Today’s struggling economy has forced all of us to rethink how we do things and to conserve funds in every way possible. Instead of buying that big V-8 car or truck, people are snapping up the new hybrids like crazy, shopping for the best deals available. The same applies to the music industry, especially in the business of live sound and touring. As the days of the big tours and all the gear that follows them are dying off in search of more cost effective ways to achieve the same result without the transportation expenses, regional sound companies are rising to meet this new challenge. One southeastern company, Tampa, FL based ESI AudioProduction Services, stands out because of its
unique approach to the business of sound. Founded in 1989, this company now in its 24th year has grown from a small minimum investment set up, to a sprawling warehouse that takes up most of a city block, with more plans for future expansions in the works. Propelled forward by the concentrated efforts of Erick “Otto” Celeiro, President and Patrick “Pat” Clark, Vice President with the later additions of Ozzy Giron and Mark Thompson, the core base was complete and the system that is ESI began. It is this system that is the basis for every principle that is applied to their business practices, and it has served them well.
Having a chance to sit down with V.P. Pat Clark gave a much clearer perspective to why this company truly stands apart from anyone else. The founding members began their industry experience in the Tampa Bay area, affording them the opportunity to build over time, vast networks. This was the basis for the business, already seasoned veterans with many years experience and knowledge in all aspects of the industry, using personal relationships with existing strong foundations to work from as opposed to the standard marketing and advertising route for building clientele. When the health of already established relationships dictates every business deal made, it changes the experience for everyone. Working from the idea that anything that has the company name on it from gear to crew must maintain the highest level of professionalism at all times has established a firm and loyal clientele. When the gear goes out the door for a show it is fully tested, everything double (sometimes triple) checked, and ready to go right out of the truck. Same for the crew, they know what they are doing, don’t damage equipment, and hold many records for quickest and most efficient load in, set up, strike and load out for multiple national acts. ESI’s practice of using industry standards as a starting point instead of the top marker is evident in every show.
When dealing with clients Mr. Clark remained adamant that the highest priority is the relationships with people, remembering that pushing for a higher deal might pay off in the short term but for the overall health of the relationship, the long term pay off is always more important. As an example of this, he cited a show late last year, outdoor festival with big headliners that had to cancel due to dangerous weather conditions. The promoter who is a long time client and friend to the business, and the tour company that is a new relationship still being fostered, where set to loose big money from the sudden cancellation. Realizing both his chance to further strengthen his relationship with one and go a long way to building it with the other when approached, they reached an agreement on the spot to reduce the overall impact of the loss while the company still broke even. Helping everyone to save face and not have a deficit was the best way to ensure a bigger return in the future dealings.
Taking the time to get to know the people behind the business deals, to really get a feel for what the client’s needs are, then staying on top of every event with precision gives a mutually beneficial result and builds a reputation that now speaks for itself. Identifying potential problems early on, proper planning and flawless execution follows, ensuring everyone is satisfied. There is no positional bargaining in the world of ESI, and that lack of “haggle” makes for much smoother and happier business dealings all around. This also avoids most chances for so called “dirty tricks” people play in negotiations or contractual situations. Again, this company doesn’t play the games of others but instead changes the game by eradicating the potential for dirty tricks and underhanded dealings. The system of money up front, first foremost and always takes away the possibility to almost nothing that there will be problems over payments or contracts not honored. On the rare occasion attempts have been made to breech contractual obligations, Mr. Clark again leaves no room for debate and advises to always have excellent legal council on your side to handle the ones that choose to learn the hard way.
Ultimately though, the emphasis and focus remains on relationships and the people in them, those within the company and those that they work with, which provides for it’s unique and successful approach to business and the negotiations that go along with it. What started out as a formula and blue print twenty-four years ago is now a force to be reckoned with, from which much can be learned for the next generation.