On a sunny November morning in Ohio as I was lying in bed, I realized something. First, it was November in Ohio. It's hardly ever ever sunny. Second, I realized that I have been with this company for 20 years. Then it hit me. The only way to still be in business 20 years later is to have had a great group of people with whom to do business and a great foundation on which to build.
Let me tell you a story that you might not know. I didn't start Truth Seeker Productions. It wasn't my idea, but I've kept the dream alive, one that started in 1985, almost 27 years ago. The original Truth Seeker is Lance Johnson. Lance is a friend of mine and made this sunny morning possible by offering me an opportunity to buy his business.
Lance began Truth Seeker Productions in 1985 and his company provided equipment to some of the biggest names in Christian music. The bands and artists of the 80's and early 90's bought their gear from Lance. He was based in Yakima, Washington, and I was introduced to him by another friend Dan who led a band called Eternity Express, and I met him (along with Mark Matthews, and Mike Buster) in 1985 in the parking lot of Westland Mall in Columbus, Ohio. My friends and I had heard of the band through CCM magazine and we saw their two pink Silver Eagles parked there and decided to knock on the door and introduce ourselves.
That introduction began lifelong friendships for which I'm very thankful. Since all bands need sound systems, Dan suggested that we call Lance to get what we needed. His prices were great, and we hit it off, and at one point several years later, he decided to get out of the business and offered it to me. I had been a good client and had referred lots of business to him, along with doing some installation work on the side. The fit was natural.
That's the very short story, but the fun part is that from one moment of meeting another person that the entire course of events in your life can change, if you'll let it. I risk boring you with Old Testament-type lineage and history, but here goes. It'll probably be more fun for me than for you, but this is my blog, after all.
Let's start from the beginning. I talked with Mike Buster last week, since he needed some new lighting fixtures for his church. I'm glad that he's still a part of my life. My brother, the doctor, took a cast off Mike's son's arm a couple years back while his family were traveling trough Columbus. Last week, Lance and I exchanged some email expressing the disbelief that it had been 20 years. Mark has been a long-time friend and is out of the music business these days.
When I bought the business, Lance introduced me to a handful of the regular customers. Wayne Young from Olive Branch Church might have been my very first sale. If not, it was Roby Duke or maybe Scott Carter. At Olive Branch, Wayne Young became Leon Pyatt who became Joel Kessler, and now, Wayne's back at Olive Branch. He emailed me yesterday.
Wally Grant wasn't far behind. Wally and I met for the first time (along with Paul Aldrich) in 1992 at the Winter NAMM show in Anaheim. He and his wife Joy have become great friends, a friendship built by years of their generosity in allowing me to stay at their home during NAMM shows. We'll never forget the $35 langostinos and $10 bottles of water at Ago, will we? Wally and I have talked almost weekly for 20 years.
Lance also introduced me to Keith Loy. I always liked it when Keith changed churches as a youth pastor, because he usually bought a new sound system wherever he went. Today, Keith friendship has been extended to his tech team , and to guys like Cory Vinz and Tony Schoborg, along with Tim Troxell, Todd Copeland, Kyle Marker, Jon Sanders, Rick Klein, Matt Pribyl, and Mark Law.
Lance also introduced me to his childhood friend Scott Coyle and pioneering worship leader Lamar Boschman, along with guys like Mark Douthit (who probably introduced me to Mike Haynes), Mark Hammond, Mark Baldwin, Steve Brewster, Louie Weaver, John Elefante, Bob Hartman, John Schlitt, Rick Adams, Dino Elefante, and Lance Parra. Maybe Rick Altizer (who made the connection with Scott Rodriguez) and Eric Darken, too, but I think those connections came from Mark Hammond or Mark Douthit.
I had some help on the Ohio end, too. John Mallinak was probably the first Ohio client, other than my long-time friend Bryan Hitch and my home church. Bryan Hitch (one of the guys with me when we met Dan) and Tony Wold made lots and lots of referrals. I just sent Bryan some gear in Fresno, where he's been for 10+ years. Tony has purchased audio gear for nearly every church that he has served and some others with which he consults. Tony introduced me to Charlie Carpenter, Lisa Lewis, Rob Pottorf and Rob Reider, among others. Bryan connected me with Jeff Hughes, Dan McLaughlin and Dave Anderson.
I forgot to mention that Bryan was my connection to his college buddy Tony Wold, too. Jeff connected me with Matt McKenzie, Wayne Chaffin, Mike Rice, Alan Stringer and others. Dave Anderson introduced me to Dave Brown. Dan introduced me to Ken Smeader. Bryan might have also connected me with Keith Matthews and Bruce Christian. Maybe I should be buying Bryan's kids' Christmas presents like he keeps telling me!
John Opal, my Beyerdynamic rep at the time, connected me with Nolan Pauley at World Harvest Church, who connected me with Eric Chancey and Shane Scyoc, who reconnected me with Marcus Gresham (a friend from high school) who introduced me to James Schleich, and who also just referred me last week to Randy Montague. Bryan probably also helped connect me with Dan Patton, who introduced me to Doyle Jackson. Shane also made the connection with Byron Goodew and Dave Dodd. I talked with Byron just last week. After 10 years, he's still a character. Ebay allowed Ron Eicher to find me, who now knows Eric Chancey and Robert Scovill, who has been a friend of Wally Grant's for a long time. Crazy circles!
Some of you complain about your college experience, but I don't. It was at Judson College (now University) that I met Dave Ellis who introduced me to Art Ziarko. I also met Warren Anderson at Judson, and Jamie Ballew. Those guys have accounted for a lot of business over the years.
Then there's Bruce Adolph of Christian Musician magazine. When I started, Bruce was selling advertising space for CCM magazine and its brand new publication Worship Leader. I bought the first ads for Truth Seeker from Bruce. He now publishes one of the best magazines available for Christian musicians. And what I didn't learn from Bruce about advertising, I learned with the help of Danny Wike. Danny became a sounding board for direct response advertising ideas and a good friend. Many of our clients came by way of Bruce and Danny's publications. Speaking of media guys, Mike Sessler of ChurchTechArts found our internet site and bought a Heil microphone capsule, and now allows his tech writing to be published by us.
From a little ad in Worship Leader, I was introduced to my friend Tom Parks, who introduced me to Greig Hutchens. Tom also introduced me to Paul Fox, who introduced me to Marcus Holston. John Holsapple was another who called from an ad in Worship Leader, if I recall correctly. With John comes Amanda Fellows and Mike Berwick. Mike Franklin called out of the blue from Ministry Values and spent about $10,000 before I knew what had happened. Same with Sean Robinson, except that ad was in Pastor Resources. From those advertising connections also came Mike Ellerbe, Byron Clinkingbeard, Jerry Joule, and Tom Hassler who I think introduced me to Travis Isaacson -- the last guy I talked with before starting this journey down memory lane.
Larry Doran connected me with Mike Wuellner who introduced me to Steve Gill who introduced me to Scott Binder. Tom Parks arranged the purchase of some used equipment, some of which was sold to Rich Horton who introduced me to Charlie Schafer and Bob Vance. My elementary school friend Steve Murphy made the connection to my lead installer Gary Purvis who has been invaluable to me for about 15 years. Gary introduced me to Mike Richardson, Phil Stoll, Ted Harmony, Tom and Amy Hanes, Eric DeVoe, Phil Manson and most other Nazarene churches on the NW District of Ohio that weren't connected via Mike McClurg, who also introduced me to Dave Lutz and John Spyker. Thankfully, Gary knew some Baptists, too, like Butch Peyton, Bert Patton and Dan Londeree, and a Pentecostal or two like Greg Collins.
Through my ABC connections came Mark Douglas, Larry Gamble, Mike Halliburton, Bob Cassady, Larry Swain, and Kevin Thomas. Mark has introduced me to Jon Cool (not Joe), Mark Noe, and a handful of others. I'm not sure where Randy Miller came from (neither is he). Ron Schafer has been to Florida and Virginia and back, and probably called from an ad, but we go so far back that we can only remember that his assistant at the time was the mother of a girl that I went to college with. Jake Barbour got connected through Rob Sharpe, who I think came from the Wayne Young/Wally Grant connection.
In one of the few times that a manufacturer made a referral to someone other than their largest dealers, Kramer Electronics referred Matt Shaffer who introduced me to his pastor Steve Hubbard. I think that Jeremy Myers is one of a very few clients who literally called us from a phonebook listing. Through his referrals, Terry Schey has sold almost as many wireless microphones for us in NW Ohio as I have myself.
Thank you to all of you! And to all who I didn't think to squeeze in, thank you, too. Everyone has played a part in allowing me to sit where I do.
Most of all, I thank God for allowing me to have met all of you. If you think that anything in your life is a coincidence, I hope that my story allowed you to see the hand of God in making the connections that make life a piece of art, in Old Testament genealogical sort of way.
You might think that, for me, this all started on a dark night in a mall parking lot, but it goes back much further than that. All of our stories go back to God's forethought in creation. Consider your own story and the path that God has weaved through you for His purposes.