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IVCi’s Don Parenta: AV Living Legends #53

Published: June 24, 2024
Photo courtesy of Don Parenta.

Commercial Integrator and its #AVLivingLegends initiative seek to celebrate and honor our industry’s biggest contributors. With this series, we strive to spotlight the difference-makers and world-changers who move among us.

Don Parenta, relationship development manager, IVCi, is a renowned personality in the AV industry. Indeed, his tenure serving our industry community extends nearly 35 years. With his years of experience at companies like KBI Systems and IVCi, Parenta is, without a doubt, deserving of the title of AV Living Legend.

In this interview with CI, Parenta reflects on his three-plus-decade career and the people who inspired him along the way. Parenta also underscores the importance of maintaining a sterling reputation and strong brand in order to deliver a great product and experience.

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

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

Don Parenta: Prior to starting my sales career, I was working at News 12 on Long Island, running the field operations. I was also the lead ENG/EFP cameraman shooting feature stories, while freelancing for Sports Channel and an occasional MTV gig. After almost 15 years of crazy schedules and long days, I realized it was time to find a job that allowed me to earn more money, start thinking of starting a family, spend more time with my wife, Maureen, and not have to commute four hours a day, living in New Jersey and working on Long Island.

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

Don Parenta: I really loved meeting so many people from all the companies I called on. And, as my super salesman father said, “I’d make friends for life.” And he was right. Leaving the creative world of television production and getting into room designs was a good transition — one creative career to another. I also had the opportunity to visit some of the largest corporations in the world, which was always exciting since, like television, I was someplace new and cool every day.

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?

Don Parenta: From the beginning, I was surrounded by talented people who welcomed me and took the time to guide me through how to sell AV technology and conduct myself in corporate meetings, along with so many other new experiences brought on by my new career in sales. On the Friday before I started at KBI Systems, I was a cameraman hanging out of helicopters, shooting news and MTV concerts, and meeting all sorts of celebrities from President Ford, to Billy Joel, to Roger Marris. Then, three days later, I’m a sales guy, in front of a wall of binders from all sorts of manufacturers that I never heard of and wondering what I got myself into. [Laughs.]

As regards someone who changed my life, well, it has to be Walter Vierschilling, president of KBI Systems, who believed in me and had the patience to allow me to grow in my new career.

When it comes to shaping others’ careers, once again, I go back to my Dad, a salesman for Kraft Foods, who was always there for others and shared what he knew to help make peers, coworkers and friends successful. The feeling you get from helping others be successful and seeing the lightbulb go off is priceless.

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

In 35 years, there have been so many great moments. It makes it difficult to choose one, or even two. I started in integration, then an independent rep, then direct for a couple of manufacturers, then bookending my career back in the integration business here at IVCi.  In all this time, I guess what is so amazing and memorable is how great it’s been overall — especially the people you meet along the way: from the distant past to now, the amazingly smart people who are bringing up the ranks.

How the technology has changed! From wooden pushbutton Crestron panels to where control is now. From 40-inch-deep videowalls that we stuffed into the tight spaces on U.S. aircraft carriers to displays that are four to six inches in depth, seamless and massive in size. From standard NTSC video to 4K and 8K. Oh, and let’s not forget, typing my proposals out at KBI on an IBM Selectric typewriter, stuffing them in an envelope, and mailing or hand delivering them to a client, as opposed to how it’s done today through email, AirDrop, ChatGPT and all.

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

Don Parenta: Possibly my involvement in bringing the table box to light and getting a few bucks from Altinex for the idea. Or simply having so many great times that it would take a 400-page book to document it. But ultimately, it’s going to an industry show, whether it be InfoComm or a regional show, and stopping every 20 feet to give a hug, get a hug, reminisce or see pictures of our children all grown up. And just seeing the energy of the new breed of AV professionals.

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

Don Parenta: Maybe not returning to the integration side of the business sooner. I really like this part of the industry. Not that the manufacturer side isn’t great, too. It’s the creativity in me that is best utilized on this side of the fence.

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

Don Parenta: A client from Colgate Palmolive said to me in 1993, when I was selling integration services to them in New York and New Jersey, “Don, your job is to make me look good!”  He viewed the various departments within Colgate that he was supporting through his in-house facilities operations as customers, and he believed that it was his brand, his reputation, his pride and his enthusiasm to deliver a great product and experience.

So, I think of my position wherever I have worked — whether it was as a manufacturer, manufacturer’s rep, KBI or, now, for almost 10 years, IVCi — as my territory…as my franchise…and I treat it as such. I bear that responsibility to do my part. It’s my brand as Don Parenta, and for the company I represent, to always be respected and return that respect to the clients.


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.

Posted in: Insights

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