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Meet the Pro AV Power 20: Jon Sidwick (No.14)

Aidan Williams was ranked at No. 14 in our round up of the most influential figures in the AV and installation industry

Back in June, Installation revealed its first ever Pro AV Power 20 list, rounding up the most inspiring and influential figures from across the AV and installation market. To get to know them a little better, we sat down with each of our Pro AV Power 20 inductees for an in-depth chat. Here, we meet Jon Sidwick, vice chairman of the board, AVIXA…

How did you first get involved in the AV marketplace?
I loved audio and as a teenager did as many weekend and holiday jobs as possible to save up for the latest Hi-Fi components. So, looking for a full-time job it was natural to move into AV, firstly consumer then pro.

What would you say are the most significant changes/ developments to have taken place in the industry during your time?
There has been an incredible amount of incremental changes which we don’t notice happening but looking back we see as being fundamental, and this includes the impact of IP. However the one which has had a quicker and more dramatic effect is the shift to cloud-based platforms. We have seen this in UC and collaboration and are really starting to see this in signage.

I now describe our role as being the Visual Edge of Platform; we enable platforms to do their job from communication to information. The next wave which will be as dramatic is the data – this will be the new AV currency.

What personal and professional achievements are you most proud of?
From a personal perspective I am incredibly proud of my family, no idea how I managed to get two such great kids based on the time I have worked over the years! I assume it’s down to my wife being great.

Looking at work I am always most proud of the teams we have built and the people I work with. In 23 years, Maverick has grown from being a small local distributor to a world leader and that’s due to the great people.

I would add to that my work with AVIXA, it’s a massive privilege to have spent most of my AV career being associated with various aspects of such a great association. In the last ten years I have served on the leadership search committee and now on the board and I’m incredibly proud to be able to do this and give back to such an amazing industry.

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Do you have a philosophy that you live by professionally? If so, what is it and how has it helped you in your career, the businesses you’ve worked, with and the wider industry?
My three main ones are:

• Be bold, be passionate, be professional and have great fun

• Don’t wait to be given a job, do as much as your business allows and

ultimately you will be given more responsibility

• Pick amazing people to work with – ideally better than you

Benefitted businesses I’ve worked in/with: ‘don’t be afraid to fail’. During the years we have created great businesses which continue to succeed today, we also got it completely wrong however by failing and learning we got far more decisions right. Also: ‘give people the space and ability to grow’. I have seen people achieve the most amazing things by enabling them to grow to their potential.

With regard to the wider industry, I always talk about AV as an experience industry: we make people’s lives easier and better through delivering great experiences whether it’s making a great quality, simple to connect video call, being able to see information clearly and quickly or immerse yourself in an amazing music event.

Prior to the outbreak of the global pandemic, what would you say were the biggest areas of technological or operational challenge for the AV industry?
Prior to the recent situation I would have said speed of change. And channel adaptability. In many ways the technology and customer deliverables were running way in front of the channel’s ability (and even desire) to deliver.

What impact has the pandemic had on you and your business, and what do you think will be the longer term impact of this extraordinary period on our sector?
We are now seeing decisions being made incredibly quickly. In all sectors, the luxury of time has disappeared. This change is accelerating as enterprises are starting to move to the next phase of a truly mixed internal/ external workforce, retail outlets are having to focus on people flow management and the events business is virtualising as much as possible. The majority of this needs more of the products we sell and expertise we have. Budgets will be shifted from T&E to communication and we will all be busy delivering this.

What needs to change in the industry? What do we as a community need to get better at?
Keeping up with the new speed of change.

In your opinion, what will be the biggest driver(s) of change for the AV market in the next five years?
By far the largest impact will be from data. This will influence all areas of the business AV touches from measuring meeting room effectiveness to space utilisation. Finally, enterprises will be able to measure the return on investment of technology deployment. This will drive new business models and a whole new selling process.

Finally, what would be your message to those starting out their careers in the AV community?
This industry is amazing, it touches every aspect of people’s lives from health, education and industry to retail, art and rock concerts. No other industry gives such breadth and enables people to deliver such visibly, and audibly amazing experiences.

PROFILE
Jon Sidwick started in the industry as a junior retail salesman 30 years ago selling audio and video products and hasn’t managed to escape since. He then went on to run Sharp Pro AV and ultimately took Maverick from a six-person UK business to a $1bn global AV company. During this time he has been an energetic advocate and volunteer at AVIXA over the last 20 years and is now vice chairman.

At Maverick, Jon created multiple businesses including rental (PSCo), system integration (Design Integration), online models (Hotlamps) and the Vision Audio Visual brand which allows him to still dabble in developing new products. Jon is married with two children, a dog and is a keen runner and red wine drinker. Jon’s work priority is to build highly engaged teams which demonstrate passion for customer service combined with a massive amount of fun.

QUICKFIRE ROUND
Who’s had the greatest influence on your career?
My first real boss who owned the small retail chain I worked in. I started at 19 as a salesperson, within three months I was running marketing and buying, in a year I ran a whole store then all three stores in two years. This was due to his belief that you should keep on giving people responsibility based on what they do, not what they are (age, education etc).

Who did/do you look up to as a role model professionally?
There are so many people. I have been lucky to have had great people around me in my three main companies. Every one of these has impacted on my career and taught me so many things – it would have to be a combination of all of these as well as people who have worked for me and demonstrated such amazing passion, perseverance and brilliance which is really humbling.

How do you measure success?
Happiness and fun.

What’s your biggest professional regret?
I don’t really have any regrets, just things I will really regret if I don’t do them in the next ten years.

If you were a teenager today, what profession would you go into?
Assuming I continue to have zero hand-eye coordination and the attention span of a fly then I will write-off professional footballer and the doctor which discovers the cure for a major disease and settle on AV. It’s an amazing industry enabling you to work and play hard with fantastic people whilst delivering incredible experiences to the world – what beats that?