Name: Peter Melvin
Title: National Sales Manager
Overtime: Having been on the manufacturing and distribution side of the AV industry, while also having taken on the risk of business ownership, helps him relate to an integrator’s unique challenges in running a company.
SCN: Would you say you were destined for a career in technology, or was it more happenstance?
Peter Melvin: A little of both. I remember when my dad got his first big TV. He had 10 remote controls, and there were a ton of cables behind that big beast. Then he went a step further and got a sound system, which resulted in lots of cussing and more remotes. I always thought there had to be an easier way. I think this started my love affair with the tech world. I already had a passion for movies and music, but this sparked my curiosity. I love the technology space because it is always changing.
Working at Verizon Wireless during huge changes to the industry and then coming into the AV world during some drastic changes eight years ago drew me into these markets quickly. This space is constantly changing, and I think that is why it was a little happenstance, but I truly enjoy it, so maybe that means destined.
SCN: You had early aspirations for an international sales role with your degree in Spanish from The Ohio State University, yet you first started out in the luxury automotive field and then excelled in high-end data sales for Verizon. While those experiences might not have seemed relevant to AV at the time, have you found them more related in the way the AV business has been evolving?
PM: I love people. Always have. Always will. I love hearing about people’s lives, what they have learned, where they have been, and most importantly what they care about. I learned this at Mercedes-Benz. People came in ready to potentially make a huge purchase, and I got the opportunity to meet them and share that moment with them. At Verizon, I got to meet thousands of people while listening to what they needed and then matching them up to the technology that would best suit their lives and business. AV is a lot of small businesses run by people. Listening to people, having fun, and finding solutions together is the key to a lot of things in life and business.
SCN: Having first worked in sales for AV manufacturers, such as Milestone AV, and then distributors, first at IAVI, how has that background informed your perspective on where the AV integration channel is headed?
PM: I have also owned a business with my wife outside of the AV space, too. Having been on the manufacturing and distribution side of the AV industry while also having taken on the risk of business ownership, I think it helps when I am learning about an integrator’s business and discussing their unique challenges running their company. Having this background, I can relate to them more than others. The AV business for the integrator is a very risky proposition because they buy product, sit on them, wait on construction, and then they can do their install. For the manufacturer, it is also very risky because they are always investing in something they “hope” will be a hit.
Peter Melvin and his wife Melissa enjoy traveling. They are pictured here on a California trip to Sonoma wine country.
We are already seeing it, but more partnerships, acquisitions, and changes to the space are happening, whether that means manufacturers combining or simply getting out of fulfillment. Plus, integrators are going to look to add services and products into the spaces they are already in. I believe more integrators will join forces with IT, office furniture, security, and other technology services that can be combined where they are already working. The future is partnering for growth in our space.
SCN: At IAVI, the sales team more than doubled under your leadership, growing revenue from $60 million to $200 million in just three years, culminating in an acquisition by Almo Pro A/V earlier this year. What is the most valuable lesson you learned from undergoing such rapid growth?
PM: Two things. First, I always knew this, but it only reinforced the fact that it is all about the people. Your team. Your partners. Who you are surrounded by. Your work family can become your actual family. If you give great people a good environment, without policies to rule them, let them be themselves, make decisions as business people, and most importantly, have fun, amazing things can happen. I was very lucky to have the team around me and I was honored they trusted me to lead them.
Second, care. Yep, it is that simple—CARE! You have to give a damn about your business and your partners’ business. I hate the word “customer” because it almost implies selling something to someone—after all, that is sales, right? But a partner is someone you go to battle with and respect. I care about our people internally and externally. I want my people, our partners, and our vendors to have success. It is amazing what can happen when you care versus looking at situations as only work, money, or “how does this benefit me?”
Great people and caring are the keys to success in any business. Oh, and having fun, because my golden rule is to enjoy life, and work/business is a big part of it.
SCN: After joining Herman just this past summer, you’ve embarked on an ambitious initiative to further merge the company’s two divisions—distribution and integration services. How are you setting out to do this, and how does the strategy embody the trends of the AV integration business at large?
PM: Risk. Risk is a scary word. As an integrator, you feel alone, and risk is your biggest challenge. How do you manage it? How do you avoid it? Risk to me is something the industry is taking a closer look at in 2016 and beyond. Some integrators and manufacturers have gone out of business because, well, there are many reasons, but if you look at it closely, they didn’t manage risk well for their business.
A major way to manage risk, whether it is as a manufacturer or integrator, is to partner with people that can help your business. Here at Herman we are in a unique position to partner with people in the AV industry. This includes manufacturers and integrators.
Manufacturers right now are feeling a pinch as they invest more and more dollars into engineering to keep up with the rapidly changing technology market. They are trying to find ways to cut some costs while pumping money back into R&D.
Integrators are feeling the pinch on many topics: Cash flow for growth, taking on more projects without having enough people to do the work, leases going up, healthcare costs rising, needing more warehouse space, not having as many technically savvy people to hire, new competitors in their space (electrical, GCs, IT, etc.) and our most important asset, time.
Here at Herman we have a great team, and we can partner with manufacturers and integrators to take away some of the challenge of fulfillment and all that goes along with it: AR, AP, warehousing (we have four distribution centers spread out across the country), inventory management, shipping, customer questions, staging, terms, and many other things with our pro AV distribution business. On our Herman Integration Services side of the business, we can partner with audio/video companies to give them the people, tools, and resources to take on work from every angle. We provide nationwide labor resources for the AV industry. This includes technicians, engineering, programming, CAD, service contracts for you and your customers, and service calls when needed in a pinch. We are a complete extension of your business in the field.
If we can make life easier, more fun, and better for our partners who need to buy product while also giving our partners the tools and people they need on the labor side of the business, we all win. Combining the two sides of our business is the right thing to do and allows us to further help our partners in the AV space.
SCN: You’ve developed a unique management style that relies on developing the right culture ahead of more traditional hard skills. Can you pinpoint a key catalyst for this business mentality, and describe how the strategy has evolved for you?
PM: I wish I could say there was an evolution to this strategy, but when I was a kid I had a teacher named Mrs. O’Rourke. She had a passion for teaching, and she made it fun. I loved her class and learned a ton from it. I had two great parents growing up, and they made everything fun while also working very hard. My wife and I agree on something all day, every day, and it is a saying: “Doing the right thing is always doing the right thing.” Think about that statement. This is how fun can be at the core because when you do the right thing, good things happen.
Would you rather have fun, work hard, kick ass, and help people or would you rather be treated poorly, have lots of policies holding you back, and not have any fun?! It is really that simple. I want everyone around me to have fun, have the success they want, be happy, enjoy life, and most importantly, be themselves. No one will ever make me think differently on this subject.
SCN: What’s your desert island piece of technology and why?
PM: I want my big iPhone with me. It does everything. I can watch TV on it, listen to my music, and most importantly, I can talk to those I love. Give me my big iPhone, and I’ve got it all.
Lindsey M. Adler is editor of SCN. Follow her on Twitter @lindseymadler.