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Curtiss Singleton: AV Living Legends #14

Published: 2023-06-05

This week, Commercial Integrator continues its ongoing #AVLivingLegends series by profiling Curtiss Singleton. This series exists to celebrate the individuals who have shaped today’s commercial AV industry.

In this edition, Singleton, an AV/IT collaboration expert, speaks on the importance of sales leadership, mentorship values and customer interactions in the industry.

And if you’d like to read even more coverage relating to our #AVLivingLegends, check out our hub page, which includes direct links to every living legend!

Commercial Integrator: What motivated you to join the commercial AV industry? What has kept you motivated and engaged in the decades that followed?

Curtiss Singleton: I started my career in AV in 1989 with Pioneer Electronics working on the consumer side of the business. In 1996, I was fortunate enough to be hired by one of my greatest mentors, Linda Toleno, to manage the Southeast for the commercial division selling — of all things — Laser Disc into the education market. Even then, Laser Disc was still a $60 million business in the U.S., and it was in this position that I gained such a passion for our industry. Southern resellers like the original TI, CMS and Camera Corner were such a blessing to work with.

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From there, I helped start Panasonic’s first projector group and was later rewarded by another great mentor, Paul Depperschmidt, with my first Director of Sales role with ASPI Digital that was later sold to Polycom. As time passed during my career, I began to develop and hone a skill-set focused on team building and breaking the revenue glass ceiling. That said, what kept me engaged, though, is taking care of the customer. I still love to carry a bag and customer interaction is always the highlight of my day.

CI: Reflect on your role as both a mentee early in your career and as a mentor. Who helped shape the trajectory of your professional life, and how have you tried to help shape others’ careers?

Curtiss Singleton: As a mentee, it was my goal to be a sponge knowing that all I learned, both good and bad, would help me make the right decisions in the future for positive results.  I have so many people who helped me along the way, but Linda Toleno, Steve Abend, Paul Depperschmidt, and Joe Sorrentino are the mentors who taught me what a real leader looks like and what my responsibility as a manager should be.  Now, I’ve had a couple who will remain nameless who taught me what a bad leader looks like.  Although unintended, their results still had a great impact on me as to who I did not want to resemble. Those closest to me gave me the nickname Papa Bear.  I’ll take that as the greatest compliment, as it describes exactly how I feel I should be in my role.

CI: What’s the most memorable story/anecdote of your career in commercial AV?

Curtiss Singleton: I was traveling and seeing partners and stopped in to see a very well-known AV Consultant who had just moved from NYC to, well I can’t say. A great guy, but very full of himself, as I would have been at that point of my career.  As we discussed DSP algorithms for noise and echo cancellation, bussing, mix-minus, etc., he started hounding me heavily for having the word “sales” in my title. He actually told me to never come back until I changed my title.

At a loss for words, I reminded him that we are all in sales, whether we believed it or not, and that he should be thankful for those of us “sales guys and gals” who support him in what he does as a profession. Neither one of us gave in, and there were also a few four-letter words exchanged in that meeting. But, soon, we became the best of partners, and he’s one of the best I’ve ever had in the industry.

CI: What has been your greatest professional accomplishment to date? What has been your biggest professional regret to date?

Curtiss Singleton: My greatest accomplishment? Being part of something bigger than me, and specifically, the people. Those who put their faith, their livelihoods and their belief in me. I would never have dreamed in my career that I could be attached to so many wonderful human beings. My GREATEST accomplishment is that I was able to help those who helped me.  And I am who I am because of all who made an impact on me.

My greatest regret? Phil Langley said it perfectly in a prior interview: “I have absolutely no regrets.” Every stage of my career has culminated in where I find myself today, and I would never want to change the course of my journey for anything. The greatest people, teams, customers and experiences happened because of what God has given me. What a gift! I’ll never look back thinking there was anything better.

CI: What’s the best advice or pearl of wisdom you either received during your career or came to realize on your own?

Curtiss Singleton: My two favorite sayings are “You don’t know what you don’t know,” by Paul Depperschmidt and “What is bad is not that man lives and dies, but what dies within man while he lives,” by Dr. Omar Bose.

While neither can claim these quotes as theirs, they lived by them. These words, and men, had such a great impact on me, both personally and professionally. I can only hope that the impact this had on me has rubbed off on those around me throughout the years. This ride has been wonderful. Spectacular. I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for anything!


Would you like to nominate a peer or colleague — or perhaps yourself! — to be featured in this #AVLivingLegends series? If so, just email Dan Ferrisi, editor-in-chief of Commercial Integrator, at [email protected].

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