Hal Truax of Hall Technologies: “Surround yourself with great people”

Surround yourself with great people: It’s impossible to do everything yourself. It is important as a leader to build a team comprised of great individuals. The level of performance increases as the quality of the team improves. Never be afraid of hiring an individual who may be smarter than you. It seems counterintuitive, but being […]

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Surround yourself with great people: It’s impossible to do everything yourself. It is important as a leader to build a team comprised of great individuals. The level of performance increases as the quality of the team improves. Never be afraid of hiring an individual who may be smarter than you. It seems counterintuitive, but being resolute in choosing the best people pays dividends for a lifetime.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs I had the pleasure of interviewingHal Truax.

Hal Truax, VP of Sales and Marketing at Hall Technologies has more than two decades of experience in strategic channel development and strengthening global sales efforts in the Electrical & Electronic Manufacturing industry. Hal has a history of developing long-term strategic partnerships and growing revenue through a personal philosophy focused on transparency and honesty. Hal has successfully led sales and marketing efforts for Crimson AV, Peerless AV, WyreStorm, and OmniMount. Hal grew up in Carlsbad California, where he resides today.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to your audience. I have been involved in both consumer electronics and Pro AV for a very long time now. My education is in economics and my dream out of school was to become a professional bowler, which I did with some success. One day, in between the Fall and Winter tours of the PBA, one of my friends asked me if I was interested in managing the first retail satellite TV store in the nation. The FCC had just legalized TVRO, which stands for television receive-only, for home use and I quickly agreed to help him, and became enamored with the technology. I turned my interest towards the technical and installation side of the business, which later evolved into starting an installation company to service dealers in San Diego County. I then moved my business to Sonoma County, where I was introduced to The Good Guys, a retail electronics store with 73 locations in 4 western states. What transpired next, led me to where I am today. I helped the Good Guys start a custom installation division and when The Good Guys ultimately sold the business, I moved on to work for a manufacturer, OmniMount, located in Phoenix, AZ. I was soon hooked on working on the manufacturing side and began implementing new business practices that helped OmniMount achieve exponential growth in a few short years.

After my success with Omnimount, I was eager for another challenge and was brought onto WyreStorm where I developed a reputation for immediately impacting sales through a unique and sometimes unconventional sales approach. Through my years in sales, I developed a set of best practices that helped businesses realize growth in both top and bottom-line revenues. I have used these practices in my sales and marketing roles to help companies grow. I had been watching Hall Research, now Hall Technologies, for a long time. The fact that Hall had avoided getting what I call, “Black Eye” status in a category where many other manufacturers have had “Black Eyes”, due to product failures, poor customer support, etc., was interesting to me. The fact Hall is located in Southern California was also appealing to me. I had watched the organization for years and once they announced that they had hired a new CEO, Jason Schwartz, I reached out to him and asked if he was looking to change it up. Fortunately, the stars aligned and I have been tasked with running Sales and Marketing at Hall Technologies for the past 7 months. We are changing our approach to doing business. We are diligent in the quest to keep our legacy in place by manufacturing world-class products and maintaining the highest level of customer service. I am very proud to have the ability to lead the team and help us realize new customer acquisition and achieve exponential growth.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I have had many interesting things take place in my career, and have met a lot of interesting people along the way. I would have to say that the most interesting story that I can speak to would be when I was flying out of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport headed to New York, and I was fortunate enough to get upgraded to first-class and my seatmate for the flight was Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House. We had a 4.5-hour flight and the conversation was very interesting, making time go by very quickly, (at least for me). I had asked many questions and Newt was quite willing to have what seemed to be genuine conversations about many topics. He appeared to be incredibly intelligent and was gracious enough to chat for most of the flight. I still look back fondly on that day as being memorable for me.

Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

We are currently developing end-to-end technology solutions that solve many of the problems encountered today in day-to-day life. We have all experienced by now, the frustration experiencing technology issues while on a virtual meeting, or heard about the issues faced in education concerning student engagement, and the efficacy of teaching using existing technology. This brings me to our latest leap in technology innovation, HIVE Control, an innovative solution to frequent issues seen in education. In today’s world, educational institutions need to be prepared to deliver a seamless learning experience regardless of being in-class, hybrid, or completely remote. Recent events have exposed many shortcomings in EdTech and have highlighted the technology gaps between schools.

Our HIVE-enabled classrooms include technology that promotes student/teacher engagement, improves peer-to-peer interactivity, and eliminates the complexity of AV control by giving the teacher complete intuitive control of their AV equipment with a single click of a button. HIVE Control’s advanced design and features make the system truly unique in the AV industry. With this cutting-edge technology, we are the first to bring REST API to the Pro AV industry and offer a world-class solution that sets a new standard in AV control and integration. Stay tuned, as we are releasing additional products to help with corporate communication, House of Worship, and the ever-evolving world of digital signage later this year.

How do you think this might change the world?

HIVE Control is the industry’s first cloud-native AV control application engineered from the cloud down. Leveraging the best in modern IoT, legacy control, and automation, the HIVE Control system expands the opportunities of AV to all. The cost to own our HIVE-enabled system is minimal due to our unique node-based architecture and subscription-based model. This allows schools to scale without the worry of expensive hardware, installation, and programming costs. Under one subscription a school can control a limitless number of rooms and AV devices. At its root, we are democratizing technology for schools, regardless of their socioeconomic status. With major improvements to the industry’s three major pillars in AV control; software, interface, and hardware, we’ve created an infinity scalable and affordable AV solution for educators that is easy to manage.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Truthfully, I don’t see any drawbacks or any context that could spin what we are doing in any light but positive and helpful. What we are designing and manufacturing combines hardware and software to improve the quality of the learning, working, and worship experiences that currently have become more tedious due to technology or lack thereof. I believe wholeheartedly that we are providing solutions that solve problems encountered in society today.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Yes, there was a significant conversation that led to what we have developed and what is still being developed, yet to be announced. The conversation was formed on the premise that we needed to drive innovation. If I remember correctly, we started brainstorming what’s being overlooked today, i.e. where can improvements be made in a technology sense to solve the myriad of problems that we are faced with today regarding education, hospitality, house of worship, and corporate environments. We identified the need to provide seamless, intuitive products that embrace the latest technology while minimizing the need for extensive professional development on the part of the end-user to reap the benefits from the products and services that we are now providing.

What we came up with is the basic concept of our HIVE suite of technology products and services. Initially targeted toward the education market, with an easy-to-use system comprised of affordable hardware and software that is half the cost of other cloud and software-based solutions. We have the advantage of designing our control platform, truly from the cloud down, since we were not currently invested in a legacy platform as many of our competitors are. From brainstorming the concept to putting a strategy in place, we realized we were on a new direction of what was to become Hall Technologies.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption? What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

HIVE Control is the first of many holistic solutions Hall Technologies will launch throughout the year. To maximize publicity our brand has partnered with an integrated marketing agency, to position Hall Technologies as an AV leader through both its products and personnel. By launching aggressive editorial and thought leadership media campaigns, we are generating awareness of HIVE Control and our other end-to-end solutions. We have embarked on multiple social media campaigns and have enlisted the help of key influencers in specific vertical markets. Hall Technologies is establishing ourselves as thought leaders and subject matter experts in the education vertical currently.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Yes, that individual is Bill Graham. I met Bill in 2001 while we were developing the business model for Custom Installation at The Good Guys. I had a strong background in Custom Installation and what I thought were best practices in this arena. Bill came from the retail side of the business and was well versed in corporate practices, an area in which I had no experience. Custom Installation was a new division of the Good Guys. We rolled it out to all 73 stores. The response was overwhelming, to say the least, and I took pride in things like answering the phone every time that it rang, jumping on at least what would be an initial response to every email. While doing this, I began to get behind, losing productivity each day the busier I became. Bill and I were traveling together as we did much of the time. My cell phone rang while I was speaking with a store associate so I stepped away to answer it, came back inside, and finished my discussion with that associate. Bill took me aside and explained that this practice was one of the reasons that I was getting behind in my daily work. He explained that I needed to manage my workday and not let the phone disrupt whatever I may be in the middle of. We continued that discussion as I brought up email management and asked him to share other insights that could help me get closer to effectively managing my days. Whereas I thought that answering every call was critical, he explained that what was truly critical was setting expectations, both with internal and external customers on when to expect a callback, or when to expect a response to an email. He elaborated on how obstructive my behaviors were to achieving the level of success that I was striving for.

He taught me what he called a “one-touch” business practice, meaning that when you open an email or come across a document that requires attention, respond or attend to seeing it through to completion, it gets handled in “one-touch”. Striving to behave as he suggested, helped me to succeed and to grow as an individual new to the corporate workplace. We continued to embark on many professional and personal development discussions. Bill even signed me up for extended training in a time management course through Franklin Covey. I still use much of what I learned from Bill today. One other important lesson that he helped me learn, is that when addressing performance issues in the workplace, it is crucial to distinguish between what is bad behavior versus what many people would categorize as a bad person. This too has helped me become a more effective leader. Bill and I still stay in contact today and I am proud to call him both a friend and a mentor.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

This is a great question and one that requires some introspective thought, (this seems to be a theme here). I will answer this in a couple of ways. First, my success has allowed me to work with many companies as a consultant and also work with many talented people throughout the years. I have an extensive track record of helping great people become aligned with great companies, in kind of a vocational matchmaking sense. Having an understanding of someone’s skill set, abilities and passions allows me to best help an individual find a job that will be mutually beneficial to both the employee and the prospective employer. I am happy to say that I have helped many find gainful employment, that in most cases will be career moves for them.

The second way I would like to answer this is: the success of my career has afforded me both the flexibility and the means to support the charities and causes that are most near and dear to my heart. We consistently volunteer, mentor, and donate to help others that have not been as fortunate. One of the charities that we are engaged with is Fresh Start Surgical Gifts. The organization transforms the lives of disadvantaged infants, children, and teens with physical deformities caused by birth, accidents, abuse, or disease through the gift of reconstructive surgery and related healthcare services.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

Surround yourself with great people: It’s impossible to do everything yourself. It is important as a leader to build a team comprised of great individuals. The level of performance increases as the quality of the team improves. Never be afraid of hiring an individual who may be smarter than you. It seems counterintuitive, but being resolute in choosing the best people pays dividends for a lifetime.

Find your passion: I have conducted hundreds of interviews, coached some of the smartest people that I have ever met, and I am surprised to hear the answers to my question, “What are you most passionate about?” When helping with career advice, or if I am interviewing someone for a position on my team, I always ask that question. It always takes the individual by surprise. If you are choosing a career path or trying to get a certain job, odds are that it will be a better long-term decision if you take into consideration exactly what motivates you, what are the things that will keep you engaged for years, what are you most passionate about?

Listen: Really listen; sit quietly and listen with the intent of hearing what is being said, and refrain from speaking until the person is finished with his/her thought. If needed, repeat what they said back to them in your own words to ensure that you understood what was being said. Great leaders in most cases are great listeners. This is one way to earn respect from your associates, your customers, and your friends. So many good ideas don’t make it to the table, solely because no one listened. Promoting open communication means allowing employees to have a voice; a voice that matters and a voice that can make a difference. This can only be achieved through listening.

Trust your decisions: I remember when I first entered the corporate world, being in a new environment, I felt insecure with my decision-making. I felt that all of the people that I was now working with, the ones with years of corporate experience, were somehow sharper and better at making decisions than I was. As time went by, my decision-making proved to be solid in almost every instance and I found that all of my fears were misplaced. The lesson learned was to trust my decisions and to believe in myself.

Establish a work-life balance: This is often a topic of discussion today, but when I entered the workforce this had never been mentioned to me, nor did I give it any thought. I immersed myself in my work, taking pride in putting in the extra effort that I thought was required to climb the ladder. My mental and physical health suffered. My relationships, both at work and home, suffered due to the fact that I was “always on”, never taking time for myself to enjoy my surroundings, my friends, and even to relish any work-based accomplishment. Today I practice trying to maintain the balance, disconnecting when not at work. Taking time for the beach or to visit with friends when not at work. As a result, I am happier, healthier, and remarkably more productive while at work.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am really passionate about and practice a plant-based whole food lifestyle. I started learning about the benefits of eating whole, unprocessed foods quite a while ago. I have been studying and learning about what I call evidence-based nutrition and how we can eliminate many of the diseases that we consider normal today. The number one cause of death in the US today is the standard American diet. Our genetic code only has between 10% to 20% effect on our longevity and quality of life. The rest is determined by the choices we make in lifestyle, and diet is the largest component of that lifestyle. The lower we eat on the food chain, the less likely we are to ingest antibiotics, growth hormones, etc. This movement is growing, but still faces a lot of opposition. If there were one book that I would recommend to see if incorporating just a little of the plant-based whole food approach will work for you, I suggest reading “How Not to Die’’ authored by Dr. Michael Gregor. I believe this is the best way to improve the quality of our planet and the people that inhabit it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The quote that I like most is: “Say what you mean and mean what you say” and in fact, I did not originally know that this was a famous quote, but it is and is attributed to Stephanie Lahart. Many times I find myself in front of a person or group that is new to me, and me to them. In a world where my success is dependent on people trusting me, it is very important to clearly communicate and act in a way that supports what you have said. This builds credibility and earns trust.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would say to them that Hall Technologies, a 36-year-old company has re-invented themselves, leveraging all of the best practices that helped us thrive to this point. I would ask if they have heard of the many problems encountered today in education, worship, and corporate communication in the presence of the pandemic. After they replied yes, I would explain that I am part of a team that is, as we speak, solving these problems today through innovative hardware and software solutions. And that is just the tip of the iceberg so to speak. Hall Technologies is more than just an AV manufacturer, we are helping facilitate a change within the AV industry that will impact generations to come.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Please connect with me on LinkedIn and Hall Technologies on LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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