Business in Boardshorts Podcast
EP11 – Pete Pandit
Release Date: February 3, 2021
Location: San Diego, CA
Guest Name: Pete Pandit
Business Name: AV Guys
Business Website: AVGuys.com
Intro (guest speaking): In our business, it’s a relationship business. So clients, you know, they hire that company, obviously, but the project manager, the coordinator, they get on-site at the event is the person that’s there for them, that’s the face of the company, right? We’re the ones that are going out on show site, as we say in, you know, making the convention successful, make sure that AV works properly. So they basically know you more than they know the salesperson behind the phone in the email at the office.
Intro (host speaking): Welcome back or welcome to the Business In Boardshorts Podcast. Today’s guest is Pete Pandit. He’s the owner of AV guys in San Diego, California. AV guys provides audiovisual services throughout the state of California, and the United States. Pete, welcome to the show.
Guest: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Host: How are you doing?
Guest: Good, thanks. Starting off today here with you and looking forward to the conversation.
Host: Yes, me as well. So have you grown up in the San Diego area your whole life?
Guest: No. So originally, I’m from Bombay, India. I moved to the US right after high school in 1979. And I moved to Los Angeles and went to college there and after I graduated, I started working in the audiovisual field and work for this company was a big national company back in the old days called AV HQ audiovisual headquarters. I spent 13 years with them and then in 2000, they were going through takeovers and mergers and things were sort of changing drastically with the operation of the company. And it sort of became a frustrating thing and a lot of people started leaving at that point and so that’s when I decided to make my exit and start AV guys. I started with a friend originally, and I moved to San Diego in 1991, sorry, I didn’t finish that part. Moved in 1991 to San Diego, they transferred me there to open a brand new hotel that they had just received a contract for. Because the company also, we had offices in hotels, and we provided services in that hotel. So I worked in that hotel, but not for the hotel itself. We were contracted to provide services in the hotel. And it was a beautiful resort that just opened in Coronado in 91. October 91, actually almost exactly 29 years ago now. So that’s why I ended up in San Diego. So I’ve been in San Diego since 1991 now.
Host: Yeah, can you tell us what’s the vibe there?
Guest: San Diego is a lot of universities obviously. There’s San Diego State University which is in the center of the city, UCSD which is in the northern part of La Jolla and that area is heavy into biotech research and things like that. And then there’s a private school also, called USD, which is the University of San Diego and they’re up on a hill overlooking the bay basically, and it’s a private Catholic school. And the three large universities that we have and of course, there’s a kind of a mixed bag depending on where you go. If you go if you hang out in like the northern inland parts of San Diego, it’s all world the techie guys hang out and you know, they all live in that area. And then, of course, we go to the beach areas like Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach, and Mission Beach. It’s mostly the surfers and, you know, the guys that like to, you know, roll around on skateboards and bicycles and they don’t drive that much in the neighborhood, you know, it’s all two-wheelers, basically so San Diego’s, you know, different vibes. And of course, the music scene is pretty popular in San Diego, we have a lot of small venues where, you know, local acts perform. And it’s an interesting mix, because, you know, while you’re driving in San Diego, you see license plates from all different states, you know, and it’s kind of a, probably more than you would see anywhere else I would imagine, you know, we see a lot of Texas plates, Mississippi plates, Alabama, Georgia, you know, the southern states that fortunately or unfortunately, our heavy presence in the military, San Diego is very proud of the military connection and like, especially during the pandemic, when things got tough, you know, people were, you know, being laid off, they didn’t have work, you know, the food banks were focusing heavily on the military families, you know, making sure they were, you know, they had food they were given food, they did drive by food pickup locations and food banks and things like that. So they definitely take care of the military community.
Host: And when you went on your own, like how long did it take for you to go from [I can’t understand] my own to actually taking the plunge? I mean, did you had you thought about it for a while, or was it more kind of spur of the moment like something isn’t right here I gotta go.
Guest: Yeah, we so earlier like I left in September 2000 right before labor days when I left, I want to say in March, April of that year I kind of started to realize the seeds were sort of planted in my brain, and I started thinking about it. And then my friend Chris, he’s the one they started with, we started chatting, and we, you know, he was also working for the same company, and we kind of started thinking about it, and then we would, you know, meet at a coffee shop, and we discussed different points, and, you know, how what’s our inventory going to be? How are we going to do this? How are we going to pay for this stuff, clientele? And in our business, it’s a relationship business. So clients, you know, they hire that company, obviously, but the project manager, the coordinator, they get on-site at the event is the person that’s there for them, that’s the face of the company, right? We’re the ones that are going out on show site, as we say in, you know, making the convention successful, make sure that AV works properly. So they basically know you more than they know the salesperson behind the phone in the email at the office. And the company that I work for, they didn’t seem to understand that concept because everyone comes to us, because we’re, you know, the big national company, and they didn’t seem to realize the relationship aspect of it. So we had one or two clients already sort of, you know, waiting in the wings, shall we say, when we decided to leave had started that sense that we already had some clientele sort of lined up. And then, of course, it takes time for, you know, to get we joined the Chamber of Commerce, and we joined the local convention and Visitor’s Bureau, and we joined the meeting planner organizations, and then, you know, start pressing the flesh, as we say, and going out to the mixers, and then doing some marketing, obviously, we have a booth at a trade show, things like that. So yeah, but in about three years, it took us to like fully ramp up and start, you know, being busy all the time. Yeah.
Host: I love how you talked about the relationship-based approach, I believe in that, in business as well. And I talked about prior to recording here. I’m a huge Seattle Seahawks fan and that’s the culture that they have built and I think, from a sports team to a boardroom, it all works extremely. Well, and, you know, it’s a human to human thing. It’s not just revenue.
Guest: Exactly, exactly. And like clients that we have currently, one client I’ve been working with them since 1994 when I worked for the other company for six years, I service their account, and now they’re still with me, and 20 years later, right? Another client I’ve had since 2002. Another client we’ve had since like 2008, or 2009, if I recall, correct. So most of the clients that we get, tend to become repeat, and then we stay with them and, you know, we’ve established a relationship with them, and then we just, you know, keep doing their events.
Host: Now, that’s awesome. What would you say is your sweet spot? Whether it’s, you know, number of attendees for an event, or a certain kind of event? What would you say? Or what do you like doing best?
Guest: More and more than anything else for me personally, I mean, an event is an event, right? But it’s the people that you’re working with, the clients, they are, you know, we get along with them, you know, they know us, they like us, we know them, we like them, we know their style, what they like, what they don’t like. So it’s just sort of something that kind of comes naturally where, you know how to deal with each client is different in their own way, right. So, you know, Mike might like things this way, and Joe likes things this way, but we going in, we have an idea of, you know, what we need to do to make sure that they’re comfortable. And I’d say 90% of the clients, they’re not micromanaging and following us around to make sure we’ve set up, you know, this meeting room, in that meeting room, that it’s complete and they go and check all their, three mics in here, is the projector setup, is the laptop here. They know that you know, when they’ve given us what they need to have in the room, it’s going to be there, you know. But yeah, it’s just being on-site the energy we have all these people walking around trying to get to their different courses or classes and, you know, we have the big general session with 500 people 1000 people playing music, people are walking in and then the program starts that’s the adrenaline, you know, the rush we get from doing the events.
Host: Hey there CT, I’m interrupting my own show. Because I’m now open to new clients. I have a waitlist for website design and marketing strategy sessions. If you’re trying to throw in your marketing dollars down the drain, and want a website that actually drives new business, let’s hop on a call. You can book a free hour with me at ctkaupp.com/bib.
Host: How many events, honestly, non-COVID times, how many events would you say you guys manage in a year?
Guest: Probably, I would say counting a lot of one-day events that someone of the client. There’s a lot of one-day events. But if I were to count all the one-day events plus the multiple day events, I’d say between 60 to 70 events here, a third of those are the one-dayers. So the remaining ones would be multiple-day events and including, you know, out of town traveling, flying. Sometimes we trucked the stuff, depending on the size of the event, so, but yeah, about 60 to 70 events on a consistent basis a year.
Host: And how many would you say are in the southwest, part of the US compared to the rest?
Guest: Probably about, 15 to 20% would be in, you know, we’ll call it the home turf area, which is within a five, six-hour drive, or, you know, within the state of California, let’s say or Phoenix, which is in about five-six hours away, but Las Vegas, same thing. Los Angeles, two to three hours, I [I can’t understand] 15% probably are in that area, the other 85% are elsewhere, we do stuff in Florida, pretty consistently, in Chicago, pretty consistently, New York once or twice a year, we also were to New Orleans quite a bit and also it’s cyclical clients also, sometimes in an annual convention will be in one city this year, next year it’ll be in a different city and the following year in a different city and sometimes depending on the rotation, we get hit in San Diego quite a bit, you know, eventually coming to San Diego more than, you know, let’s say four or five years ago, you know because San Diego happens to be the rotation city for this year and so a lot of events come to San Diego certain years, you know, so it’s a kind of like a mixed bag. But usually, yeah, no more than 15 to 20% is in our home turf area.
Host: What would you say you’ve learned the most since you started your own business?
Guest: It’s the perseverance and hang in there and knowing that, you know, you don’t get, you know, one event, something else is going to come along basically and, you know, you just have to be patient and, you know, have confidence in your skill, your ability, and your reputation too, you know, that you will get other business, you know.
Host: You’re like inside my head as you’re explaining that. [I can’t understand]
Host: This is great. Like, this is a great proposal, this is exactly what they need, why wouldn’t they go with me but you’re right because on the other hand, you don’t know what they’re going through, you know, what’s happened on the other side of the glass totally aligned with you were like, “Hey, this is what I do, this is what I charge, this is what you’ll get, take it or leave it like I’m not here to pester you like you said five times you got because to me if you got to do that, then they’re not the right fit anyways”.
Guest: And some clients, unfortunately, in our business, they string you along, and a lot of clients do, they, you know, hotels have the in house AV, as we call it, right, they have that company that’s contracted to provide services in the hotel and they’re always way more expensive because they give the hotel like a 50% commission, on the equipment rental and sometimes on labor also. So, you know, I know what hotel pricing is like, it’s usually almost always double what our pricing is because they’re giving away half so they have to recover it something. So, but a lot of clients, what they do is they get quotes from outside AV companies, and then they shop it with the hotel it’s, “Hey, I got a quote from Pete, that AV guys and you know, he can do this whole thing for $20,000”. You know, they sometimes use our quote, to leverage with the hotel and get concessions from them.
Host: What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?
Guest: So I said just be honest, be yourself, be genuine, and don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong, or if you don’t know something and that’s it. That’s how you come across as a genuine person, I think people have more faith in you, regardless of, you know, or if you try to in a sort of BS your way around stuff and makeup stuff that you know, you’re not qualified to do or you don’t know, or, you know, things like that. So that’s, that’s the most important advice, I think.
Host: And what’s the best life advice you’ve ever received?
Guest: I’m not a religious person, but I believe in karma. And you know, kind of like it says in the Bible, do unto others, as you know, same. So I subscribe to that philosophy, even though I don’t, you know, follow the Bible, which is basically, you know, be a good person and you just try to live a good life, be good with people, can try to help people out and, you know, maybe the rewards will flow, you’re away, maybe they want but just live your life like a good person.
Host: And where can my listeners check you out?
Guest: I have a Linkedin page. I’m on Linkedin. I’m also on Facebook, personally, as well as the AV guys. I can certainly email you those links and, yeah, they can see our profile on Linkedin and on Facebook and I post photos of our events on there also and they can see what we do.
Host: Sounds good. I will link those up in the show notes. Thanks for joining me.
Guest: Thanks for everything CT, it’s my pleasure. Take care. Bye-bye.
Overview: Pete Pandit has been in the Audio Visual/Live Events business for 32+ years. He started AV Guys 20 years ago, where they provide AV services for conferences, medical meetings, corporate meetings etc. They have a few loyal clients, and most of their business is repeat business year after year. Pete has traveled all over the U.S. to handle events, as well as Canada and Mexico. He loves to travel even though tey don’t always get time to play tourist. Pete enjoys trying the local cuisine & Craft Beers brews where ever you goes. His favorite place to grab a bite to eat is New Orleans, LA.
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