CE Pro Masters: Honoring 24 Unsung Industry Heroes
Beyond the glory afforded many industry CEOs, there is a tier of hardworking industry leaders who are “unsung heroes.” Here are 24 long-time CE industry folks deserved of recognition.
Recognition. It just might be the ultimate high. From that very first kindergarten star-laden crayon scribble on Mom’s refrigerator to a Nobel, Pulitzer, Oscar or Emmy - getting recognized by others for what you do or did feels pretty darned swell.
I’ve been fortunate to receive a number of individual awards over my career in the custom electronics field, and I remember every situation in vivid detail. Later on, as a rep principal, I gushed like a soccer mom when one of my staff was recognized by a vendor.
More often than occasionally, lots of deserving folks get overlooked when the award “wood” is handed out. That was the thinking when we conceived of these awards as a cherry on top of our year-long 20th Anniversary sundae. We had a working title of “50 over 50” but that never struck us as very original. For a while we called it “Old Farts” but that lacked the level of gravitas we were seeking. Then we hit on “CE Pro Masters” - yup, that had the right ring.
As we explained late last spring, the criteria were pretty straightforward. We were looking for career CE folks who’ve moved up the ladder of success over the past several decades and made an honest living. Some of these people intentionally stayed out of the spotlight while others have concentrated on their jobs rather than endless self-promotion. And you responded with a worthy list of hard working lifers who fit that bill perfectly.
So here they are - our first list of the CE Pro Masters.
Fred Bargetzi, Vice President, Technology, Crestron
Fred Bargetzi isn’t necessarily the “face of Crestron,” but you wouldn’t know that if you’ve ever visited Crestron at CEDIA Expo, where he is one of the most popular guys in the booth. That’s because he’s affable and knowledgeable and highly technical. He joined the company right after graduating with a BSEE from the University of Buffalo in 1990 and has been there ever since.
Back then Crestron had fewer than 50 people and $1 million in sales. Now, the company is a world leader in automation and digital video distribution, thanks in no small part to Bargetzi’s lead role in product development, engineering and key strategic initiatives. Today, he is CTO.
Leonard Bellezza, Principal, Lyric HiFi & Video
Leonard Bellezza and his partner, Dan Mondoro, took over this Manhattan Mecca of high-end audio-video from founder Mike Kay in 2004 when it celebrated its 45th anniversary.
By then they had been with Lyric for 27 and 20 years, respectively. Every custom installer who promotes state-of-the-art components to clients owes a lot to Bellezza and other audiophile store owners across the country.
If a given piece passes muster at Lyric, it’s good enough for you. The odds are it will offer a fair margin, and it will never be a commodity item.
John Bishop, Owner, Bishop Audio Services
Independent reps are sometimes maligned but they certainly have tremendous longevity, influence and passion. You can count John Bishop of Bishop Audio Services at or near the top of the heap.
He started in the industry back in 1985 as the vice president of sales and marketing at a/d/s/, then started his own rep firm.
His energy and enthusiasm for the industry are contagious. A few years ago he built a custom demo van that allows him to drive to dealers’ locations and conduct demos of the top-of-the-line products he carries.
Bishop also is never without his ubiquitous camcorder that he uses to record every educational session he attends.
Charlie Boornazian, Sales Manager, Epson America
In that quandary about whether one should be good at a job or well liked, Charlie Boornazian has consistently managed to do both. Coming from specialty retail to a rep firm to the factory level, he’s left his mark everywhere he’s been.
After Carver and JBL, Boornazian hit his stride at Marantz where he rose to VP while building the brand to a position of prominence.
Since departing D&M, Boornazian has concentrated on the video business and currently is increasing shelf and ceiling space for Epson.
Paul DiComo, Principal, CE Marketing Pros
In these times, spending over three decades with one company should be noticed. Paul DiComo left Boston-area retail to work as NAD’s first sales manager. From there it was off to Polk Audio where he climbed the ladder to become marketing manager, overseeing the company through any number of changes.
Shortly after Directed Electronics bought both Polk and Definitive Technology, DiComo became senior VP of DefTech.
Now, with longtime Directed associate Al Ballard, he is a partner at CE Marketing Pros where they weave their marketshare magic for a myriad of the industry’s leading companies.
Dennis Erskine, Owner, The Erskine Group
No list of achievers of any sort is complete without a true Renaissance Man and that’s just one of the reasons Dennis Erskine is a CE Pro Master.
Despite being a lifelong classical pianist and possessing a love of music, Erskine’s CE career is really his second act following his success with numerous Fortune 1000 companies as well as NASA and the Saudi Arabian government.
For nearly 20 years now he has worked at a number of custom projects and firms, unpretentiously earning a position of respect that earned him election to the CEDIA Board of Directors. Erskine is also an accomplished pilot.
Steve Firszt, Principal, Fast Forward Business Consulting
There’s an old adage that says something like “those who can’t make it become consultants.” In the case of Steve Firszt, principal at Fast Forward Business Consulting, that adage could not be further from the truth.
Firszt spent his first 20 years in the custom electronics industry running his own custom retail store in the St. Louis area from 1981-2000. In that time, Good Vibes Sound grew to four locations with 75 employees.
Firszt has taken that experience and spent the past 10 years mentoring CE pros on profitability, operations, employee management, marketing and more.
Chuck Schneider is a freelance writer with a long history in consumer electronics. He started and restarted his award-winning manufacturer’s representative firm - Value Added Marketing - and was also a vice president and general merchandise manager for a multi-regional CE chain, as well as a buyer for Lechmere's (a division of Target). Today, he is a freelance writer. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Chuck at firstname.lastname@example.org
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