Company Culture

What Makes A Good Company Great? The People

Guest blogger Kelly Perkins, CTS is the Marketing and Communications Manager at Vaddio.  They are the leading manufacturer and OEM-distributor of specialty PTZ cameras, high-end camera control systems and custom furniture used in the broadcasting, audiovisual and videoconferencing industries.

Kelly Perkins CTSCrap jobs. Who hasn’t had a bad job? And if you didn’t, well then I’m sorry because you missed out on some amazing stuff. You really did. I mean how could you appreciate a good job if you’ve never had a bad job? Think working at a pizza joint inside of a discount store with a crew of pathological liars, drunken bosses and some guy who stole half the register (and I’m just naming a few). You gain some serious awesome people skills, or at least a better understanding of how to deal with multiple personalities.

Oh, and then throw in all the “free internships”. I mean you’re gaining real world job experience right?

I remember the exact moment I knew I needed a real workplace change. And it wasn’t in high school or college.

It was my first “real” job out of college. Don’t get me wrong – I was beyond excited when I got hired. Like “holy shit this is awesome, I FINALLY HAVE A REAL JOB.  Then reality hit.

I was getting ready for work one morning and was completely, utterly dreading the day ahead of me. And not just that day – every day (well Monday through Friday at least). No particular reason really. I didn’t have a bad job. I didn’t have a bad boss. And my coworkers were fairly pleasant. So what did I have to complain about? Who was I to not value a job in this economy? I was working in my field, had just graduated and was steadily climbing my way up the corporate ladder. What the hell was wrong with me? People would kill to be in my position.

Well I was young and naïve for starters (or was I?) and I wanted more. Looking back I really had nothing to complain about. I was impatient. They took a chance and gave me a great opportunity – and for that I am very grateful. That job laid the groundwork for where I am today, which through some twists, tumbles and turns (maybe fate?) I eventually found my way to the AV industry.

And I am so thankful I did.

At the beginning I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into. I barely knew what AV stood for. I’ve always been a music/film person but by this I mean I like listening to music and watching movies. Who doesn’t?

I had no idea what a BNC connector was. YPbPr.…ummm what? Forget the gazillions of industry acronyms; I was in a whole different dimension.

On one of my first days my boss said, albeit nerdy, “No question is a dumb question.” And I thought, “Shit, is this guy for real?” Yes he was. And this is why I love my company, have stayed with my company and will continue to love the industry as a whole.

I work for an awesome company. Not just because we create killer products – BUT because we have fun doing it. I mean we really have fun doing our jobs. Why? What? How can you have fun at work? Because the importance of the company’s culture is full-on emphasized. People are going to do better at a job they enjoy doing; working with people they enjoy working with. It’s that simple. By promoting creativity, teamwork and an environment where people can feel free to share ideas, work no longer becomes work.

Holy shit. What a concept. I am happy. I don’t mind going to work – in fact I look forward to it.  Forget stability, obligations, benefits, the hoo-ha… I am making a career out of what I enjoy doing, which makes me happy(er).

But people do work hard here, and I mean haaaaaard to get projects not only done, but done on time and done right. I can’t speak for everyone but I do it, yes for some obvious reasons like compensation, etc. – but I mostly do it because I want to. It’s exciting, rewarding and I am passionate about what I do (the office humor isn’t too bad either.) But everyone here is passionate about what they do. People take pride (again holy shit, what a concept.) BUT they do.

We have monthly company lunches where the entire company (including shipping, front desk, engineers, etc.) gets together to talk about what’s been happening, future company/product plans – who’s birthday it is. Jokes, chatting and hallway talk is encouraged. Disc golfing over lunch is not uncommon and attending a coworker’s concert is pretty standard. Stories galore come from the annual fishing trip (think break dancing) and let’s not forget the average amazing nerdy, awesome things people do every five minutes – the-make-me-love-my-job-type – things.

And I’ve learned this:  when you get a group of eccentric, amazing, hard-working geeks (who love what they do) together you’re going to have a great team. And if you’re lucky enough to get leadership that is smart enough to empower this group of geeks (and yes we are all awesome AV geeks) you get what I call a company culture of awesomeness.

And really, when all is said and done, we’re just a group of people who work together to create some cool stuff – and we’re happy. I like it. I appreciate it. And I want to continue to be a part of it. I don’t know about anyone else in the AV industry (because I haven’t worked for any other AV companies) but it seems to be the general consensus throughout.

And that my friends, is why company culture is so important.


Radiohead Stage Collapse

“That Could Have Been Me”

Article by Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

Radiohead Stage Collapse
Stage Collapses at Radiohead Concert in Downsview Park, Toronto 16 June 2012, AP Photo

Last Saturday 16 June 2012, as many AV folks were traveling back from the Infocomm show in Las Vegas to thier respective AV States, tragic news spread through the Touring World. Just hours before Radiohead was scheduled to play Downsview Park in Toronto, their outdoor stage collapsed, killing drum technician Scott Johnson at age 33.  Another crew was member hospitalized with a non-life-threatening injury, and two other people were injured and treated at the site.  Anyone who has ever been a stage hand or been on an outdoor stage felt their heart skip a beat when they heard the news.

Now this may sound extremely selfish, but my first thought was, “That could have been me”.  I used to work on a lot of temporary outdoor stages, though nothing as big a Radiohead. I was the guy who said “Check 1, 2, 2, 1, 2”, mic’ing up five or ten bands for music festivals; wiring double-stacked loudspeakers on double-stacked scaffolding; rolling line array speakers through mud up and pushing them up truck ramps; or using lift gates to hoist racks and chain motors into “Rentskes”.  Got my toe stuck in a lift gate once (not my fault, and luckily nothing broken).  Another time, I saw a stagehand accidentally tip a small lighting tower off the stage onto my coworkers head.  He needed a few staples, but luckily he was okay, and forgiving of the stagehand.

But a toe in a liftgate or a lighting tower to the head is peanuts compared to a stage collapsing.  The drum tech, Scott Johnson, died Bro!  Maybe while working a job he loved, and maybe he accepted the risk, but let’s be honest, no one expects a stage to collapse, ever. Here is a computer animation video showing how the stage fell. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t explain why the stage fell, but it still helps you visualize it):

Unlike the Indiana State Fair stage collapse, the weather did not play a factor in the Downsview Park stage tragedy. There was no wind.  No, it appears that the Toronto collapse was due to equipment failure, or more likely human error, and they are still trying to figure out who to blame. They got a Structural Engineer to sign off on the design, but that doesn’t mean he is at fault, as many people are involved in the construction of those stages. Engineers and riggers in the concert industry are trained to be perfect, to design stages and rig them with safety factors of five or ten.  Meaning they should hold five or ten times the amount they are specified to hold, like bridges.  Someone skipped Statics Class and got their math wrong, or missed a crucial step in the rigging process. According to Pollstar, the folks doing the lighting expressed concerns prior to the incident.  The tragedy caused great sadness to the band who released this statement. Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, spoke about the incident before covering Radiohead’s Knives Out that same evening in Toronto:

Everyone knows that the touring concert industry has taken a big hit in the recent economy.  With the price of oil directly driving up the cost of trucking, and more young people opting to download music for free instead of attending live shows, concert promoters are forced to think creatively, and cut costs wherever they can. But going with the lowest bidder or the cheapest stagehands sometimes results in a dead guy. Please figure out who screwed up this time, and make an example of him or her, so this never happens again.

Five Random #Infocomm12 Videos

In Case You Missed It (Like I Did)

By Paul Konikowski, CTS-D

Since I was unable to attend this year’s Infocomm trade show in Las Vegas, I have been following a lot of the web videos being released. If you made it to the show or not, here are some random happenings that you might have missed:

NEC Flashmob

Video courtesy of NEC

MantaroBot Telepresence Robots
Video courtesy of Ed Nixon

MIDAS Headquarters Tour

Video courtesy of Sound Pro Live Network

JD Systems tries gives a sneak peek, and gets booted

Video courtesy of JD Systems

Chief Hosts a Hot Dog Eating Competition

Video courtesy of rAVepubs