Well-known industry icon, Tom Doherty, has been appointed to a new role at HTSA, placing him in charge of special projects. Doherty will be tasked with determining new areas of opportunity, creating strategic plans, assisting the group and its members in adoption and execution, and developing programs for member education.
Maureen Jenson: For those very few people in the industry that do not know you, please tell us about your beginnings in the world of custom integration and the formation of CEDIA.
Tom Doherty: I started in retail working at a couple of hi-fi shops in the late 70s. Around 1980 I worked for one of the first Video Stores with a clientele that needed support in their home for the VCRs we sold. I was 21 and happy to go to their homes and hook things up as well as train them how to use their components. In the hi-fi shop, mostly we had enthusiasts and they did not need any help, however the doctor/lawyer, professional that could afford to spend $1,800 (A LOT of MONEY THEN) for a Sony Betamax was not generally a hobbyist but was motivated to watch and record a movie or TV show and they were happy to pay/tip me to teach them how.
A few years later (1983) B&O came out with their Master Control Link solution that allowed the distribution of music to other rooms of a home all with Remote Control! I thought this was incredible and took it upon myself to install the system in the hi-fi shop and I began to evangelize B&O. The system required running wires, fishing wires, installing…and I took it upon myself to learn how to do that, and where my skills came up short, found someone that could…I was moonlighting doing this work and found myself making more money installing the equipment for these clients than the commission I was earning at the store.
One of these clients ultimately backed me in my own Custom Installation Company in late 1985. It was then that I met the early companies that made products specific to the needs of custom installation that we take for granted today. The leaders then were AudioAccess, Sonance and Niles. Through those relationships I met fellow dealers that were facing the challenges that I was and many of my longstanding friendships were started.
It was during the Consumer Electronics Shows (Chicago and Las Vegas) from 1986 thru 1989 that you could see the growth of this new market channel that is custom installation today. You would see more vendors enter the space, you would see more and more new installation companies attend CES and it was during these get-togethers that we would all catch up and compare notes. The primary frustration amongst the dealers was the challenge of getting the major manufacturers to sell us their products.
A small group of us dealers met in Chicago during the 1989 Summer CES to explore the feasibility of forming our own trade association. The purpose was to set professional standards, create and share education, pool our sales numbers to demonstrate to the manufacturers the validity of this new market channel so as to ultimately get them to support us.
We followed on in September of that year by meeting in Las Vegas and formed CEDIA formally. I served from January of 1990 thru September of 1992 as its first elected president.
MJ: What brought about your joining HTSA?
TD: Several HTSA members contacted me about new opportunities they are seeing for their businesses that would benefit from my knowledge and experience. They encouraged me to talk to Jon and some of the board members, to see if I was interested in coming on board to help lead and steer some new special projects. As we discussed the opportunity, it became clear that this was a good fit for everybody and I accepted the job.
MJ: What will your primary functions with HTSA involve?
TD: We will be sharing that with our members in detail during our Fall Conference in Chicago in late October. There are a number of great ideas and proposals that we are currently evaluating.
MJ: Why HTSA?
TD: It has everything to do with the companies that are members of HTSA. During my 30 plus year career I have enjoyed getting to know some of the best people and businesses in our industry. HTSA represents the lion’s share of these companies and I am looking forward to working with smart and committed people.
MJ: Our industry has gone through so many changes, especially in the last decade. Where do you see our industry in five years?
TD: Technology is and has always been changing, perhaps at an even faster pace, true. I try to think more about what our value proposition is in our customers’ minds and how that may be changing and evolving. My view is that there will continue to be a market channel that is DIFM as compared to DIY. I see ever-increasing complexity in client’s needs and systems and the ongoing need for the expertise that our members provide.
MJ: Finally, if you could single out just one CEDIA EXPO, which one would be your favorite and why?
TD: That is a difficult choice, however I would say 1992, Dallas at the Lowes Anatole. CEDIA as an organization, with regard to it succeeding, or rather surviving was very challenging in its early days. It takes a lot of money to have a staff and to provide programs, and value for its members. We were pioneers and we took a lot of arrows in our backs during 1990 and 1991. It was during the end of my last year leading the organization that I convinced our manufacturer members to support going from 10 X 10 table-top booths as we had during the first two EXPOs and purchase booth sizes similar to what they would bring to CES. We were really up against the wall financially and without this move I really don’t think CEDIA would exist today had our manufacturer members not supported this move to a Trade Show that resembled what the Mirage Hotel Ballroom looked like during Winter CES during that time. Watching those CES type booths being erected and then feeling the electricity on the floor when we opened was amazing…I am very proud of that time.