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Current Home Technologies: How Audio Sales, Branding Breed Success

Tony Curtis of Current Home Technologies in Vancouver, Wash., used the lessons he learned from a previous partnership and a stint as a technician for another company to mold his small and growing custom installation firm ... even though he launched just as the recession hit.


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Tony Curtis waited out two separate non-compete contracts from previous jobs before he could start Current Home Technologies. (Photography by Doug Crouch)

For some, the military is a way of life and joining it - sometimes even with the intention of returning to the civil sector after a few years - turns into a career move. Current Home Technologies owner Tony Curtis turned down the military career and the very next day started on a path that would eventually lead to owning and operating his successful Vancouver, Wash., custom integration firm.

Lessons learned from his military days still serve Tony Curtis (no not that Tony Curtis) very well today when it comes to daily business activities, whether it’s focusing on precise details of a job or maintaining utmost clarity when communicating with clients. The former U.S. Navy navigator has managed to tread through opening what was essentially a trunk-slamming endeavor just as the recession was about to hit, to flourishing with nearly $800,000 in 2011 revenues and serious plans for expansion.

Along the way, he navigated through the experiences of co-owning a previous integration business, which also instilled some lessons that Curtis brought to the table when contemplating Current Home Technologies (like going solo this time).

Despite being in operation for only four years, Curtis’ work ethic continues to pay off at Current Home through the relationships he cultivates, rewards he earns and referrals he gains. “I became a custom integrator because of the challenge it provides, and I enjoy the opportunity to work with new and cutting-edge products,” he says.

Photos: Inside Current Home Technologies' Showroom

From Navigator to Journeyman
To get an idea of how Curtis has shaped his operations at Current Home Technologies, it helps to know how he got there. As noted, he was in the Navy from 1988 to 1992, during which time he served in the Persian Gulf War and reached a rank of QM2 SW (Surface Warfare). Curtis says he circumnavigated the globe during his tenure, but when the Navy offered him the opportunity to go to San Diego State and earn a computer science degree at the end of his term, he turned it down and was honorably discharged.

About Current Home Technologies
Location: Vancouver, Wash.
Web Site: currenthometechnologies.com
Principals: Tony Curtis, owner
2011 Revenues (resi/commercial split): $785,000, 85/15
Years in Business: 4
Number of Employees: 5
Specialty: Custom homes
Top 5 Brands: Revel, Control4, Integra, Rega, Apple
FYI (one piece of advice to another dealer): Listen to speakers, but more importantly, always do your best to hear what your clients are saying.
“I was married and had a daughter that was about to be born, and made the choice that I didn’t want to raise a military brat but raise a normal brat,” he says jokingly. The “normal brat” eventually became a key hire for Curtis to help run the office, although now she’s the one going off to college.

As Curtis recalls, “I got out of the military on a Tuesday in September 1992, and on Wednesday I started as an electrician.” He kept busy with the trade and received his license as a journeyman electrician in the state of Washington, which he would really benefit from later on as Washington’s regulations for performing low-voltage work changed to require licenses in the field.

Curtis decided he’d rather work for himself than for someone else, though, and as home audio and home theater became more popular during the mid-90s in the area (Vancouver is part of the larger metro Portland, Ore., market) he found a partner to start a company. He ran Safe and Sound System with a former apprentice electrician of his, and they did low- and high-voltage work, had a showroom and gained some good market share, according to Curtis.

“On the line-voltage side, we were doing residential electrical, wiring homes and I became an integrator at that time - that’s when we really started doing security, cabling, lighting, automation … back then it was pretty cutting edge,” he says. DSC Security, HAI, Yamaha and Jamo were among the brands they implemented, and some of their electronic controls innovations even made for a local news piece.

Related: How I Saved My Business During the Recession
But as often happens with partnerships, things started going sour, and rather than shutter the operation (and his partner not wanting to buy Curtis out), they sold the company to a Seattle-area regional integrator that was looking to expand into Portland. Curtis exited, with a two-year non-compete as part of the contract. As an early lesson in how important relationship-building and communication are for an integrator, Curtis relates that, “Our business was very much relationship based. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to how the [new owners] ran their business (afterward), I just know they didn’t stay around too long. But I know that I was the face of the company for the most part, and when I left so did a lot of the clientele.”

He also saw the opportunity to work on his business acumen following that experience. He admits that even though Safe and Sound System succeeded enough to grow and gain market share, its revenues weren’t as good as their potential. “Looking back and critiquing myself, I was a good technician,” Curtis says, “but I needed to learn how to run a business better.”





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About the Author

Arlen Schweiger
Arlen Schweiger is managing editor of CE Pro and Commercial Integrator magazines. Arlen contributes installation features, business profiles, manufacturer news and product reviews.

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