On how Gulf Coast Sound started:
“I started working for Randy in 1990 and the company was originally called GCS, Gemini Concert Systems, based out of Monroe, Louisiana. And I worked for him up to 1999, and he was changing careers and decided to sell GCS and approached me about buying it and it was a good opportunity for me to move into the field that I had been enjoying so much, so I purchased it and moved it to Rayne, where I’m originally from, which is about three hours south and started doing the local music scene and some of the local festivals. Two years later, he approached me about coming back on as a partner and he came back on, and we’ve kind of both had the same vision of the direction we need to go as a company. We made a conscious decision that we need to either grow the business or downsize and rescale it to work for the local market or get out of this.”
On purchasing the Electro-Voice Xlc:
“We met Monty Weiss at JazzFest—we’ve been involved with JazzFest in New Orleans for about 16 years—at one of the product demos in New Orleans and he was showing the X-Line line array and we looked at it. It was out of our budget. In the following years, when they released the Xlc, we were really looking at what we were going to do so we decided to purchase the Xlc, and from that moment, it’s been like pouring gas on the fire. It really took off. Buying those boxes really qualified as a somewhat of a player in the field. It gave us that little bit of status, if you would. So that was the initial boost to get us going.”
On the relationship with Electro-Voice:
“The relationship with Electro-Voice has just been a real key factor in how we were able to get to point A to point B. It’s not so much that they gave us better deals than anybody, but they presented opportunities for us to plug into that would allow us to move into the next arena, next level of place, so to speak. Monty Weiss, Tom Hanson, Rocky Muric at Electro-Voice really came through as business partners for us. They look at us as an investment in their company, where we’re investing in their company and they’re investing in our company through the service and support and helping us get the product in a timely manner and making sure that we have the tools of the trade to properly use it. I’ve been to several training academies and continue to go and get updated and brought up to speed on the latest technologies that are out there and the latest and greatest applications to meet our needs and help us present the product properly to touring engineers.
“I don’t have a magic potion or a magic formula that I follow to get to point A to point B. Our success is that every year, we’ve doubled our income. The past three years running, we’ve doubled our numbers every year. The bottom line hasn’t doubled because we’re constantly re-investing to grow our business, to be able to offer a large group of assets. We used to have 28 Xlcs, now we have 64. So we’re able to do more events simultaneously and maintain the level of quality that we expect as a company.
“The morals and ethics parts of the way we approach things is that you’ve got to be honest to the client, you’ve got to be honest to who you are and what you are. I know that my company is not Clair Bros.; we’re lower on the food chain. I feel what we do we do as well as Clair Bros., we just don’t have the number of assets they have. We don’t have the crew, the whole staff that makes that wheel turn. I respect those guys immensely—to be where they are. They’re willing to share some of the tips and techniques of making it in this industry. I’m competition, but I’m not a threat; I’m not going to go into their backyard and try to solicit their clients.
“We were in Puerto Rico, Electro-Voice took all their top dealers from around the world and brought us all to Puerto Rico and here we’re in the same arena as the who’s who—the elite sound companies from around the world: Brit Row, Sound Image, Morris Leasing. All these huge companies and here’s Gulf Coast Sound and they’re featuring some of the work we did in a presentation that all these other people are seeing. So we’re held in the same esteem as the biggest and the best. And I was sitting with Mathias (Electro-Voice president) and Tom Hanson, the VP, and another gentlemen from another company walks up who I knew, and he was with a pretty large company, and I introduced them to the president and vice president. And his company is 10 times bigger than mine. And they knew me well and here I was having to introduce this guy who was with a larger company; they knew who his company was, but they didn’t know who he was. So it’s a very humbling experience to be held in the same standards as the big boys.
“And that’s something hard for me to see because being involved with it elbow-deep; I don’t pull back long enough for me to see that, ‘Wow, we’ve come this far in this short of time.’ And having engineers from Gladys Knight and countless others—Hootie & The Blowfish—having their engineers say, “We really appreciate having you make this an easy day for us; we really appreciate your effort.” That’s what qualifies it for us. We’re in business to make money, but we’re in this business because we love what we do. And you’ll find that there are other people out there. Like Robert Scovill, who I think is one of the most-respected engineers in the business and also one of the nicest guys in the business. To have him kind of guide us and share some tips, tricks, some of the stuff that he’s been doing a lifetime to accomplish and share that with me. And has always made time for me and has always respected me as an engineer. And I’m like, man, I can’t walk up and be at the same console with him, but he respects me and gives me the time of day.
“That’s the thing about this business; it’s worldwide business, but you’ll find that there’s people you know. I worked with Gladys Knight and I was talking to their guy and we knew at least a dozen people in common. It’s a very small community of people who make this worldwide business turn. The entertainment business is a very small community and to have people share their trade secrets—and I know they don’t reveal the whole kitchen sink and all their recipes that go along with it—but there are a lot of guys out there willing to help you along the way without you having to fall on your face and scar yourself up too many times to get there. I think people gravitate toward us because they feel that I’m an honest person; I’m not going to take anything that is not mine. I want to work for an account and if somebody calls me that was a previous account of somebody else that I know, I’m going to call them and give them the courtesy and say, ‘Hey, this guy’s calling me. I didn’t solicit his work. How do you want me to handle this?’ Most of the time, they tell me, ‘Bid it; it’s a free country. You guys are not trying to solicit our accounts. Bid it however you feel you need to bid it.’
“We went out to Albuquerque to see the unveiling of the Midas XL8 console and there are people there from all over the United States and at least 10 people I knew. We’re all in the same business: We talk on the phone or cross-rent gear, or call them up for reference on some other project—general day-to-day business. If I had to put my finger on any key ingredient that helped us, it is our fortitude and willingness to go the extra mile, to make sure that the attention to detail is kept at its highest and our affiliation with Electro-Voice—the whole Telex family—they’ve been magnificent to us.
“We want to build good relationships and I’ve gotten a lot of my work and gone to people and said, ‘I don’t want the quick score; I don’t want the big bucks, the high-paying job that I’ll do once and walk out the door and never see you again. I want to work here every month. I don’t want the whole pie; I want a piece of the pie.’ And I want to know people on a first-name basis and I want people to know me. And now it’s getting harder for me to do because we’re starting to book so much—having so many events coming through on any given weekend—that it’s hard for me to be there for every show, but I pride myself on always being at a show. If my company has a show going on any given weekend, I’m there. I’m the CEO, I’m the guy, but you’ll see me driving the truck, you’ll see me loading the truck if I have to, whatever I have to do to help my guys achieve what my customer wants done in a timely manner. If I have to step in and pull my shirt sleeves up, that’s the way it is. And everybody at my organization has that state of mind: whatever we gotta do to make this happen. And I think that’s what gives us the continued support and continued work because people are pleased with what we do, that’s the bottom line. As long as the bills are being paid and we’re keeping the lights turned on, I guess we’re successful. We can stay in business for another month.”
On Hurricane Katrina:
“You can’t build a levee to stop Mother Nature; if Mother Nature wants to breach that levee, it’s gonna happen. I think it’s a time for growth for us in Lousiana. The economy has kind of bloomed a little bit because of all this reconstruction going on. There’s a lot of work going on. Anybody who tells me they can’t find a job is not looking for one. Construction workers are at a premium; guys who have any kind of construction ability are getting top money to do reconstruction work. Everybody is working because the economy is as strong as it will ever be. And it’s just a time of rebuilding and healing, and it’s gonna take some time to put us back together and hopefully we won’t have another one like this for another couple of years, but that’s what we live with here. It’s not if we’re going to have another hurricane, it’s when and how bad it’s going to be.
“The Midwest deals with tornadoes, the West Coast has earthquakes—everybody has their thing that they have to live through and this is the price we pay to live in the best part of the world. I’ve been fortunate to go all over the United States and been to Europe several times and I love it here. The people here are the most resilient people by far and the friendlist. You come here and it’s southern hospitality. People are going to tell you hello wherever you are and you can tell people who are not from here because you say hello to them and they look at you like you’re stupid. And I think down here in the south it’s ‘How’s your momma now. How’s your family doing? Ya’ll alright?’ That’s the mantra down here: ‘Everybody’s good?’ ‘Good.’ ‘Glad to hear it.’ We have a zest for life and the Cajun culture has always been geared around living life to its fullest: We play hard and we work hard. So I enjoy being a part of it.