Eric Johnson: Sharing Voice and Vision for 20 Years
Eric Johnson founded Audio-Video Group in 2000 because he wanted to build relationships with clients in his community and ensure they could spread their message effectively. Now, 20 years into the life of Audio-Video Group, he’s reflecting on the journey and what he has accomplished.
Eric discovered his love of electronics while in high school and graduated from college with an Associates Degree in Electronics Technology. He worked in nurse call and school intercom systems until his father, a church pastor, introduced him to a contractor who specialized in church sound. Eric got a job with that company. As his interest in sound and video grew, so did his interest in helping people share their message.
“Educators figured out decades ago that a combination of audible and visual messaging helps with attention and retention,” he said. “Now, I see churches, businesses, health care centers, and more use A/V technology to become more effective.”
He started Audio-Video Group because he felt he could do a better job helping these sorts of organizations if he were working for himself. “I enjoyed the work, and something seemed to be missing. I felt that my interactions with clients were always transactional,” Eric explained. “I wanted to take my A/V experience–my design, sales, and installation knowledge–and focus on building and nurture relationships, to go beyond making a sale.”
Audio-Video Group began as just Eric, who did every piece of the business himself. His first employee was his father-in-law, who started running the tech side while Eric focused on sales and ownership.
“My focus has always been on growing intelligently. I also think that’s lead to or contributed to our longevity in keeping things manageable and scalable,” Eric said–a philosophy that allowed him to survive the 2008 recession and now the COVID-19 crisis. They continue to grow and have even added team members during the crisis. Especially as corporations, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, houses of worship, and the world are developing tactics and strategies for re-opening. And ensuring they have a reliable virtual environment that can be quickly and seamlessly deployed.
As audio-video technology expands, so do options for Eric’s clientele. The development of visual and lighting technologies, in particular, are enormous. “I can’t even imagine what we’ll have in another 20 years,” he laughed.
“We have all of these options now to create the experiences that people want, and that’s our goal. We work well with clients who have an open mind and value the relationship with their integrator. They understand the experience they want to create and are willing to work toward that solution,” Eric said.
Accessibility is a particularly exciting frontier. “We are now able to broadcast multiple channels of audio using a Wi-Fi network that hearing-impaired people can pick up on their smartphones,” he said. “Retail spaces, movies, churches, educational facilities, and corporate space can broadcast the sound over the Wi-Fi, and attendees can use their own devices. And because it’s multi-channel, we have options for languages, multiple theaters, overflow spaces, and more. It’s down to that person’s smartphone and selecting what they want to listen to.”
Video conferencing is another way AVG helps people with disabilities access work, education, and entertainment. As options become more readily available on the market, Eric can help more people contribute and thrive.
Eric sees this ability to help people as a key to his mission and what’s helped his business thrive: “People thinking about a startup should know that it’s not about them–always keep the focus on others. If you treat people well and do right by them, you’re going to be building a relationship. Treat people with respect and as a friend. The rest just comes.”
Community involvement is also important to Eric. His company is in Frederick, Maryland, where he lives with his wife Jennifer and their fourteen-year-old twins. He’s been a member of the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek for 13 years; serves on the board of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce; and is a member of the Order of the Good Samaritan, a charitable organization that works with the local hospital. He also supports the Heartly House, the Frederick Rescue Mission, and the local Religious Coalition.
“I couldn’t have done all of this without the support of my wife, Jennifer. We’ll be married 25 years this year,” he said. “She’s also a business owner–a financial planner–so we’ve had to support each other.”
On thinking about how his company has succeeded over the years, Eric believes they must be doing something right. “We’ve had some clients who have been with us for 18 years, like Mount Saint Mary’s University.
John Brewer, the Director of Client Computing & Audio Visual Services at Mount St. Mary’s, had this to say about his experience working with the team, “what stood out about AVG and why we selected them as our partner is they aren’t just a project-based company. We receive the follow-up, access, and on-going support from Eric and his team.”
We’ve built a relationship with one pastor who’s worked at four different churches, and we’re always his first call. We’ve been working with the Downtown Frederick Partnership’s Alive @ Five events for 16 years. So we must be half-decent at what we do.”
It takes an incredible amount of work to create a successful small business and maintain it over the course of two decades. Eric proves that integrity and a focus on building long-term relationships is key to longevity. He is a trusted member of the community, and is looking forward to serving the Frederick area and beyond for another 20 years.