CE Profile of Excellence Award: Bryan Mills, Mills Custom Audio/Video

This custom veteran challenges fellow CE pros to take a long-term view of their company and make adjustments for growth.

Bryan Mills, principal of Mills Custom Audio/Video, Buffalo Grove, Ill.
CE Pro Editors · November 5, 2010

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How would you use Twitter to describe what your company does (140 character limit)?
Mills Custom: Providing a world-class home technology experience

After you complete a project, what do you think your typical client tells his friend about the experience?
The Mills Custom experience does not end at installation and commission of the project.  Having been in business for three generations, we have been fortunate to maintain relationships with our clients for 5, 10, even 20 and more years.  Since we install dynamic systems in static structures, the relationship has to be continuous. 

I think clients would say, “Mills Custom is extremely knowledgeable, provides excellent continued service, and we enjoy inviting their team members into our homes.” 

Mills Custom Audio/Video

What can CE pros learn from your company to make them think differently and run their business better?
As our industry is relatively new and many electronic service contractor businesses are younger still, I feel many CE pros struggle to take a long-term perspective of their businesses. 

Assume for a minute that you will be in business for the next 50 years.  How would you run your business differently? In our experience, it means focusing less on the day-to-day and focusing more on people and building positive relationships — with clients, building professionals and manufacturers. 

Our core values include treating everyone with respect, and going out of our way to create an unbelievable experience in working with Mills. I believe that in the long-term, people and relationships are always a company’s greatest assets. 

What trade tip can you offer your fellow CE pros?
My friend Scott Dohner, CEO of Superfeet Worldwide in Bellingham, Wash., challenges his team to improve themselves by 1/8th of 1 percent every day.  The idea is that over time small improvements — compounded —  yield dramatic results. 

We have adapted this to our business — to learn another feature of the new television, to trim out the network just a little faster, or to use a new visual to present to clients, for example.  Since we hire people based on attitude and values, this professional development is critical to our growth.  I’ve been amazed at how these simple things have increased our abilities as a company. 

What’s the wildest request you’ve ever had for an installation?
Having the word “custom” in our business, I’m not sure if any request is too wild. 

What is your 3D strategy and do you think the technology will live up to the hype? 
It is difficult to judge how the general public will embrace 3D, and will depend heavily on the amount of content available.  In the meantime, we tell our clients that the great 3D equipment from our manufacturers like Sony make excellent “2D” products as well. 

What is your absolute favorite piece of audio demo material?
The Sonance Degrees of Invisibility demonstration board.  So much of what we do is being driven by aesthetic design, and I feel this piece conveys the story very well.

What is something most people don’t know about you?
I’ve been in the custom electronics industry for 13 months going on 31 years.  While I’ve spent the last decade managing in a large company and consulting to small businesses, you’re never that far removed from the family business.

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