BORN FROM A LIFELONG PASSION FOR SOUND, THIS AV BUSINESS AND THE DYNAMIC ENTREPRENEUR BEHIND IT FIND SUCCESS THROUGH AN ORGANIC, FAMILYFIRST APPROACH
BY ERIK SCHONING
Like any teenage boy growing up in New Jersey, Dan Tapolow was into two things: music and his car. He made a little cash installing stereos in his friends’ cars before realizing he wanted to make a career out of AV work. Today, Tapolow head ups Infinite AV Solutions, a boutique firm that splits time between residential and commercial work.
Tapolow has been in the business for 19 years and has seen just about every type of project. The AV business is notoriously small, relying on tight knit teams of technicians. As such, turnover is high, and Tapolow bounced from company to company for years, always mulling the idea of launching his own firm.
“I took all of the successes and failures of those other companies and just stored them away in my memory,” Tapolow said. “If I were to open my own business, there were both good ideas and things I would never do. Having been an employee at so many different firms really gave me a taste of the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s definitely helped me steer my business plan.”
Infinite AV is the second largest firm Tapolow has been a part of, deploying a team of 13 professionals and L nine vans. Unlike many of its competitors, Infinite AV doesn’t limit itself to either strictly commercial or residential work. As Tapolow pointed out, the nuts and bolts are often fundamentally the same; sometimes it’s just a question of scale and customization.
(“Residential clients have very fun requests, like, ‘Hey, when I walk in, can my house greet me like Jarvis in Iron Man?’” Tapolow added with a laugh.) By diversifying its client base, Infinite AV has been able to keep its calendars booked.
Since starting the company, Tapolow has prioritized a people first approach. After a 15 year career as a social worker in public schools, his wife, Kristie Tapolow, got on board. When Dan first got into AV all those years ago, he made two promises to himself: he would never have a business partner, and he would never work with family. Today, working with Kristie, he’s happy to have broken those promises. There is a real sense of family in the work the Tapolows do; in a business where small companies abound, it’s all the more critical to foster a collaborative workplace where employees feel supported.
“My whole approach to my company was really I wanted to treat everyone here the way that I always wished I had been treated,” he said. “I have worked at a lot of companies where they got nervous if you learned too much. They wanted to keep you in your lane. And I saw what that did at a lot of companies: it created resentful employees. So I really emphasize trainings, because to me that leads to more valuable employees, and I’m more than happy to pay them what they’re worth. It’s created a company filled with loyal employees who enjoy working here because they know that I’m investing in them.”
Infinite AV’s suite of services include home automation, custom home theaters, state of the art security systems, multi room music and video distribution systems, and, for professional clients, video conferencing setups, phone systems, and presentation technology. In a workplace, Tapolow said, a high performing AV system is something you never want to notice; you want technology to do its job without the need for troubleshooting. Infinite AV specializes in setting up long term systems that allows companies to, quite simply, focus on just doing business.
One of Infinite AV’s largest accounts is Laerdal Medical, a Norwegian medical technology company that specializes in medical simulation labs. Tapolow and his team design and install recording and communication systems in these labs, so that medical students can review their performance in simulated patient encounters. How did a small New Jersey firm get hooked up with an international medical tech company? AV is largely a referral business, and the Laerdal account was no different.
“At one of the companies I used to work for, I ran their Laerdal division,” Tapolow said. “I ended up resigning from that position and moving on. It was years since I had spoken to anyone there. Word got around at that company that I had opened my own shop, and Laerdal sought me out. It was humbling to have a company of that size reach out to me.”
For residential work, Infinite AV has a showroom in Red Bank where prospective clients can interact with home automation systems and get a feel for these technologies in action. Technology in the home can often feel daunting or intangible, and giving clients the opportunity to interact with these systems directly allows Tapolow and his team to make their services concrete. That showroom is paired with a shop in Little Silver, where the company does all its warehousing and technical work. Between these two sites, residential and commercial projects, sourcing and warehousing product, plus medical simulation work across the country, Kristie and Dan are always busy. Some days, Dan lives in his pickup truck, driving from client to client. The teenage boy who was into car stereos would be proud. Even today, Tapolow keeps two 12 inch subs and a custom box in the back.
Infinite AV Solutions
62 Birch Avenue, Little Silver /
147 Broad Street, Red Bank 732.924.5900 / i-av.com