Eric Bodley is an experienced veteran when it comes to the tech industry. For the past 40 years, Bodley has worked in nearly every aspect of the consumer electronics industry and is the current founder and CEO of Future Ready Solutions, a national distributor of digital connectivity and fiber cable products. With his bevy of experience, it’s no wonder he was named the 2017 CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. We had the opportunity to talk with Bodley about the consumer electronics industry and the importance of CEDIA.
Innovation & Tech Today: How did your relationship with Cedia begin? How did you get plugged into that community?
Eric Bodley: I was at a CES… there was discussion about a bunch of integrators who had been buying their AB audio/video gear from Circuit City and places like that. They wanted to see if there was any interest in trying to combine their buying power and their basic presence to show that there were a lot of good people that were doing it and they should be recognized by manufacturers as a real business channel, a market channel. I didn’t hear much about it, but one of the guys who work for me, about a year later, maybe nine months later, wanted us to join the company.
I was working for a company called Sound Advice. It was a pretty major specialty audio/video reseller. We had just started into this custom installation arena. They wanted me to sign up joining. It was like $500 or something. I said, “What do we get for our 500?” They said, “They’re going to have this conference up at Amelia Island and we can go to that and find out more about what it’ll mean.” I signed up and the guy that was supposed to go was … I think he was injured. I think he was in an accident or something. I ended up driving up and going myself. It changed my entire perspective on where I thought the industry was going. Eight hour drive back from Jacksonville, South Georgia actually, Amelia Island, I really thought about it and I resigned my position as the audio buyer. I decided to pursue this whole customer installation based on that.
The following year, they did an actual little trade show with table tops in San Francisco. I had gotten to know and talk to a lot of the people. There were several people on the board and whatnot. I guess they liked me and there was a young woman who had a conflict of interest. She was going to be leaving the company that she worked for, so she had to step down from the board. Someone asked me if I’d be interested in filling her vacancy. I said yes and that was the beginning of the journey. I was on the board for a couple years and got elected after I filled out this term and, in 1993 in Dallas, I was chosen by the board to be the president of the organization. That’s how it started. I was on the board for almost 10 years after that and really believed in the channel. I’m sort of a hopeless volunteer.
I&T Today: What does it mean to you, winning the CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award?
Eric Bodley: The award was originally instituted back in 1991. The first recipient was a guy named Albert Langella who was a chief engineer for a company called Audio Design Associates. It was a really cool way to recognize him. Over the years, a lot of other people won the award, a few other past chairmen in the early days, Tom Doherty, Chris Stevens. Then guys like Joel Spira, the founder of Lutron who invented the dimmer, the electronic dimmer.
These people were really, I thought, just incredible people. When I got a call in July when Dennis [Urskin], the current chairman said, “Are you sitting down? The board chose you as this year’s recipient.” I was stunned. Look, it’s not that I haven’t felt like I’ve done a lot for CEDIA and I’ve been a real evangelist for the industry. I didn’t do it to win an award. I did it because it’s who I am and what’s in my heart. I didn’t lobby for it. I didn’t even know I was nominated this year, which is the best kind of surprise there is.
I was stunned and I’m honored. God, it’s just amazing how many hundreds of people have emailed me, texted me, tweeted me like, “Hey, you’re deserving.” It was quite a life event for me.
I&T Today: Why do you think CEDIA is important to the industry?
Eric Bodley: I think Cedia has ebbed and flowed a little bit. Initially, there was really … There weren’t buying groups that just were starting. There was one other little conference that was more audio/video retail oriented, not really custom-oriented. I think really the emphasis for, not in a negative way, but Cedia is really a special interest group that couldn’t get any attention. I think they brought a lot of attention on this category and it’s exploded.
I think that over time, it’s been difficult to maintain relevance. Since I think about 2000, I think Cedia has had a challenge. I think they’re now starting to come around because I think that now CEDIA really is about the members and their needs and the evolving landscape of technology. You hate to get out of it for more than a couple months or you feel like the whole train is just blowing by you.
I think CEDIA really needs to educate the workforce and young people who are getting out of high school or are going into … They don’t want to go to a four year college and get a paper degree. They want to work. They want to work with their hands. They want to create things. Doing work is not a dirty word. I think CEDIA is a specialty that a lot of young adults don’t know exist. I think CEDIA needs to work hard on that.
I&T Today: What advice would you give to those newcomers, those young adults who may be attending Cedia for the first time or who are just now trying to break into the industry?
Eric Bodley: The temptation I think is to try to do it all. It’s just like the old proverb, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” It may seem really large, but you only really chew one bite at a time. I think as people travel the trade show floor, there’s a tendency to, “Let’s try this and let’s sell that.” I would encourage people to focus on things they’re competent at. Don’t just sell it, but actually bring it in, learn it, know it, hook it up. Make sure that it works. Then move forward with it instead of trying to do it all. A lot of this stuff really is conceptual. Every system that a CEDIA integrator designs is really an alpha beta system. It only exists once it’s installed.
“I would say take it slow and get good one bite at a time.”
I&T Today: Fantastic. Is there something in particular that you’re looking forward to most for this upcoming CEDIA conference?
Eric Bodley: Well, my current company Future Ready Solutions, we have a really exciting food concept with our brand partners. I’m really excited about the fact that we’ve really worked hard at having not just the kid on the block technology, but the new kid on the block that’s been embedded and ready for prime time and not just sort of a foe. We call it 4K. We call a lot of the solutions out there “Faux K.”We’re proud of the fact that our products are vetted and certified by third parties… Our motto is, “Don’t install a service call.”