any any in the literal sense I mean, folks understand that I am as much, a lover of this industry, as I am not overly serious about it.
And I was I don’t take ourselves too seriously I’ve made the comment both on the air off the year it’s our team and other people. If the projector doesn’t work no one is going to die, right. You know it’s not life and death and you have to understand kind of where your your places in the world. We make experiences. And I’m I’m gonna totally steal this line here, we make great experiences and our job as as a nation is kind of what we’ve developed into and what we were allies and and me still learning how to be a businessman, because I’m a producer that’s my pedigree is, we speak directly to the integrators on a weekly basis, right. Way back when it when I was a radio we had, you will be called an avatar with this is the person that we’re talking to. My avatar for AV nation specifically for a AV week are the folks the integrators who are are driving into their office on Monday morning: Why is it that they need to know for that week to be successful? Right? And that question has driven, darn near everything that we’ve done. It’s driven the deep dive into the other, what I’ll call niche podcast that we do on a monthly basis and that includes the state of control which is controlled automation that includes AV. social which is shell social media and marketing. Which is kind of developed into more marketing and social media because boxing in under understand how to talk to their clients, right. It drove a show actually from one of our underwriters, to look at the on the IT in A. V. and how they each influence each other. It drove a show that I developed probably a year ago with a consulting firm, called on the eighty profession. And that looks at you know ways to make your business better. Has nothing to do with the with the actual technology of AV, but it is about how to be better at your business. You know we’ve done everything from interview consultants who will help you with your business to interview business authors, on how to get consumer consumers. I’d just interviewed a guy who I was turned on to by a buddy of mine that I’ve developed a relationship with the Name Ian Altman. Ian is a fanstastic sales person to bend tastic sales consulting. He’s spoken of a Bacchae spoke in other places you spoke with PSNI and super summit. Well, Ian turned me on this other guy by the name of Markus Sheridan. He is probably one of the best experts that I’ve ever read, when it comes to content marketing, he turned a like this closed bankrupt, swimming pool company in the middle of the recession, he turned around with about a year and a half through content marketing. And reading his story and reading his take on it, is fascinating and it’s incredibly important to people in the A. V. industry. Title of his book is: „They asky you answer.“ It’s very simple.
Tim: Your clients are going to ask you questions. Probably to the sales people, when they ask you questions, you answer it, in a not only obviously you know, Patrick is my client even assuming email say „Hey what about this and what what what’s what’s the steel with with HDMI to that on? How ist his gonna affect us?“ Okay, well first of all: Into the question to the client directly right now this is going to how it’s going to do it this is this is what it’s doing but then you send it to your marketing people and say „Hey we have a question, because, an old rule of thumb in broadcasting is that, between five and ten percent of your audience will ever ever contact you ever, I don’t care if you’re given a million million dollars will between five and ten percent of your of your audience will ever call and we’ll ever email you ever contact you same is true in the business world. Between five and ten percent of your clients will ever ask you a question that is meaningful. You know, how they’re going to be affected you take those nuggets, because I will guarantee you, that at least, twenty of the twenty other clients have the exact same question, they’re just not gonna ask you.
Tim: Or potential clients may have that same question- they are not gonna ask you.
Tim: But if you have this piece of content over here, right and they’re searching how will HDMI two do affect me?
Boom you have an article. Boom you have a video whatever, so it’s stuff like this that has driven our content to say you know how it how can we best help integrators and in all honesty also tech managers do their job better and be more successful.
Pat: Great stuff. I mean really does a lot of stuff to tackle their. How do you know what to write? That’s something I always come up against, because of course this idea of putting content out there, that’s all people find you. It’s basically SEO, which sounds a little fishy, if you ask me, but if you are just writing stuff that people want to know about and they do find you, nothing is better than that. And I know what you mean like I ask, I have my online courses and I ask students all the time. „Please tell me what’s wrong?“ and they never answer me. It’s like pulling teeth getting any kind of feedback- out of anybody. And blog posting it takes a lot of time. It’s really time consuming. It’s a lot of fun, because it really makes you dig deep into a subject and become more knowledgeable about it and really start to look at it from different angles that you might not have considered, but again that time investment how do you decide what to write about.
Tim: So we’ve done a couple different things. First of all we started taking our shows and regardless of the show there’s going to be at least two or three different topics on each episode and and we’ve started pulling and culling information from there. But me personally, my personal blog it’s what I’m interested in, right. It’s what’s hit me are within the last week or two weeks and right now this week I am formulating and doing some research for a blog about how the terrorists are going to impact the industry in North America large adversely beyond North America in the US our current president has put tariffs on steel, well let’s not be silly a lot of our products are made with with feel , you know what the rack rack is a big giant piece of steel arm based metal and so I’m trying to do some research right now, because that to me is interesting and that’s a question that nobody’s asked yet. Is how are the how are the policies of not just this president every president, impacting our industry you know you look at what is it Brazil is one of the biggest exporters to us of steel. Guess what, they are also one of the biggest importer of what they are one of the biggest importers of US Cole. To make this deal.
Tim: So you know, you’re looking at stuff like this going, okay you know and at the end of the day whether it’s you know Atlas or it’s Middle Atlantic or its Chief and I’m just naming three you’ve got so many other people sure like a bank, that use steel every single day. And our listeners are users are clients or customers, how are they going to be impacted not today not tomorrow because they’ve already got a warehouse full of steel, but in six months or a year and then how do they decide whether or not to pass that shards alone? You know the first question is is there going to be an increase right. That’s the number one question as you know this Atlas I eat is atlas and their racks had to they have to increase the price of middle when it comes to increase their price and if the question is yes it’s almost like programming right, if yes then what’s right and then you then the manufacturer has to make a decision without a past that that charge along most the time they have to, their business, they have to truck bass along the their their cost increases. And then okay so your you know H. B. can occasions are here city Iowa St Louis your rack price just went up ten percent okay you’ve designed a system you have a spec out will suddenly you’re losing ten points right so how did you recoup that cost and hopefully you haven’t done so are too far out right to where it’s going to hurt you that much. But then how do you how do you adjust your prices again their business so they have to salute laces Hannah and so it just trickles on down to you know the final customer whether it’s education reporter five hundred operation they’ve got to you know explain the situations I look you know. Our metal prices increased down the line, you know.
Pat: It could, putting my programmer hat on, use less hardware. It could cause people to, right?
Tim: That’s actually a good point.
Pat: Just their system design, put less stuff in the rac, right? That big matrix switch can be compressed down to a network switch and maybe the numbers would work out that way. Could be an interesting angle for to solve that kind of issue.
Tim: Where people to more video over IP and not do it over a switcher. You’ll also from a program from a control standpoint to you know move more toward software as opposed to you know a three to direct high, processor moved to software to where I somewhere in the cloud someone the network.
Pat: Now how about that all due to the price of steel you the way things are all kind of connected to each other.
You were talking about how the business podcast and I think that’s another great subject because there really is no how to. And in A.V. for a long time everybody’s always been busy. But with things changing, I kind of wonder, if in a few years from now, the flow of projects will change, just a little bit, if things do become more software based. Right the whole integrators maybe to change their business model. I mean it there was talk of this years ago, as margin started to go down with with Amazon you could buy display on Amazon. But the model still doesn’t seem to be service based for the most part at all. It’s still his margin based model of selling hardware.
Tim: They trying.
Pat: Yeah, well that’s exactly the point. That I’m trying to make is like, there’s no how to, to make that jump. And have you bumped into any resources on on a podcast to try to just help us you know take this thing apart and and figure out a new way to put it back together.
Tim: Not on that possible broadcasters specifically. What I run into is some folks were doing it well. And I’ve run into those folks at different industry events. Two or three of my favorite events have nothing to do with the technology. They all had to do about the business of AV.
Tim: And there’s absolutely reasons to go to ISE, there’s absolute reasons to go to Infocomm and all the other technology trade shows. Certainly you get to see cold things you get to do things you know it and and experience things, but what I would say is that there is more of a reason to go to these business centric our shows as well these business centric meetings.
Pat: Do you have any examples?
Tim: Well there’s the three that I have is my super summit which that’s only for PS my folks, in the CIA’s BLC would stand for business leadership conference and then of ex is a back which is the A. B. executive conference. Is not taken out mean there’s not there’s not a technology showcase their. These are folks that are going to you’re going to have a chance to talk with your peers, what other business owners.
Tim: And find out what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong and how they can help you and honestly how you can help them. And in doing so, you know you’re gonna be able to see what’s worked in what’s doesn’t. You know we’re obviously that there are regional differences in their cultural differences, not only across you know international borders but also on the scene in the US there’s regional, cultural differences as big as we are. But the basics are the same, right and understanding that and it was it was actually at the BLC three years ago now, I ran into a young man who was in charge of emigration from up in Maine, which is singled out of the way. But but they were doing service and support, as a AV as a service and support through their clients right, they had they had taken the the sass model the software as a service model and convertible into AV rather successfully and they did it through number different ways number one was was the monitoring and maintaining of their systems. But that conversation and coupled with a couple different conversation with some other and integrators who had moved to AV as a service through not only monitoring but also leasing, the equipment.
Pat: The equipment, okay.
Tim: So it’s not yellow you Patrick as the client you don’t own anything, right. My contract with you says you’re gonna have the latest greatest stuff within five years, every year, so it’s my job to make sure that the system is up and running and maintained and that you have the latest greatest you don’t have to worry about you know end of life for a projector or display or a control processor. Your stuff is just gonna work and it’s my job to figure that out. Now you’re going to pay me for that, right you gonna pay me for that, because suddenly you you don’t have a need for a support team you know have a need for you know having somebody physically on site because I’m gonna come within and you know depending on base on the contract but within an hour five hours twenty four hours depending on what the contract says. I’m going to support you, to this to this degree.
Pat: Do those numbers work out?
Tim: It does for some people, it does for some organizations right for some for some clients they get, right.
Pat: Is it really just an understanding thing or because you could put this in black and white: over the next ten years, system it will cost you X. and doing that as a service option will cost also X.
Tim: X, plus some. Understand that, it’s not, it’s not the cheapest option, right.
Pat: But you are not laying out the money up front.
Tim: You’re not laying out the money up front: You’re eliminating in you do you hate to talk about you know people line jobs for your limiting a jobber too are so your cost of off that. Number three you don’t have to deal with the the half life of certain products of equipment and then you don’t have to mess with what do you do with that product that that equipment once it’s been taken out and that is actually one of the dirty little secrets of A V. Especially from a technology manager standpoint.
Tim: What the heck do you do with this crap, once you’ve taken out of the rack.
Pat: It’s useless.
Tim: Seriously I had the office I had it at Lewis and Clark, which is the college I worked at, it was, our head in for our master control for our our internal TV station, okay. So I had it you know five racks worth of equipment the set the other about time. I left there I had replaced everything in that rack, when I got there. It was all old CRTs and an old old analog equipment.
Pat: Big stuff too .
Tim: I all of my gosh I had, replaced everything in that rack to where it was down to two racks. I had a back room full of gear.
Pat: Yeah, try ebaying it.
Tim: Ebaying it is worth less right, because you you get five or ten Bucks. But then so we only end up doing electronic recycling our college had a green initiative in this and other once a year , we electronically cycle and that’s where a lot of those old five wire switchers went right to a company that we knew that that are college had had bedded they knew what they did with the equipment once they got it and and they were responsible about the way that they dispose of it. But you know that’s one of those things that folks don’t really think about because you know I don’t care what the VCR with the doc came from her years ago. This stuff has first of all has hazardous material and right now people think about that but you’ve got lead in there you’ve got ill do it like this electronics have got crap in it that probably shouldn’t go into the ground how do you responsibly dispose of that and some companies absolutely do really good job of that they’ll have a program to where the either get a credit to their their clients are the height say „Hey I’ll take this off your hands and as we know how to properly dispose of it“. Absolutely there is that there’s also I would say a large majority of folks we simply don’t know what to do with you know a sixteen by sixteen BJ switcher, once they take it out and replaced it with the with a digital equipment.
Pat: Right, so that’s like another bonus of that as a service modelle right, they would take care of that that final tasks. So it sounds like this is all as a service model is more about convenience it’ll cost a little more but you get a ton of convenience it’s like kind of like what Rich does as a white glove service. So what’s the hold up?
Tim: Getting the AV sales people to wrap their head around it.
Pat: Are we, so we are our own worst enemy, kind of.
Tim: Absolutly, it’s just like every industry by way.
Pat: Yeah, okay, sure, but this is like a real opportunity to grow, because you know within a service model, you know how much is coming in every month for the next five years. These are contracts as opposed to the way we do things now, a project comes in, you get it done and then you basically start from zero again.
Tim: I think some of is also cultural, going back to that, but yet it’s cultural as well, because you have a business that has a business plan. And it is in their business plan to sell ex amount in their hiring the salespeople to sell a system.
Tim: I’m not so the contractor and some of that’s it you know some that’s also a cultural shift internally to say okay we’re going to make the shift. I would say that the folks that I know they had gone to the service model alright there are sure to migrate to art are incredibly successful.
Tim: I am certain that there are failures out there. I have not heard of them, but I’m certain there are values out there, people who for whatever reason whether it’s their market or their client base or whatever.
Just couldn’t get off the ground. Then gone back to to doing you know sales and and a service as a separate item.
Pat: Okay, so to shift to an end as a service model, is obviously a big investment, right. It would it completely changes everything. Is there a pass to do it incrementally?
Tim: That actually is how you almost have to do it, right? You can’t exactly do on mass, you would have to take it , object right so you get an RFP, or you are selling to a client and you know you’re listening to them and you’re hearing their their big pain points. But that’s the other part is this is not for everybody , there are some folks who eaten will never let you monitor their network okay ever let you monitor their system. So unless you can overcome that hurdle, it’s not gonna be a very successful AV as in service installation. So that you use a limited arsenal system.
Pat: That could be handled with staffing no?
Tim: Yes and no. I mean yes, you can put somebody physically on on site, right. And then that’s another cost.
Tim: Some cost, but yeah absolutely.
Pat: Okay, interesting stuff. Let’s shift gears back again to….you know that kind of reminds me of, is like you were saying, to start incrementally like I tell programmers just do something small you know find your smallest projects, if you want to learn a new programming language and tried on that something that you know you could go back to your old language and do in just a few minutes. But just just try it on a really small project first. And that’s how you that’s a gain confidence with these things- that’s how you start to that so you go from crawling to walking.
Tim: That’s why the most famous phrase and all the programming is „hello world“.
Pat: Yeah, there you go.
Tim: Seriously, because that right there is you know if you can do „hello world“ in a language then you can go from there.
Pat: Yeah, definitely. So speaking of control, „state of control“, but I’m a big fan of it, obviously.
Tim: I am too.
Pat: It’s actually, you know, hearing everybody, she knows that I respect, talk about the different ways to approach AV control it’s it’s kind of inspired me a bit to follow up on some of my own ideas and develop them and even try out a new product or so on the market. They don’t know it, didn’t always work but.
Tim: Oh they will.
Pat: Do you know of any similar stories on estate control or any other podcasts where somebody’s been inspired to really take action and do something with the information that that you guys are providing?
Tim: There are a lot actually over the years.
Pat: Pick your favorite.
Tim: I’m trying to think, but I will probably will I’ll stick with state control and the good lord this has been, two or three years ago now. I can’t remember. Crestron came out with their diamond level programming. If you’re not familiar with with Crestron sort of by programmers there are, number of years there was sweat three different metals and was bronze silver and gold and then they came out with platinum and then they came out with diamond. And we did a special episode with the first ever diamond programmers. Now two of them were Crestron employees but still there was there was four of them that were that were first ever and out of that Labadie Dave hats started talking about doing diamond and he became a diamond level year later the first ever diamond that I ever knew personally right. I knew the couple of the posters of the question that but I didn’t know them really well the day was the incredible fantastic very talented diamond level programmerer.
Pat: But we should also point out that it’s about three weeks of work to do that certification.
Tim: Well, more than that, because then you have to do it, you have to keep it you, have to teach every year.
Pat: So it’s a real investment.
Tim: It’s incredible investment and even with the one thing that I find fascinating, is you have to teach outside of your discipline and what I mean by that is, Dave is a network programmer, he could take you know network control and and and run with all day long he’s a commercial programmer, he has done commercial programming for years, so the first class he did was buy a home.
Pat: Was resi.
Tim: Was residential automation. Fish out of water. As our water and that’s with a duty right. That’s what they do to you. To stretch your arms and to get you kind of on the path of making sure that you are not as a real well rounded, right. I’m obviously Hatz probably has you know, fifteen pro3’s in this house and use fully automated the only service dog food every morning you know outlaw doc brown. But you know it it’s, there is something where it’s you’re getting outside of your comfort zone and outside of what you do on a daily basis.
Pat: So, I’ve had to make his decision myself and I decided for the time being not to make that huge investment in the next level of Crestron programming just because, yeah, does it really make a difference? And you know, from what you’re telling me, this guy was inspired to make this huge investment, from one of your shows. I don’t know, what do you think, does it really? Maybe it’s a country thing, here in Germany maybe they just don’t look at certifications the same way. They all kind of look the same and blur, but is there, yeah.
Tim: This is why it depends: You’re an independent programmer. I have been outside of the spec part of the AV industry for probably too long, so I understand that when I say what I’m gonna say. I have not yet run into a situation, where somebody has put on us back, that they want a diamond level programmer. It doesn’t mean, that they’re not out there. I’m just saying that I have not personally run into or heard about a spec I ate in our P. where somebody has put down but they want a diamond level I am certain that there is at least one or two out there that that they’ve asked for. And the other side of that is there very few situations where it be where it would be warranted.
Pat: Well, that’s the other thing, yeah.
Tim: By and large most course for most programmers I know Crestron AMX external, most of them that are worth their salt and they get they get their certification, can handle a vast majority, of thrown at them. Yes, there are building automation’s where you know what you’re doing. right. And for that I would say a higher level of certification would be needed. And what you should be called out of respect, but if that’s what your business is and that’s what you talk about what you do on a daily basis a personal question then.
Pat: You know, sure sure, got to be decided on a case by case basis
Pat: Alright shifting back TV nation. I remember running into you a few years ago and you quietly whispered to me in my ear that you were I’m gonna go a hundred percent all in with AV Nation. Do you remember that time?
Tim: I do.
Pat: So what was the biggest reason was the biggest thing that that gave me the confidence to make that jump?
Tim: Two things. First one the the support of my wife. Of any ship flight that you have to have the support of your partner, regardless of who that is.
Tim: Certainly it was it was a weird combination. So we had just started monetizing aviation and and by what I said just I mean we had this was the first start, we had just started taking on money from other people up at that point it was completely financed by me. I was financing and by doing some outside jobs. We had just completed our first trip ISE, which was a can credibly successful Kickstarter for us. It was very humbling, because up to that point well Infocomm was a trip that almost went to anyway. So we were kinda able to kind of couple together and I could cover whatever nobody else could. But ISE was different, ISE was a big chunk of money. It was ten grand was our budget show and our listeners came through in our supporters came through in a huge winds quickly on more, but also prove something that we could do it and we could do it differently, than other people and that’s kind of what our thing is. We cover the industry in a unique way because we’re all in the industry. And so I wanted to finance it in a different way to kinda keep with with who we are. And so after I see that year was actually I was I is the twenty fifteen twenty fifteen to that I was looking around like, okay what’s what makes sense to me and I’m a big fan of NPR and PBS and BBC in the UK and an image are an arcane and just the way they think their model is which is pretty much be a publicly financed but no undue influence, I guess the best way to put this.
Tim: And so the way that we have our contracts with our underwriting structured is, there’s no real influence. And you know that’s just kind of the the way we we wanted to go. And so we were starting to take on some money, not a whole lot but enough to offset into where I didn’t have to the side projects anymore. And the company that I worked for, was eighty eight, independent programming house. I was the they operate the ops manager for. We got sold to a local integration firm in Saint Louis of folks that I have a lot of respect for. Good friends with. They were one of our biggest clients at at the time. And some sitting in this meeting and not really knowing what to expect from them. They were very gracious, they had all these ideas for me. They wanted to do this and this and this and I’m sitting here in this meeting going „this is a unique place in my life, this is a unique time and I have an opportunity, I can absolutely take this job. I could take this job and I could work this job for a year two years five years whatever. But AN Nation at the time was in a unique spot that I was I it was it was when those moments where you either take it full bore and and and and take it out and spend it and take it out for a test drive and see what it’s capable of. Or you just keep in the garage and it’s something that you can tinker with on the weekend.
And in that moment I just kind of decided well this is this is my time to figure out whether or not this is something real or not. Without this is something that people can really honestly sustain or not.
And I told them that and I remember the owner, who’s become a very good friend of mine and one of my business mentors, says „well it sounds like you’re quitting, before you ever start“ and I said, „well I kind of am“ and so I left that meeting oddly on cloud nine. Not having a job. I was unemployed, thoroughly. And it has been the scariest and craziest two and a half years of my life and I would not do it differently.
Pat: Excellent. I like how you mentioned you had to recognize the opportunity, that was happening.
It was the it was a special opportunity that came you had the Kickstarter you had maybe a few underwriters so you kind of proven that there was a need for it that it could become something and then the company getting sold was kind of a catalyst to to kind of snap your into reality and say „wait a minute, I can either do this or that“ and then you chose this road. So what was what was really your biggest concern at the time what what were you worried about?
Tim: Paying my bills.
Pat: Yeah obviously.
Tim: I mean so it’s interesting, that when I tell people my story, they’re the ones that one of the more common questions is „you have your wife“ and yet „you have kids right like „yeah yeah that I’ve a mortgage I have to to pay for in Ohio.
Pat: Are you mentally stable?
Tim: No, no I’m not. You know, but now that’s that’s the biggest concern every month you know and and you know there are months that are better than others. And well I have a really good friend, I have known Michael for over twenty years he has recently in the last year and a half he has gone out on his own is does he does IT consulting. And he will be on me the powerful, for advice and I’m you know is is one thing we were I’ll tell him is like looking out there there are going to be days and they’re gonna be months that are horrible, right where you are going to question your own sanity in question your own your own brains. But we’ve gotten to the point where we are are stable and we are solid. And I’m I’m happy with on or the underwriters that we have them happy with the group that we’ve got and so out of that stability you okay so what were stable now it’s taken us two and a half years to get stable but were stable so okay so what does any good entrepreneur wants wants a stable, you try to grow right.
And so we’re in the process of doing some things that were were assessing some things and going okay you know what can we do to be a silly bigger for her sake but what can we do better? Right? What what can we do better how can we do things are even more differently and how can we reach more people and how can we do it more efficiently and how can we make our underwriters lives easier and how can we connect with more integrators and and what are we not just covering and were we not doing and you know we we started doing adjustments expo last year twenty seventeen. For the first time and we are doing it again this year, because our integrators are telling us that deals digital signage as a particle is important to them, so okay so you spend two days in Vegas right honestly Patrick it’s the cheapest show that I do , from a from a cost standpoint, so it is the least expensive show that we cover and it’s you know I’m in Saint Louis so I tell people, I’m spoiled as far as he is whites it takes me I get any place in the country in three hours you know at the most and Vegas is among those and you know southwest being southwest you can get in a fight pretty cheaply and you know hotels in Vegas Sir you depends on where you stay obviously but you know those little relatively inexpensiveunless you go during CIS, which I’ve heard really horror stories about that, but that’s a whole nother issue: But you know it’s it to you you grow from a stability standpoint and a you stretch and you see what’s possible and you know we’re not perfect by any stretch the imagination we have our own issues and and we’re still learning how to be a website as opposed to in in addition to being a podcast company and that comes with that with its own challenges, because it’s something that we never had to worry about you know was a website traffic because our our podcasting traffic is is what it does. And so that comes with is its own set of challenges and trying to shore that up and and learn because as a business owner I have to make I have to make intelligent decisions so the way that I make decisions, I want to learn everything about right I’ll be an expert but I had to have I have to know enough to make an informed decision, so you know learning about you know things like you mentioned SEO and learning about things like making sure things are in proper categories and making sure that your , you’re promoting so proper and all this other „hoo hah“ that I never had to worry about you know five years ago. So that’s a learning. It’s a way that we can we’re able to become better and and serve our clients in in our our listeners better is okay, we’re good you know we’re or stable now now let’s start stretching.
Pat: Excellent, sounds great. Any plans for the future you’d care to share with us?
Tim: Take over the world.
Pat: Really? With a podcast?
Tim: Absolutly. Here’s the thing- we I see online media, as not just the future of media in general, but I see it as as kind of where we’re going as a society and I do mean it is a global society. I still believe in print, I think print is a is a fantastic medium, I think the journalists that worked at The New York Times SEM are fantastic people. Right? I think they do an incredible job of what they do, but I also look at what time magazine is doing on time magazine, if you’ve never heard of them is little magazine right, but they start out being being a print magazine. If you go to Times website you’re going to see as much video as you are written conduct and you take the flip side of that company that started out as being just as video on that CNN, CNN start out being just video right. It was the cables news network, well with the the onset of of the of the internet are there is much written as they are video on their website now so you’ve got you’ve got to be as a media company you have to be everything are you have to provide folks written content as well as video and I would argue also as well as audio all you have to give your audience what they want in the format that they wanted an you regardless of whether you’re covering audio visual or you’re covering politics you have to give folks what you what they want in the way that they want it. And it took us a long time to realize that it really really dead because I thought blocks right I thought blogs I thought press releases I fought you know written content I’ll let them right on the folks that help me run AV Nation will tell you that but I finally realize that you know what yet not everybody likes listening to me talk right not everybody likes looking and looking and then when watching some people just simply like to read , okay so you gonna go down that road as well. But no I mean I am I am fully ensconced in my business owners share. !I wanna take over the world, I want to be the number one you know audio visual media platform, I want to be the number one audio visual media company out there I would be number one and I I say that very humbly and but very honestly you know I am also a competitor, as well as a broadcaster and so how you do that you listen to your people you listen to you you listen to people who give you feedback , you make adjustments and you say okay to that just don’t work and if it didn’t well then you go back to the drawing board okay what what what’s next.
Pat: Excellent, excellent. Well, you’re doing a great job you’re definitely on the path. You know I’m a big fan. I remember the first time you called me for a programming job, that’s the first time we met.
Pat: And I was like holy crap, it’s Tim, I heard your voice on the other side of a phone and not coming through my car speakers, so yeah there’s a there’s a lot about the power of you know audio and voice and things like that but but the other know die that you were mentioning it sounds a lot like the way people learn too. Like some people learn better with text, others with video and I guess the news is a form of of learning too. The next big change could be right, you’re saying that there’s this move to video. What happens when everybody has a pair of googles?
Tim: No, not everybody will have a pair of googles.
Pat: No, no, because then you’re there, like it doesn’t get more real.
Tim: Well, the reason I say that is because I am, objects are right I am that you know that that lost generation between the damn boomers in the damn memorials and yeah so we’re we’re you know we’re that we are the forgotten generation at and you know there there is you know our our kids are kids may very well have goggles the more likely than not our grandkids or great grand grand kids may very well have the goggles but in the meantime it is the augmented reality of the cell phone right and you know it it’s the reason I say that we we probably don’t have goggles is is does he goes back you go back to 3D. one of the main reasons the three D. never really took off to the people who were in the glasses if they don’t have to wear glasses.
Tim: I’m thirty three years old and I don’t have to wear glasses knock on wood right so do you think Zak like you know my dad was forty when he started wearing his readers and I’m forty three and I still don’t have to so I and I will fight it tooth and nail but I I’m legitimately I’m not I’m not fighting and there’s a there’s a box over there with the small print I can still read it now you know once I get to that point with wearing glasses you know I I don’t know that I’ll feel differently but I would say that if you don’t have to wear glasses you’re probably not really apt to even if it’s going to give you some weird experiences however okay if you are already looking at yourself or let’s be very Frank about it we all are right arm then you you kind of lean towards that and there’s there’s where some of the the I a are going to come from in our years honestly there’s some games out there and there’s some programs out there with that I’ll let you you know see stuff on your desk if you know if you look at it through the through your lands and I’ll give you an augmented reality experience.
Pat: It’s gonna be interesting however plays out. So given your background in the AV press do you have any ideas on for somebody if they’re coming out with a new software based solution or even if it’s hardware based something new and different approach to solving something in AV? Do you have any ideas or advice on how to raise awareness for something like?
Tim: Two things. First of all get yourself a couple integrators to buy into it, because here’s the thing so regardless of what the press release says this is the this is the latest greatest thing in the history the world and it will change how everybody does business in a brief period in the sentence right, I just wrote somebody’s press release with, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have somebody to sell it to and to give the people in the press, a use case because with very few exceptions, the vast majority of audiovisual press have never been in the back of Iraq pulling cable.
Tim: And as much respect as I have for them and I have a lot of respect for for everybody that that I work alongside in the process of the AB industry that is one thing that that they don’t have as they do they’ve never worked anywhere right so that you’re gonna tell them its latest greatest thing I don’t care what the display with its control program over to switcher. They’re gonna look at the specs and their comparison up to an old the on the previous model and they’re gonna say you know this does X. amount more or this does this and the other and number one the kind of had to take your word for it unless you’re there physically going to get a hold a bit and I have the testing equipment to test your hypothesis in in your your marketing speak or they’re gonna talk to any writers that they trust that they’ve developed relationships with. They all do you know they’re out there they all do their job right they did they have any brothers that they trust that they can bring to other they can bring a product to and say what do you think about this and why. And then no cultivate you know I’ll use their their opinions is as part of their of their coverage because these are the folks are using on a daily and weekly basis, so I would advise you to obviously connect with the press but also connect yourself with some integrators and that you can point the press two and say look here is Susie’s AV emporium who’s been using this product for six months and this is what they think.
Pat: All right. Great stuff, thanks for that. Tim, I think we can go on for a long time here, we’re gonna have to do a part two some time
Tim: Ok, whatever. You’re in Germany so you can stay up as late as you will.
Pat: Exactly, I think the kids will be knocking on the door here and running the podcast any minute so…
Tim: It wouldn’t be the first time.
Pat: Exactly thank you so much for being on the show.
Even with that shift in my head and and shipped in my philosophy, I sat there for probably, five minutes, yeah I’m wearing and blundering and just putting off quitting pressing record, before it will before we did our first show, once I pressed record and I started, it was down hill, but it was the active physically pressing record and saying what I had been trained to say which is three to one before ever start recording, it was that act that I was I was putting off right, I was it was that for whatever reason that pressing that record button was so difficult and in the moment. You know I had talked around I’d never met him before I had Linda from this who was a long time AV industry journalist, out her husband works for, okay booking audio and then I had my buddy Michael physically next to me right we’re sitting in my college radio station that I top production and at the time and you know I’ve got things kind of Jerry rigged between two different computers and and a recording system and it’s on the other, but it was until I hit record that it actually started doing anything in my head
Pat: Yeah, have you heard about the war of art?
Pat: He talks about exactly that it calls it the resistance he gives it a name he calls it resistance and he goes into this whole book is explaining how the resistance is out to get you and prevent me from doing everything you’re meant to do it’s it’s a great book, are the war of art tour of art and, it’s a good one to read for ten minutes in the morning to then she did to fix your head right.