Name: Mario Maltese
Title: CEO, Co-Founder
Companies: AVR, AQAV
Overtime: Maltese is a professional speaker, trainer, and author, specializing in improving the quality of AV design.
What’s in a name? Plenty, if you’re Mario Maltese. Trainer, advisor, and prolific industry speaker, he is still learning after many years in the AV industry.
Festooned with an array of letters after his name—CTS-D, CTSI, CQT, CQD—Maltese is perhaps best known as executive director, AQAV (The Association for Quality in Audio Visual Technology), the organization defining standards—AV 9000—for quality management systems, providing training on quality issues, and offering appraisal audits of AV systems and AV companies. The non-profit is dedicated to improving quality in AV design and integration. He also is the author of AV 9000: Defining Quality in Engineered Audio Visual Systems, a proposed standard for defining quality in engineered audiovisual systems.
But wait, there’s more. Maltese is the CEO/co-founder of AVR (Audio Visual Resources), providing third-party AV commissioning based on the AV 9000 Quality Management System. The company, ISO 9000 Certified, offers design/build AV integration, testing, verification, maintenance, repair, and installation of some of the nation’s premier audiovisual networks.
During Maltese’s 46 years in the AV industry, he has received numerous honors and garnered a reputation—he admitted—for telling the worst jokes. The New York native co-founded TSI in 1978, which went on to become the largest AV systems house in the New York metropolitan area. It all started after he received his MSEE (electrophysics degree) from Stevens Institute. The summer before he started on his BSEE in microwave engineering from Pratt Institute, fate intervened with a job for an AV contractor. “I was hooked,” he said. “AV is a lot of fun.”
A commissioned signal officer in the USAR, where he fulfilled duties that included training and maintenance management, Maltese took a job with Norcom Electronics where he snared a patent for an intercom talk-through unit in 1977. “It’s still made today,” he said. “It’s bulletproof and self-contained. It shows that if you’re doing a job right, you’re helping people to communicate, bringing the talker and listener together.”
Since then, there’s been so much more to his career. One of Maltese’s greatest achievements in the industry has been his successful InfoComm high-wire balancing act. Perhaps no one is both such a champion and critic of the organization as is he, pushing InfoComm’s educational arm toward embracing, in its training protocol, what he considers to be the mainstay of the AV industry’s future for system integrators, consultants, and dealers. And that, simply put, is the team approach.
“Before the turn of the century, I joined others when InfoComm was a volunteer organization,” he said. “Some educated and talented people created the Academy, and they were willing to share solutions with others. Then a few years ago, the focus of InfoComm’s educational arm changed to intellectual property, and the organization decided to own all the materials.”
But training is a hot commodity right now, Maltese argued, and the AV industry needs it now more than ever. “If you look at all those skills that an AV individual has to attain, the list goes beyond the career span in this industry. You need a team to do AV work. You need tiers of specialization because of how complicated the work has become. Technology keeps evolving beyond the capacity of what humans can follow.”
This transition from the individual to the team doesn’t negate the individual, but is salient to success, he said. “AV companies need both individual and team training. Companies need to ID the skillsets they want and to know what their processes are, the inputs and outputs.”
AV systems are filled with defects, Maltese noted. “At our last AQAV class on CQT, a student told us his company would have saved time and money if the training had been taken earlier. Jobsite hours drop dramatically with the proper training.”
Maltese gives a lot of credit to SynAudCon founders Carolyn and Don Davis and the current principals, Brenda and Pat Brown. “It’s the synergy, the sharing of the operational art that makes it so successful,” he said. “Brenda and Pat are at the cutting edge and have applied that synergy to accelerate the learning of audio technology in our industry. When people share knowledge, things roll along much more quickly.”
And Maltese himself will share with anyone who asks, consulting his substantial library for solutions. “Things are changing so fast in this industry. You have to learn, unlearn, and relearn,” he said. “Sure, I’ve got a lot of letters after my name but, as someone once said, ‘The learned soon find they are very well equipped to handle a world that no longer exists.’ I’m still learning from every class I go to or give. I try to structure classes so that students learn hands on, almost as much from the other students as they do from the instructor.”
With AV growing “like crazy,” one way to keep up is to teach. “I try to give people what they need. Quality is the indisputable cure for poor profits, dissatisfied clients, and poor morale in this industry. If we can address these issues of quality, customers will be delighted and AV professionals will feel good about what they do. That’s the message.”
Karen Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Boulder, CO.