Tropical Watchdogs - AvNetwork.com

Tropical Watchdogs

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AMR integrated the Trinidad Christian Centre with a full AV system. Aaron Rudden grew up in the Caribbean and then moved to the U.S., where he worked in commercial AV installation in the early 1980s. A few years later he came back to his birthplace and realized that there weren't any integration companies servicing that region. "Obviously there's a large hospitality market out here," he said. "So I started a company in Trinidad and did what I was doing my whole life up to then. We built a lot of studios, did a lot of broadcast then, more studio recording, TV and radio, and migrated the way the whole industry did to low-voltage systems."

Rudden's company AMR started as Audio Media Recording in 1986, focusing on the recording and broadcasting side of integration back before the industry drifted towards low voltage systems. Filling the need for a quality integrator in the area, AMR quickly became the premiere AV company in the Caribbean.

AMR is different than many companies because while it sells systems, it also often keeps an eye out for its clients' best interests in the seedy world of importing and exporting. "We have a real issue with competing against box movers that sell stuff that people here don't need. We often intersect with a lot of unscrupulous companies that would sort of dump equipment on them because once exported, they had no recourse due to duty costs and tariffs. Manufacturers and dealers dump products here because they know they'll never see them again. When it enters any one of these islands there's a 100 percent duty and tariff paid on it. So there's no such thing as returning, and they know that. We try to make the third world more first world by stopping this practice."

This often leads to AMR extending its own warranties on gear. "We end up giving people warranties for the products we sell because no one else will. And sometimes we'll have to replace stuff. For example, we had a product come in for a recent job, and by the time it cleared customs the return policy was expired, and it ended up being dead out the box. So we had to flip the bill for it. Our first priority is getting the client relationship working. If we made a bit less money on this one, it's okay because a happy client makes money, and we can make money on the next job."

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AMR put together a system for the Kensington Oval in Barbados.
Working in the Caribbean also means there's an absence of standards in building and integration. "We've had to become a consultant in a lot of ways," Rudden explained. "We work with clients to get their technicians certified because there's very little adherence to OSHA or the fire marshal here. It's pretty much a common sense approach overall. So we help them out with everything from lighting to electrical to video. Our major difference is that we teach them how to use what they're buying and what's coming up next."
AMR also offers extensive training programs. "We run and sponsor a school of music and recording, mostly it's a lot of AV design," Rudden explained. "Generally we allocate training to companies we service. If we sell or install a system, we include a lot of training in the package. It's a necessity really because it's better for us at the end of the day. There are less user errors and less support needed in the long run."

AMR has expanded a lot over the years, opening offices in Miami, Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua, Granada, and Trinidad. "They're quite small islands, and we've got to cater to each individual client almost," Rudden explained.

"They're very different atmospheres to work in, and they like to be respected as such. We try to find the best person in the business on that island and then team up with them, like a franchise of sorts."

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