Jeff Irvin's Farewell Message to the AV Industry
January 13, 2023 | Bea Lim
I remember this day vividly…Monday, May 26, 1986. My wife Barb and I, along with my parents and brother, had spent the weekend prior to May 26th moving into and setting up the new Presentation Products, Inc. office. The previous week we had consummated the purchase of the KROY Lettering System branch office, a company I worked for 5 years. The emotion I felt headed into the new office that morning was wide-ranging, from anxiousness, nervousness, and excitement, to sheer fright!
At the ripe old age of 27 my wife and I were business owners, with the financial help and support of my Mom and Dad and Uncle, who was President of a bank in the small town in Southern Illinois where we grew up. No bank in Southern California would lend money to a young couple with no money or real estate to put up as collateral, no matter how impressive our business plan was! Thankfully, my family trusted in us, and Presentation Products, Inc. was born!
Our product offering back then was simple, portable visual solutions. Beyond lettering systems, we sold overhead transparency projectors, transparency makers, transparency film, slide projectors, slide makers, easels, AV carts, pointing devices, etc. For the younger crowd that needs an explanation of what all this stuff is, feel free to Google it. 😊
In the early ’90s along came LCD panels, and then LCD projectors, and the business really took off. As we pivoted toward projectors being the lion’s share of our revenues, the channel for selling those products got very cluttered and, therefore, competitive. While we watched revenues increase, we also saw margin erosion year-to-year.
It became evident that we needed to build an installation/services practice to survive the barrage from the many dealer suppliers, catalogers, and internet providers now selling projectors. So, I began to recruit AV design/technical talent to begin the building of an installation practice. The next step was to develop the sales team to shift from selling AV gear to AV installation services. Gary Kayye was contracted to help us with this transition.
I knew that we had to be successful at this initiative but becoming an AV installation company was harder than I ever could have imagined. I told Gary I needed help, and he introduced me to a guy by the name of Jay Rogina. Jay joined the company as my partner in September of 1999, and Spinitar truly started the journey of becoming an AV integrator.
We’ve done some crazy things over the years, no crazier than coming up with the name ‘Spinitar’ as our dba. in 2000! At that point, it was clear that Spinitar would become an AV services provider and move away from the transactional sale of AV gear. In a very short period of time, Spinitar became recognized as a true AV integration firm and the shift was complete.
Fast forward to October 31, 2022, Spinitar had grown to four office locations, and 150 employees, and was on course for a record $60M year! Despite our inability to pull off any acquisitions as a part of our growth strategy, the organic growth year-over-year was off the chart. While ’22 showed tremendous growth, accomplishing real scale was still well off into the distant future. On Halloween of all days, Presentation Products, Inc., dba. ‘Spinitar’ consummated a sale to Solutionz Inc, now becoming a part of a $250M, 500-employee organization and the fourth-ranked AV integration firm in the world.
I’m sincerely excited about the opportunity this provides our people and their families, opening up real career opportunities for all without losing staff. I’m excited about what this means for our customers, as now they have a much more robust entity supporting their AV requirements. And I’m excited about what this means for our manufacturer & distributor partners, as efficiencies can be leveraged for everyone’s betterment.
So, after 36 years, I’m stepping aside to allow Spinitar to really flourish. I feel strongly that our company has never been in a better place with a better future ahead. I’ve been so blessed and have had a great run, but it's time for chapter two. Chapter one was a long one! 😊
I never knew that I was such an emotional guy until all of this happened, as I’ve cried way more than I’ve smiled over the last few weeks. But I can tell you that I’m at peace, feeling so good about the legacy left and all that we’ve accomplished over the years. I’ve made so many terrific life-long friends and have so many terrific memories. I’ll miss suiting up to come into the office every day. I’ll miss working with my fellow Spinitarians and doing our best to delight our customers.
A very big thank you goes out to our partners and friends for these past 23 years, Jay & Kris Rogina! When it was just Barb and me, it was a little lonely not having a partner to confide in and someone to help assume some of the pressure of business ownership. Jay taught me a lot about the AV business. But more importantly, he taught me that if you take care of your people, the business will take care of itself. The AV business is tough, but Jay had a gift of always making it fun -- even when it wasn’t! 😊
As Barb and I spent some time reflecting on these past many years, she reminded me how we used to come into the office on weekends to vacuum, dust, and clean sinks and toilets. From very humble and simple beginnings, with your help and the help of SO many others, we’ve built something very special. You should be proud!
Your chapter two is ahead, and I wish you all the very best in life! Remember to love people, serve people, add value, and have fun! Thanks for the memories!
Love to you all!
Jeff and Barb Irvin