Our series of profiles called “I Am CEDIA®” is about connecting with our members one-on-one. Usually we spend a lot of time on “big-picture” CEDIA stories on issues that affect all our members. This is different: It’s about finding out how individual CEDIA businesspeople got into the home technology profession, and learning about their dreams, desires, and tastes.
It’s about our members telling their personal stories.
For these profiles, we decided to sit down and really get to know a few of our businesses and the people behind them in a more personal setting.
Meet Mark Ontiveros, Audio Images
, Orange County, CA.
ON THE COMPANY’S ORIGINS
We started in high-end car audio. Left my grocery store position where I was making good money. My dad thought I was making a huge mistake to make such a move. I cut my wage in half per hour, from $16 an hour to $8 an hour.
We graduated college and started doing a lot of car audio systems and car alarms when custom, high end car audio was just taking off. My business partner did the installs that I sold and designed, while I kept the money flowing, as I went back to the grocery business to supplement my income and keep us afloat.
We worked out of a home we rented together, and started hiring employees and subcontractors. Eventually we got the site that we're in today. We went to Brunei and did a Formula One racing museum that I designed and conceptualized for the Royal Family of Brunei. Once completed, I came back, and with some of the profits we had made, we were able to eventually build our showroom, our lab. ON HIS BACKGROUND
I grew up watching "The Jetsons." I never dreamed that I would be doing what we're doing today. I fell in love with what we do because of how the music got reproduced for our clients. Then Dolby pro logic surround sound was taking off, along with it came home theatre and transporting our clients into the movie itself, " the willing suspension of disbelief."
The best advice I ever got came from my grandfather Henry. He would always say two things. One was "stay in school", which I did, at least through my bachelor's degree. But more importantly he would say, "keep up the good work." It didn't matter if you were tops in your class, an A-plus student, had won a big award, or just completed a big project. Keep continuing to grow, continuing to do better. Keep pushing yourself.
I'm very fortunate that my father and his father impressed upon me the importance of education. Audio Images would not have survived the first two years had I not received a business degree, as well as been an entrepreneur almost all of my life (since 4th grade), along with the guidance of my father and his father. ON HIS FAITH
The best personal decision that I ever made was to observe the Sabbath and not work Sundays any longer.
I was literally working myself into the ground, 24/7, 365. It was endless grind. Any entrepreneur will tell you that that is very easy to get caught up into, and I just needed to say, "You know what, I need to do something different." It's been 15 years, since then, and I know that looking back, it's so critical to have life, work balance. Sundays are my day for God, family and rest.
My faith is the most important thing to me, I run our business the way I feel God has intended for me to run it, with integrity and honesty. We're not perfect. I am not perfect, not even close... Everyone makes human errors, it's a fact of life. I know that I am a hard driver, as my grandfather and my father both were, but that's because I want the best for people and from people. ON HIS HOME LIFE
I was born and raised in the house that my mom continues to live in today.
My wife, Cynda, and I have two beautiful children, Henry, who's eight years old, named after my father and grandfather, and my beautiful daughter, Charlotte, who's six. All three of them are incredibly supportive of the fact that I spend a lot of hours working very hard in this industry. I couldn't have brought our company to the level of achievement without their support.
I also spend time with our ministry, Feed the Streets, and multiple other charities that we're involved in, like Talk About Curing Autism (TACA). (My son is mildly autistic; very high-functioning.) Type I diabetes, which affected my father and ultimately took his life, at age 56 (coincidentally while I was attending the CEDIA awards banquet in 1999) so we've been involved in JDRF as well.
If I wasn’t doing this, I would be doing full-time ministry with the homeless.
We have a couple of ATVs that we go out and ride in the desert with some of our best friends. We also have a Razor that we purchased in partnership with another friend. We have a lot of fun doing that.
I'm also very involved with explorer guides (Indian Guides/Indian Princesses) with both my kids, where I serve as the audio guy as well as culinary, and next year I'll be chief for my daughter's tribe.
I used to run my Porsche Boxster at the race track, but not as much anymore since the kids were born, there's time for that later on in life ...
I have a hard time sitting still. ON CEDIA
I can remember very early on, getting into the industry and being very excited about CEDIA and the ability to someday be part of CEDIA. We were so honored to learn that we had qualified, had everything, and that we could get involved. It has been both an honor and a privilege to serve various roles and committees in such a great organization over the many years.
To win a CEDIA Award is the equivalent of winning an Academy Award from our industry. I'm truly blessed to be recognized and to even have the opportunity to do those projects, even if we weren't recognized. We submitted multiple projects, for years, and never won, but we continued to improve our craft, our submissions, and wow, I could not have imagined where it would lead us.
The advice I'd give a business owner in our industry today would be join a buying group. Become involved in your local chapter of YEO or YPO if you can, or do something to get in a group of peers that are outside the industry to get perspective and get business advice.
CEDIA needs good quality volunteers. Get involved. Give back. You'll get way more out of it than you put into it. ON HIS BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY
At Audio Images, team is the most important thing (other than the client, of course) and the employees themselves. Team effort makes everything go well and end in the end-to-end a great result, and it's not just “team” meaning our employees. It's the subcontractors we work with. It's the architects, the builders, the interior designers, everybody that we're involved [with].
When our team is hiring somebody new today, we are looking almost entirely for attitude, not aptitude. It is probably the most important thing today, not experience. Experience can be taught, attitude and raw talent cannot.
Somebody once told me the three most important things are get a client who can: 1) make decisions, 2) write the check, and 3) if they are happy to begin with and you make them happier, you've got a winning combination.
I believe Audio Images is unique in today's marketplace because we believe strongly in the use of independent consultants for both audio and video performance. It doesn't matter how big or small the room is.
As it says around the room in the conference room, "Be a force of positive change." We don't need a bunch of negative people and, "Oh, we can't." There is no, "We can't."