CE Pro of the Week: Larry Whitney, Western Audio-Video
Pragmatic advice from a guy who’s been in business for 34 years.
Larry Whitney, CEO, Western Audio-Video
Each week, we aim to provide an informative - yet colorful - profile of one of your fellow CE pros. Interested in being featured yourself? See below.
How would you use Twitter to describe what your company does (140 character limit)?
Serving the San Francisco Bay Area since 1976, Western Audio-Video is the Bay Area expert in commercial & residential A-V and Home Automation.
After you complete a project, what do you think your typical client tells his friend about the experience?
Most of our clients would likely say that the Western Audio-Video technicians that visited their home or business were courteous, professional and efficient.
They may comment on how our company is honest about its project time duration and that our finished product meets or exceeds their expectations. Many of our new customers are client referrals, so they are saying good things!
- Principal: Larry Whitney, CEO, co-founder
- Location: La Honda and Atherton (demo house), Calif.
- Web site: http://www.WesternAudioVideo.com
- Years in Business: 34 (co-founded with Rick Jansen-Olliges, senior engineer)
- Number of employees: 8
- Residential/Commercial Split: 70%/30%
- Number of 2009 Installations: 28
- Top 3 Brands: Control4, Integra and Triad
What can CE pros learn from your company to make them think differently and run their business better?
Clients expect honest project assessments. They seek true, high-quality craftsmanship at all levels of the job—from the pre-field to follow-up.
Added thoughtfulness, such as covering up rugs and wearing shoe covers go a long way in the impression that is left with the client. Customers also appreciate the hard work and efforts of our staff.
Additionally, it is important to evaluate the cost of business so that the client is not only provided a completed installation—they also need support after the project is installed. So many companies are focused on those first few dollars that come in as a result of the installation but they are not equipped to support the customer once the system is installed. It is necessary to be there for the customer every step of the way in order to build client trust.
What trade tip can you offer your fellow CE pros?
Value your staff. They are your biggest asset. A great website or bidding software will help you, but your staff is who makes it all happen. They are in the front lines working hard for you, and it is very important that they know that they are appreciated, valued, and respected.
High morale is great for the entire company. Putting our money where our mouth is on this subject, Western Audio-Video made it a point to keep all of our staff on board through this difficult economy, and we expect that doing so will create value for our customers, our company and show that we are truly a family.
What’s the wildest request you’ve ever had for an installation?
Truly, Western Audio-Video has never received a request that we consider completely outlandish or wild. Whether it is a 2-acre backyard sound system, TVs behind mirrors, corporate command and control, working with demanding clients who only know what they want once they see it or a request from a new client from halfway across the world before they return home to the Bay Area, Western Audio-Video has brought these requests back to earth and delivered them in a reliable manner that meets our client’s expectations.
What is your 3D strategy and do you think the technology will live up to the hype?
While we are waiting for the industry to mature a little more before forming a strong opinion, we still have a lack of confidence that the consumers will run in droves to this new technology.
It is exciting in the sense that what once required a visit to the IMAX Theater can now be enjoyed in your own home, paused for your convenience, etc. We have heard mixed feedback from our clients regarding their interest in this technology.
A recent posting to our Facebook page on this subject inspired a client to suggest that the industry should move toward more holographic-type 3D imaging that does not require special 3D glasses.
What is your absolute favorite piece of audio demo material?
(Editor’s note: Audio demo suggestion is by project manager Peter Panofsky.) Diana Krall, her incredible voice showcases the full range of an audio system’s potential.
What is your absolute favorite piece of video demo material?
While Avatar is a great video to demo for its stunning graphics, we really love using The Fifth Element because the colors, imagery and graphics are out of this world, captivate the viewer and really show off a full spectrum of visual delights.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
Next year, I will be retiring as chief of La Honda’s all-volunteer fire department after 20 years of service. While I will certainly miss the opportunities for excitement and serving my community through the fire department, I am happy that I will have all that much more time to focus on Western Audio-Video.
Volunteer fire department chief and Western Audio-Video co-founder Larry Whitney with granddaughter Evelyn.
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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. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org
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