It was back in 1988 that Tom MacKay, with a little push from a good friend, started Audio-visual Consultations. The original idea for the company was simple, help people set up their sound and video systems to be the best they could be. There wasn’t any pressure for people to buy products, they didn’t have to leave their homes to talk to some salesperson, Tom came right to them, there was no advertising or gimmicks of any kind – if somebody wanted to talk about their home they called. It seemed to be a rather novel approach to the high-end electronics market – it still is. Even with all the advancements in the electronics industry and the ever-expanding scope of services offered by Audio-visual people can still call Tom and he will still come out and visit them at their home without any pressure to buy anything. The staff has grown, the company has expanded, and the toys are bigger and better than ever, still the attitude and approach remains the same.
As for where we came from and where we see ourselves going, here’s a little bit of history to get all of you who don’t know us already acquainted with Audio-visual. Like I said, it all started back in 1988 and to be honest it didn’t go anywhere fast. For about a year things tugged along, but all was good because there were a lot of smiles and happy ears, but it really wasn’t much of a business. Then people started talking, and all of a sudden the phone was ringing, and so it began. At the end of 1989 Tom finally hired his first employee, Martin Diaz.
This is terribly important in understanding the way this little company that could got rolling. Martin was in the insurance field, not the electronics field, when the two met up. It was an attitude, not experience or product knowledge that made Tom pursue this particular person. And so it began, a practice of hiring people solely on the merit of them being real people. The process of dealing with our company is supposed to be fun, and so it just made sense that fun people who care about others were the only ones who could be employed. And this philosophy, however unorthodox, continues today – just a bunch of regular folks helping others and having a good time.
Of course, for the company to grow some sense of economics had to become involved. We started by selling stereos and speakers to the customers who needed them. Soon these same people asked us to supply the televisions and controls for the whole house, and a few phone calls later we were taking care of all of the audio/video toys in the home. But our customers wanted more – and all of a sudden it got real interesting.
In 1991 Audio-visual began designing complete Theater rooms (cabinetry, room décor, lighting and furniture layout). At this point everything felt complete. We were the only folks that had to be called, and our customers liked that even more. A store without the store, or stuffy salespeople, or traffic, or any of the headaches associated with shopping – and all the prices were very reasonable. This seemed like the perfect time to start asking everyone what they thought of our services, and to our surprise the overall response was that we should do more. So we did.
Intercom telephone networks and full home surveillance systems were the first ideas we came up with, and everyone seemed to love the ideas. Now people started talking to builders, architects, friends who were designing homes or remodeling, the name Audio-visual Consultations was actually getting around. Custom homebuilders began calling to ask us to talk with their clients about home entertainment systems, telephone and computer networking and home automation. We had finally made it to the point that we weren’t worried about where our next meal would come from, but instead of getting fat we got busy.
With the help of some Austin’s finest homebuilders, we put together a couple showcase houses that allowed everyone in the city to see us in action. Now was the time, or so it seemed, to stretch our legs and discover just how strong our reputation was. The year was 1993, and much to the disbelief of our founder, the company was not as well known as was expected. The showcase homes put a financial strain on the firm that took nearly two years to recover from. Needless to say, we won’t be doing that again anytime soon. Our company had thrived on one to one customer service and attention to detail – and Tom brought those ideals back quickly, promising never to stray again.
So things went back to normal, the customers were happy to tell their friends about us, the builders continued to call for their clients, and Audio-visual grew up slow and strong. In 1995 we saw our first expansion outside of Central Texas when Mike Reagan opened the Dallas/Ft. Worth location. Once again people were treated to the same old-fashioned idea of “customer first” that made us popular to begin with. Under the tutelage of Tom MacKay, Mike began doing things as they had been done. People call and Mike meets with them at their convenience, and that still sounds like a rather novel idea. Dallas did however present us with some new challenges.
For whatever reason there might be, it seems Dallas residents prefer to fight traffic and crowds to deal with the hustle and bustle of a retail atmosphere. It took a good bit of time to convince people that there was an easier and far less stressful way of handling everything – just call Mike – and let him do all the work for you. As we do with all aspects of our business, we didn’t push anyone to decide on us, we didn’t waste a lot of money advertising, and we didn’t tell anyone they shouldn’t inquire about our reputation. We are who we were and who we will be – and slowly the folks of Dallas realized that it all kind of makes sense, and they started calling. And all was good in our little corner of the world.
We were conducting business, without feeling like a business at all. Each client is more like a friend than a customer – we get to know them for who they are and how they live. We want everything we do to in some way enhance our client’s lifestyle. So even when things started rolling along rather nicely we knew there would be no time to rest – we had to get better at what we do in order to stay ahead of everyone else without losing sight of the attitude that got us there in the first place. Of course it is the attitude that allows us to continue to grow and develop with each client and every project. We believe in our hearts that we are the best, so we have a lot to prove every day.
In early 1998 Chris Ellington, one of the Austin crew, decided it was time for himself and the love of his life to wander off to Phoenix, Arizona. His request was simple; help him get the first out-of-state location of Audio-visual on the map. The only problem with that was we didn’t really know anyone out west, and our business is a referral only organization. There could still be no advertising, no hard sales tactics, and none of the usual ways of going about getting clients in a new location. Tom knew Chris could do whatever he set his mind on, so the blessing was given, the move was made, and the long distance phone calls began.
Chris claimed he was ready for the challenge, and much to the delight of everyone back home, he was. There was a short time of struggle while people questioned whether or not this guy from Texas could be all he said he was, but the questions were answered quickly by the new kid on the block. Chris loves it out in Phoenix (he says it’s a dry heat) and the people there have taken to our ideas almost as well as they have in Austin. So the company grew a little without really growing, the ideals stood the test of yet another market, and we realized that what we thought was a novel approach to doing business was in fact just good business. Treat the customer like you would like to be treated – if they ask for water bring it in a big glass with a lot of ice.
It would have been easy to stop expanding at this point. We certainly had no desire to start another satellite location, but Tom is not the sort of person who is happy with the status quo. His brother Mike was running an electrical contracting company up in Baltimore Maryland. Having an electrician on staff could open up a whole new world in lighting for Audio-visual, so Tom asked his brother to close up shop, pack up the family, and head to the absolutely greatest place to live in the United States – Austin Texas. It didn’t take much convincing, and so began the new frontier.
As it is with everything, things didn’t go as smoothly or take off as quickly as Tom wanted. Landscape lighting was not enough of a challenge to keep him or his brother interested for the long haul, but only one electrician was not enough to proceed in the electrical contracting field. Meanwhile, the audio industry was going crazy with the invent of every kind of gadget one could imagine. Tom was in a predicament he was not familiar with – how does one field grow when his primary interest is in another.
Then in a flash of brilliance (at least he would like you to believe it was brilliance) Tom got an idea. Tom met David Allison, who was considered by most to be the best master electrician in the city of Austin. David headed up the electrical division of Austin for a large nationwide company. Amazingly, David felt like a change of venue might be a lifestyle change he could live with, and the millennium saw Tom solving the one obstacle Audio-visual had been facing for over a year.
Tom and David came to an agreement, as did the best electricians from that nationwide firm, and everyone had a home at Audio-visual, and so began a new era. Now there was a company who did everything that had to do with wire and electronics. The customers were happy, the builders were happy, heck, even Tom was happy. From the electrical design and contracting to low voltage systems design and installation to home entertainment at its finest to communications systems for every level of end user to the landscape illumination, Audio-visual Consultations is still the only name you need to know and the only call you have to make. And even though there are a lot of guys at the company you would love to talk to, you can still call Tom and he will come to your house or office and help with anything you need.
So that’s where we are today – just a bunch of guys trying to make things right for anyone who puts their faith in them. We can’t think of anyone who has been unhappy with our service, products, peculiar way of doing business or pricing over the years and our goal is to keep it that way. We know things can turn in the blink of an eye, but with a whole company watching every move that every member of the company makes it seems unlikely that everyone would blink at exactly the same moment. So trust the fact that someone from Audio-visual Consultations is watching out for your best interests at all times – all you have to do is call to get the ball rolling.