by Susan Wright
Sporting events today go far beyond the game–they are now an experience for viewers, complete with roaring sound systems, huge displays for instant replays, and flashing signs in every direction, whether it’s an advertisement or an electronic banner telling the crowd to make some noise. One company developing these display systems for stadiums and arenas is Sound and Video Creations, Inc.
I was able to sit down with the Sound and Video Creations, Inc. President Fran Kowalski to discuss the unique industry the company operates within, as well as the strategies that have allowed the business to flourish.
Tell us about yourself first. What is your management style? Where did you go to school and work in the past?
My name is Fran Kowalski, President of Sound & Video Creations, Inc. My management style can best be described as unconventional, in that I empower people in our company, build them up, support them and act as I do because I know they have lives of their own that deserve honor and respect, both inside and outside of our company. Thus, my relations with people within our company reflect that. I want people in our company to be comfortable, to know that they have a hand in the success and development of our company and to know that as much as possible, they’ll have all of the resources available to them in order to help us excel as a company.
I attended schools in New Jersey, in the Trenton area and attended Seton Hall University, majoring in English. I don’t find this to be particularly relevant, as the building of the company was not anywhere near a direct result of my education.
Tell us how your company started and when. Who was involved and what did each person do?
Our company originally began as a music production company, writing and producing music for advertising media. That focus expanded into the world of sports and it was through that expansion that the idea for Click Effects was born. Originally, the company started with myself and Cliff Wight. We used a small contingency of contract employees until shortly before the debut of Click Effects.
Tell us an interesting story about your business. Were there any “wow” moments? Anything funny or unusual?
Stories about the development of our business are far too numerous to list here, but the experiences gained in building a startup business and a new product which initiated a whole new way of entertaining fans at sports events proved to be invaluable, not only in learning the advantages of being “ahead of the curve”, but also in learning the value of building relationships in business and honoring them. The biggest lesson we learned is that service is at the heart of any business.
What does your company sell and how does it make money?
Our company currently sells the systems of Click Effects, namely, CrossFire, Blaze, BackDraft and our Click Effects Pro Audio system. Additional products include stats packages, music libraries, and graphics packages. We also sell extended warranty services.
Click Effects systems provide video and audio content control and delivery for live event production worldwide. From stadiums and arenas to remote broadcast applications, the systems of Click Effects–CrossFire, Blaze, BackDraft, and Pro Audio–continue to set new benchmarks for the delivery, management, and control of content.
Using a simple point and click, Click Effects systems deliver scheduled and live impulse video clips, audio tracks, graphics, animations, and sponsor ads that not only entertain audiences, but provide a powerful source of revenue generating opportunities.
Click Effects has redefined video and audio content delivery and entertainment for live events everywhere. Since its debut in 1993, Click Effects has spearheaded live event productions for the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the World Series, the Ryder Cup, the Final Four, the Stanley Cup, the NBA Championships, the Indianapolis 500, and several NASCAR tracks as well as numerous professional markets worldwide.
Click Effects products are the most chosen in the industry, trusted by 63% of the National Basketball Association, 68% of Major League Soccer, 70% of the National Hockey League, 75% of the National Football League, and 80% of Major and Minor League Baseball.
Which companies do you consider to be competitors?
While we don’t have direct competitors who manufacture a system such as we do and then sell it independently, there are systems available made by companies who also manufacture video boards. They make these systems in order to have a complete solution to the market and thus, operate as a “one stop shop.”
What makes your products and services better than competitors’ offerings?
Several factors set Click Effects systems apart from those of the competition. First, our entire focus as a company is on these systems, so we specialize at what we do. In addition, Sound & Video Creations is constantly pushing the envelope probing for new and better solutions to provide to our end users. Perhaps the strongest advantage that Click Effects enjoys is the extremely user-friendly interface, which is at the heart of all Click Effects systems. This intuitive simplicity allows for a user to not only learn the system in a very short time,but it also allows an operator extreme flexibility in operating the systems. Another huge advantage is our ongoing relationships with our customers and the degree to which we encourage their input, which in turn fuels many of the ongoing upgrades that are made to the systems. Our service technicians are available 24/7, which is indeed rare. Click Effects is famous for their unmatched commitment to service!
How big is the company in terms of its workforce?
Our company is relatively small, employing under 25 people to do the work that leads an entire industry. This may change as the company continues to grow.
What are the biggest growth catalysts for you right now? Tell us about any patents or other IP.
Our biggest growth catalysts are our relationships with our clients. Developing and maintaining these relationships is a hallmark of our company. We pride ourselves on growing these relationships. Not only is it good business, we’ve received countless suggestions of invaluable input from our clients, the people who run our systems in stadiums and arenas around the world. Beyond that, a major catalyst is our unending commitment to bringing the best technology available to our users, wrapped up in a user interface that is the most intuitive and easiest to use in our industry. Our desire is always to be first in introducing the latest in technology that makes sense.
List out the formal title of all awards your company won and the year you won them.
Awards are not something that we as a company position ourselves to go after. However, we have been proud to be named to Nashville’s Fast 50, the Nashville Business Journal’s list of the 50 most upward companies in the greater Nashville area in 2010. In addition, we were awarded the IDEA (Information Display and Entertainment Association) “Allied Achievement Award” in 2009. This year, myself and Cliff Wight have been named to the IDEA Hall of Fame. We’ll be inducted at the 2013 IDEA Conference in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.