Born on the 4th of July - AvNetwork.com

Born on the 4th of July

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On Independence Day, most people are happy to sit in the backyard, barbecue a few steaks and light some fireworks. And then there are those who would rather launch a new company.

David Stern is among the latter. A veteran of the concert touring and special events industry, Stern established his own firm, Precise Corporate Staging, LLC, on July 4, 2000. I chose that date so that I would never forget it, Stern, who holds the title of president, quipped recently.

Like many staging companies, Precise Corporate Staging set out to provide those holding corporate events with the full package: audio, video and lighting technology. While this is nothing new, Stern had a solid vision of how he would distinguish his new venture from the others that are out there: combine the latest and greatest technology with sophisticated, well-designed packaging and delivery.

We are very particular about packaging our equipment differently, rather than just putting it together piecemeal on the show site, Stern explained. We are known for our custom-built racks, which are all sealed with custom panelsthere are no cables hanging out the back. In other words, everything supplied is built at the companys headquarters and delivered plug-and-play.

Stern developed his philosophy on neat-and-tidy production from watching how renowned concert touring company Clair Brothers approaches the task. You can tell the difference between Mom and Pops Staging Company and Clair Brothers, he said. When Clair Brothers shows up, everything is packaged correctlythere are not amps stacked one of top of the other, randomly. That is what we wanted to bring to the corporate market.

A Direct Line to Producers
Precise Corporate Staging deals very little with the end users--the organizations that are actually hosting the event that is being serviced. Instead, the bulk of the companys clientele is made up of show producers. We design the show and program the show, and then supply all of the equipment for the show, Stern explained. I find working directly with the producers to be more effective, because we dont design graphics or videos. Working with producers is also beneficial from a sales perspective. Some of these companies have 12 salespeople on staff, which is like having an additional 12 salespeople out there working for us, too.

Focused on supplying producers with the newest technology available, Stern notes that one of the biggest challenges his team faces is ensuring that product arrives from the manufacturers on time. In our area, the problem is that they build as you ordernothing is stocked, he said. When it comes to our equipment requirements, a lot of planning must take place two to three months ahead.

Despite this issue, Precise Corporate Staging has managed to do quite well: the firm purchased over three-and-a half million dollars worth of gear in 2004. Among the latest additions to the inventory are Color Kinetics Color Blazes, a Nexo GEO line array loudspeaker system, Altman Par 64 LED lights, Martin MAC 2000 Performance and Wash moving lights, a HOG III lighting console by High End Systems and a Yamaha DM2000 96-channel digital audio console. After four-and-a-half years in business, we are over seven million dollars in inventory. People are coming to us for our equipment; the equipment is the best sales tool that we have, said Stern. With regards to lighting, everything is headed towards LED. As far as audio goes, its all about line arrays and digital boards. We have a Yamaha DM2000 96-channel digital board, and its the size of a conventional 24-channel board. Basically, its eliminated the need for front-of-house racks, because everything is built into the board.

As a result, Stern and his team of 12 employees (including wife Marla Stern, who, as co-owner, overseas accounting) are having difficulty finding a place to store all of this gear. In July 2004, Precise Corporate Staging moved into a 12,800 square-foot facility, and there is already no more room for growth. The company is currently in the process of constructing its own 35,000 square-foot building, to better serve a clientele on a national basis.

Precise Corporate Staging works in conjunction with another venture of Sterns, Dedicated Staging. Founded the same year, this firm leases and sells equipment that has been returned from Precise Corporate Stagings inventory. With this company, Stern is targeting long-term corporate tours.

All of this from an organization that almost didnt survive the end of 2001, just over a year before Precise Corporate Staging was born. September 11th almost put us out of business, Stern admitted. He attributes the firms growth strategy to the reason it is still around today. We are growing our inventory on cash flow and not bank notes, and that is what enabled us to survive. We reinvest everything we make back into the company.

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