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Inside Eli Manning’s Automated Condo

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has complete control over all the home electronics systems in his 3,000 sq-ft condo.


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Paul Austi (left) doesn’t pose for many photos with his celebrity clients. His company, Audio Video Crafts, treads carefully with customers, like New York Giants quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, in order to nurture its network of high-profile referral-based clients. In this case, Manning was happy to help out, posing for photos at his Hoboken. N.J. condo with Manhattan views. PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEVE HULBERT

This story originally ran in October 2008. We are reposting in anticipation of Super Bowl XLVI between the New England Patriots and New York Giants.

The opportunity to hang out with a reigning Super Bowl MVP in his own home is rare. Still, Paul Austi didn't feel good about his recent visit to quarterback Eli Manning's Hoboken, N.J. condo.

The problem wasn't team alliance. As a New York Giants fan, Austi, the owner of Long Island City-based Audio Video Crafts (AVC), roots for his quarterback client.

The problem was that the visit seemed to conflict with the philosophy he crafted for his company.

AVC's niche is celebrity clients. "Being discreet is the key," Austi says. There are lines that AVC is careful not to cross with famous clients. Knowing where those lines are has been critical to AVC's success.

Why Being Discreet Drives Business


Asking a client to allow six people into his home for a photo shoot and interview is crossing the line, according to Austi. "I wouldn't have asked Eli to do this in a million years," he says.

He didn't. Manning and his wife agreed to make their newly remodeled 3,000-square foot condo the subject of an Electronic House article (EH is CE Pro's sister magazine). AVC had nothing to do with it.

Since the company had everything to do with the Manning's installation, Austi had to be there -- however conflicted he felt.

"We never publish our work. We don't take photos of work. We respect privacy. We never give references without authorization," Austi says.

If he seems obsessive about this, it's because he is. AVC's business is deeply rooted in this unique client base. "We don't advertise, publish or even solicit work," Austi says. "Our business is stimulated solely through referrals."

There can't be a misstep because business is driven completely by word of mouth. Therefore, AVC must avoid giving its celebrity clients anything negative to discuss.

Quick Stats
  • Company: Audio Video Crafts Inc.
  • Location: Long Island City, N.Y.
  • Principals: Paul Austi, president/owner; Tiziano Iannitelli, vice president of operations
  • Years in Business: 22
  • Revenues (for 2007): $7,131,791
  • Number of Employees: 22
  • Specialty: Ultra-high-end residential, integrating systems catering to elite, high-profile clients
  • Residential/Commercial Split: 95%/5%
  • Top 5 Brands: Crestron, Lutron, Sony, Rotel and Bowers & Wilkins
  • FYI: "To be successful in the ultra high-end residential business, you must be very lucky … The harder you work, the luckier you get."
Incidentally, Austi prefers to call them "elite, high-profile clients," but many of them are, in fact, celebrities. AVC's client list reads like an US Weekly table of contents. Besides Manning, there's Jerry Seinfeld, Joan Rivers, Woody Allen, Bette Midler, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, Laurence Fishburn and Steve Wynn, to name a few.

Like most integrators that work within a niche, AVC stumbled upon it rather than strived for it.

Looking to establish a base of clients early on, Austi went after architects and designers. "We just started working with people like that," he says, and "word of mouth took care of the rest."

How Dealing With Handlers Affects the Installation


Dealing with these high-profile clients is a delicate dance. Austi, along with his staff of 22, knows the right steps. Predictably, it comes down to superior customer service. Still, it's not that simple.

AVC's clients often come with built-in challenges. They may be very guarded about their personal life and wary of contractors being inside their home. They are sometimes suspicious of being exploited. They are often protective of priceless possessions.

"We have worked in homes with Picassos on the wall," Austi says.

The most challenging facet, however, is that it's difficult to get actual face-time with many high-profile clients. Austi and his team often have to dig through layers of "handlers" to extract clients' system needs.

This is not a good thing, as any integrator knows, since only the person who will actually use the system can truly represent how he wants it to look and feel.

"A lot of times, we have to work with a rep," Austi says. "It means we have to spend more time on a project. You end up revisiting things multiple times because you're not getting things first-hand."

AVC spent three years working on an ambitious project for an extremely famous (and busy) comedian. "It would have taken a year and a half if he had gone to the meetings," Austi says.





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About the Author

Tom LeBlanc, Senior Writer/Technology Editor, CE Pro
Tom has been covering consumer electronics for six years. Before that, he wrote for the sports department of the Boston Herald. Migrating to magazines, he was a staff editor for a golf publication and an outdoor sports publication. Now, as senior writer/technology editor of CE Pro magazine since 2003, he dabbles in all departments and offers expertise in marketing. Follow him on Twitter @leblanctom.

9 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by kevinmikelonis  on  10/09  at  10:09 AM

Nice Project! Good Job AVC.  I love the irony in the concept presented of ‘discreetly’ nuturing clients only to have them hold a touchscreen on the front of a magazine though.  I has a good laugh for a few minutes before getting into this article.  Thanks!

Posted by brandenpro  on  10/09  at  10:25 AM

I love how they talk about how discrete they are then give us every celeb they have worked for in the next sentance.

Posted by skiman  on  10/11  at  09:43 AM

They said: “We never publish our work. We don’t take photos of work. We respect privacy. We never give references without authorization.” Oh… and how do you spell sentence?

Posted by Pat Asuuli  on  10/11  at  08:57 PM

“We have worked in homes with Picassos on the wall,” Austi says.

Big deal… I’ve got a cleint with a Picasso in there bathroom. I wonder if they have worked in homes with Porsche’s in the garage yet.

Posted by JEREMY BURKHARDT  on  10/18  at  10:11 PM

Paul and Team,

The fact the you have established yourselves as the go to brand for the ultra rich says wonders about you ability to please clients.  Disregard the digs at people trying to put you down. Ya, you are a bit cocky and you deserve it! You do great work and the whole SpeakerCraft team is proud of you.  Keep it up babe.  Thw Manning job is great and takes your marketability to a new level, pounce now, pro players contracts are not being reduced!  Proud of ya.

Jeremy

Posted by Patrick  on  10/19  at  12:16 PM

Haters

Posted by PE  on  10/20  at  05:24 AM

Jeremy, Thanks for typing your name in all caps so we don’t miss it.

Posted by Rob  on  10/22  at  11:39 AM

ITS OFFICIAL..

JEREMY IS A D I C K .

Listen to what he is saying to us.

*Avoid his company at all cost.

Posted by Jeremy burkhardt  on  10/22  at  12:03 PM

I am telling you to look to a leader like Paul and either innovate, imitate or do whatever it takes to survive.  Paul has a great niche.  What do you think I am saying?  I want the whole industry to grow and evolve so we have a larger pie and better dealers to service it.  Paul and his team deserve props. Hey man, my suggestion for you is that you hit your local book store and read about self help, business and marketing.  If you want personal coaching maybe Paul could help.  Much love, Jeremy

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