Sometimes all it takes is one project to skyrocket your career. For David Marsh, president at Marsh/PMK International in Richardson, TX, that project was Fiesta Texas (today Six Flags Fiesta Texas), a theme park in San Antonio.
“Our scope was park-wide and attraction-specific acoustical and audio design including seven live show theaters. This was a big job for us—far exceeding anything we had done before; it helped pull us into the national spotlight,” Marsh explained.
Since 1984, Pelton Marsh Kinsella (PMK) served as a leading acoustical and AV consulting firm, founded by Gary Kinsella, who brought Marsh onto his team in 1985. In 2013, Marsh “rebooted” the company as Marsh/PMK International.
Like many audio professionals, Marsh got his start in the industry through his love of music. He started guitar when he was seven and played in a few bands during high school and college, but it was a job with his college AV department that foreshadowed his career path.
Marsh started a small sound rental company with his college roommate before graduating with a degree in Electrical Engineering Technology. At Marsh’s first fulltime job out of college (unrelated to the AV industry), he met a fellow audio enthusiast who referred him to Don and Carolyn Davis’ book, Sound System Engineering. “This was a career tipping point,” Marsh said. “I read the book all the way through three times working the problems at the ends of chapters. My fate was sealed.” Marsh moved into sound contracting and a few years later into acoustical and AV consulting.
“My primary mentor was Gary Kinsella. Beyond all the technical training he provided, Gary demonstrated to me the roles and responsibilities of a consultant. He also taught me how to market our firm’s services,” said Marsh. “Within three years I was bringing in over half the firm’s new business.” By the late 1980s Marsh had secured the Fiesta Texas project, which forced the company to grow quickly.
Marsh’s contracting background proved valuable as AV consulting became more significant to the firm. He observed prevailing negative attitudes of AV contractors toward consultants and vice versa; he viewed these as unnecessary and unproductive. Having seen the conflict from both sides, Marsh determined to build mutually beneficial and respectful relationships with contractors.
“I made appointments with local contractors and asked them to show me what they liked and disliked in our bid documents. I asked the same question with regard to documents issued by other consultants. I began developing best practices for our firm incorporating what I’d seen and heard. My goal was to produce documents that were predictably consistent, clear and concise, but also sufficiently thorough to ensure fair and competitive bidding.”
Ultimately, Marsh says the role of the consultant is to represent the client’s interests. His message to independent AV consulting firms: “Employ or subcontract experienced people who can knowledgeably deliver projects from needs assessment to developing proper construction documents. It’s time once again for consultants to raise the bar.”
Kelleigh Welch is managing editor at SCN. Follow her on Twitter @kelleighwelch.