In this installment for our ongoing interview series with AVI employees, we sit down with long time AVI employee Tom Madsen, who tells us about his role in Project Development and Sales, his history with the company and his somewhat surprising love of hard rock, off-roading and Harley Davidson motorcycles.
Q: Hi Tom, how long have you been with AVI Systems?
A: 10 years, today, actually (October 1st). I was with AVI prior to this as well, but in 1992-2002 I relocated to Atlanta to work with an industry manufacturer for 10 years.
Q: What is it that you do with AVI Systems?
A: When I returned to AVI, I was a Regional Vice President. Then after several years, it was mutually decided I would be most effective in the region returning to sales. My title now would be “Project Development.” I pretty much focus on design-built systems, where I have been for about six years.
Q: Can you tell us about an average day as a Project Developer at AVI Systems?
A: Well, you know, you try to keep yourself highly organized as far as meetings, responses to inquiries, a lot of proposal writing because of what we do is not a particular product, it’s usually systems. So you’re really busy between internal things that you need from AVI to help you succeed and external responsibilities being the clients and the manufacturers that you represent. A lot of people don’t make it in sales because of a fear of rejection and the need to be highly organized and detail oriented. So it’s a very unique position.
Q: Do you have a favorite project or solution you’ve provided for customers of AVI Systems
A: Probably my favorite and most recent project would be the University of Kansas Hospital, Executive Conference Room because it was very rich with technology. The client understood and had a great appreciation for the power of communications they can achieve with the system we proposed. What makes that so unique is that in today’s economy most people are going with as little as they can with budget limitations, which is certainly understandable. They just said ‘we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do’ so we developed a great long term solution for them.
Q: You’re based in the Kansas office, can you tell me a little about the Kansas office and the employees there and how you like it there?
A: Well, we’ve had some restructuring throughout the years, and bit by bit we’ve come to a level of good understanding of the team. In other words, everyone knows what the guy to the left and the right of them is doing. Right now, we’re at a point where we’re working very profitably. But we can always continue to get better!
Q: How did you get into audio visual integration?
A: I was in nuclear weapons technology in the military, and when I got out I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do but I knew a little bit about technology and I knew I wanted to be in some sort of sales. I had a head-hunter in Sioux Fall, SD that met with me and got me into a company back in 1980 called Triangle Audio Visual Services. It was fun because I got to sell and learn, and I got to be around electronics and technology which was kind of in my blood by that point. Then in 1986 AVI bought Triangle. When we bought Triangle, we didn’t buy their Sioux Falls facility, so I started to work out of my home, but we picked up the organizations in Omaha and Des Moines, which are still with us today. Prior to that, AVI was only in Bismarck. So that was the beginning of the expansion and growth for our Bismarck based company.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: I’m a little unique in that I usually work out of my home office and go past the AVI office only once or twice a week, but I would have to say for me personally, I enjoy the independence. I’ve been independent most of my career - as it began in Sioux Falls where I worked out of my home. Being so independent, getting back into sales was a good thing for me. I enjoy developing special situation agreements for business partnerships and system support agreements. I’ve proudly earned the “Eagle Circle Award” five of those six years as one of the top sales performers of the company. Not only does it feel great to be back on the street, I also feel most effective in this role.
Q: Do you have any mentors in the business that inspire you?
A: Throughout the years, without a doubt, Joe Stoebner. I was here early on when Joe was at his greatest as far as entrepreneurship and pioneering; the guy was very inspirational. I’ve had other greats throughout the industry that have been good to me. Another that stands out would be Guido Von Linden, the President of Barco who really took me under his wing. I was working there and got promoted V.P. Sales for N. America, where I was directly reporting to him in Atlanta. Eventually, I would say to some of my better friends, “I look around and I’m not sure who to go for advice any more” and one of them looked at me and said “you know…it’s your turn now”. I hadn’t thought about it, but as you rise and grow it becomes your turn and someday it’s you, it’s your turn to do the mentoring. In a way you feel vulnerable, but I guess you can say you’ve “arrived.” That comment was made to me in 1996 by a friend Kevin Powers, and it’s still rings in my thoughts.
So for me, I LEARN from people daily. I’ll never be done learning, but the reality is that I have fewer options for a mentor, someone who will be there to lead and coach me through, which I’m sure comes with time and experience. Fortunately I’m so driven and independent that I will perform without the mentoring anymore, but will always remember the wonderful advice shared by many greats during my career.
Q: What is your favorite summertime activity?
A: Through the years, it would be boating and camping, essentially anything around lakes. This year our family really began to focus on motorcycle riding. We have got three Harleys. My wife and oldest daughter now have their licenses and we just ride, ride, ride. We have really enjoyed it and made it a priority.
Q: What is your favorite sport?
A: Right now I am kind of between sports. I grew up in Iowa and was a football player and a wrestler. Football has been interesting to me through the years, however Wrestling was always most important to me as a personal endeavor. (probably the independence and individuality of the sport) As far as today, sports aren’t as much fun to me as they were when I was younger. A couple guys and I at AVI are also really into handgun target shooting. I have been doing that for decades.
Q: What is your favorite type of music or artist?
A: I like about everything but country. I have been a drummer since I was 14 and have now taken up bass guitar. I would say my tastes are much more towards heavier types of rock, starting back to Van Halen and moving to Metallica. If I am driving in my car, I’m listening to something like Korn and really causing people to wonder about me. You wouldn’t know by looking at me, I’m dressed up and running around doing business but run on the energy I derive from thunderous music. As far as musicians, probably nobody is better on guitar than Joe Satriani or Mike Mangini on the drums.
Q: What is your ideal vacation?
A: We take it every year – Mexico. We have a place that we return to every year in Puerto Vallarta for eight days in early December. So for us a perfect vacation is on the ocean front.
Q: What is your favorite ice cream- chocolate or vanilla ice cream?
A: Vanilla, but then I can flavor it. More specifically, it would have to be cookie dough ice cream.
Q: What do you prefer – a Mac or a PC?
A: I’m going to say that the Mac really has it going on right now. I work with a PC every day in my office, but at night our house is full of Macs, iPads and we’re all on iPhones. So we’re an Apple house.