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Electro Acoustics’ Chris Jordan: AV Living Legends #52

Published: May 28, 2024
Chris Jordan (center) with sons Luke (L) and Sam (R). Photo courtesy: Electro Acoustics

Chris Jordan, the founder of Electro Acoustics, is a natural choice to join Commercial Integrator’s #AVLivingLegends series. He is our 52nd inductee into this distinguished group of changemakers. In being inducted, Jordan joins fellow industry members whose careers truly distinguish them.

Jordan and his wife, Sue, founded Electro Acoustics in 1984 as a company that is family-owned and family-operated. Moreover, it’s service-oriented and committed to reinvesting our profits into the lives of our employees and community. After serving for nearly 40 years, Jordan sold Electro Acoustics to his sons, Luke and Sam, who, as stewards, are carrying the business forward for another generation.

In this interview, Jordan spotlights his AV journey from starting the company in the garage to building a long-sustaining business in the industry.

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

Commercial Integrator: What motivated you to join the commercial AV industry?

Chris Jordan: My dad had a small home stereo installation company in the ’60s (think vacuum tubes). We also installed commercial intercom systems and background music systems. My dad was a great teacher and taught me how to think, solve problems, and gave me a strong work ethic. I can remember following him around on jobs as early as eight years old. One day, I went into an office with my dad and started working on a desktop intercom.  The lady at the desk said,  “Don’t touch that son it’s our intercom!” I replied, “I know, I’m going to fix it.” The rest of the office gathered round to watch.

After being “distracted” in high school, I experienced an NDE in a skydiving accident. This turned my life around, and I started attending church. Here, I realized I could apply the basics I learned from my dad and began helping churches have much better audio systems.

I attended my first SynAudCon in 1979. Don Davis put it all together for me. This started me on a path to read and study everything I could find on sound system engineering and room acoustics. I had found my calling.

I soon began designing and selling systems to churches and quickly outgrew my dad’s garage. Sue, my wife, and I decided to start our own business in 1984. We sold our Pontiac Grand Prix, bought basic tools from a pawn shop and a used white cargo van. Electro Acoustics was born on April 1, 1984. Sue attended a class on sales tax and would type our proposals on an electric typewriter and carbon paper. No computers yet, no cell phones, no video projectors.

Commercial Integrator: What has kept you motivated and engaged in the decades that followed?

Chris Jordan: I just loved it! Nothing is better than seeing a huge smile on a client’s face when they hear and see the result for the first time. It’s priceless!  Both AV and business are constantly changing, you never master it. The AV business has kept me challenged, engaged and learning for six decades. I still love solving a problem and seeing the result, it never gets old.

At the end of a large project when everyone is tired and beat down, we get to turn the music on. The whole project changes as brooms magically become air guitars and everyone is sending in their request. What a great job!

Running a business never lacks challenges. There is a downturn in the economy, a new competitor, employee issues, too much work, too little work, pandemics — it’s just always something. Either that beats you down or fires you up. I chose to let it fire me up.

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

Chris Jordan: Certainly, Don and Carolyn Davis. The basic principles just don’t change. After that, Jim Long at Electro-Voice took an interest in me. We spent many hours discussing projects and solutions. They would bring me up to the factory once or twice a year. Richard Boner was the consultant on my first commercial project. I still remember how he would excite the room with a tone generator, measure the resonance, calculate the LRC values and we would solder the resistors and capacitors on the bottom of the filter. We became good friends and have remained so for 40 years. I still use this same process to tune a room, the tools are just so much easier to use!

Warren Hogan, a consultant we hired, taught us how to develop formal processes, and work towards continuous improvement and quality. I think these years of learning helped us to become a much more consistent organization.

Having a business provides constant mentoring opportunities. Not only for both of my sons, Sam and Luke, who purchased the business last year, but also long-term employees like Ryan Walker who started out in shipping and receiving 25 years ago and now sells and manages multi million-dollar projects. We have trained many employees who have gone on to start their own businesses or advance in their career. I love seeing people succeed.

Our son Luke became very inspired with the CTS certification program. He eventually became the national chair of certification and pushed our company to achieve most every certification available. This program provides a formal process for learning and helps us to be the best at what we do.

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

Chris Jordan: In 1994, we were selected to install the sound system for the Texas Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. It was way over our ability. We partnered with two other local companies. One of these companies could not do their portion of installing the main speakers. I personally went on-site, developed solutions in the field, worked with a custom fabricator to make the brackets, and organized teams to compete each day to see who could get the most done. We finished on time and the Rangers are still a good client 30 years later. Although we lost money on the project, it put us on the map to perform on large-scale projects.

Commercial Integrator: What has been your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

Chris Jordan: Surviving 40 years!  [Laughs.] Business is really hard, but it is also very rewarding.  We were recognized as the Small Business of the Year in Tarrant County in 2020 by the Fort Worth Chamber, and Best Managed Family Business in Texas in 2019 by Baylor University business school. In terms of projects, it has to be the Dickies Arena in Fort Worth. It has been named as the top venue of its size in the world and continues to win awards. How cool to start a business out of your garage and then wrap up your career having done the best venue in the world. That’s pretty hard to top!

Commercial Integrator: What has been your biggest professional regret to date?

Chris Jordan: Not going to college. I have had a wonderful career, but I had to learn everything the hard way. Business school, a degree in acoustics and even an MBA would have helped me be much better and quicker, but once I started in business, I never found the time. I think I would have enjoyed it and benefited from it.

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

Chris Jordan: You can do anything you can read!  Even though I regret not getting a formal education, I became a lifelong learner. My entire career I read everything on sound and acoustics I could find. I subscribed to every magazine and could not wait to read the articles. I attended every seminar and manufacturer training I could. I became the expert.

I attacked business the same way. My mentors and teachers were Jim Collins and Michael Gerber. I have read hundreds of books on business, hired consultants, and bounced ideas off of other businessmen. I continue to be a lifelong learner and am always pushing the envelope on what I think.

Coming back full circle, that NDE had a profound effect on me. No one is successful apart from the Grace and mercy of God. That change in direction forced me to deal with deep flaws in my character. I learned to try put others before myself, always aim to do what is right and accept correction when needed. That above all else profoundly shaped me.

Sue and I just celebrated 45 years of marriage, 40 years of business together, working with both of our sons who now own the business and are doing an awesome job! I am looking forward to spending time with our five grandkids and having an impact in our community. It’s been a wonderful career!


Would you also like to nominate a peer or colleague — or perhaps yourself!  in this #AVLivingLegends series? If so, just email Dan Ferrisi, group editor, commercial and security, Emerald, at dan.ferrisi@emeraldx.com.

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