Here is my second interview with someone working in acoustics in the US ! I would like to thank Edward Basanese for having accepted to be interviewed. This time, it will be a written interview that we had via e-mails. At the end of the article, you will be able to read the full answers. This interview was very interesting because it deals more with the business aspect of acoustics, which is very important as well.
West General Acoustics (WGA)
West General Acoustics is a wholesale distributor of custom acoustical materials, based in San Jose, CA. They provide applications assistance to customers throughout the United States.
The mission of WGA is :
- To serve specifiers and end users by offering the best custom acoustic materials, with prompt response, fair prices, and full satisfaction.
- To represent substantial principal manufacturers of high quality acoustic materials.
- To attract and retain motivated, service-oriented employees.
Their activity is divided into 3 parts :
- They present all the solutions they have that acousticians (or other specifiers) can incorporate in their recommandations.
- They provide assistance to acousticians about how to instal correctly their products.
- They respond to small projects by guiding customers to appropriate acousticians or materials that will satisfy their needs
Edward’s job in particular
His role in senior management is to mentor and support the company leaders, to assist in maintaining good relationships with principals, and to oversee business aspects of running our company.
I expect [engineers] to know how to listen to their customers, and to respond to them in a helpful way, with appropriately designed, sized, and priced solutions.
Why acoustics ?
We can say that Edward is working in acoustics by chance.
Like many people working un acoustics, he says loving music and he had some formal training in vocal music. But he didn’t choose to make a living of this. Indeed, he decided to study International Economics at Georgetown University in Washington DC.
In the late 80s, 10 years after WGA was founded, the company was recieving more and more inquiries concerning acoustics and had to respond to these inquiries. In the mean time, Edward joined the company in 1987. Even though his job is more on the business side of the company rather, he took classes in acoustics and noise control and read books so as to enhance his knowledge on this subject. He also hired an engineer who is also a musician.
Acoustics is anexciting field to be in!
His best project so far ?
There are many projects I am proud of.
A large water treatment plant near Lake Tahoe, California. The plant needed custom louvers having high sound attenuation performance but none were available on the market. So he worked with their principal manufacturer to develop and test a brand new product. This met their needs and the installation went smoothly.
A senior manager in particular
The profile of a senior manager
If you want to work as a senior manager at WGA, you have to be a service-oriented person with a combination of acoustical technical knowledge and business skills. Even though he’s not an acoustician, this helps to understand the customer needs
That leads to another aspect of his job : Customer Relationship. Edward joins Shimby’s views by saying many customers balk at the expense of acoustical treatment or noise control equipment. Good communications skills are therefore needed to assist the customer to make the best choices .
A typical day in the life of a senior manager at WGA
Edward’s days at WGA are a combination of these tasks :
- Visits to specifiers, designers, contractors, and customer jobsites,
- Preparing quotations and negotiating with customers on new projects,
- Managing orders at their various manufacturers,
- Keeping an eye on website traffic – an important marketing resource.
WGA’s projects begin with a phone call. WGA asks questions about the customer’s needs and the way he will apply the solution. Sometimes, visitng the site is useful. Once WGA and the client agree on a solution, it’s set up by the chosen specifier and WGA stays available for the customer. After installation, there is a discussion on the customer’s perception of the actual acoustical treatment.
His short-term projects
His current project involves the upcoming launch of a new invention technology that will have a big impact on sound control within architectural spaces, as well as industrial and other applications according to him. WGA is currently working with the inventor on putting together his team of licensees. The product should be unveiled to the US market by the end of 2014, and to the international market later.
His long-term projects
Even after 27 years working at WGA, Edwards hopes to continue for many years to come. WGA’s headquarters are in San Jose, CA, but Edward’s office is in Connecticut, so one of his projects if to expand WGA’s field of action, so as to help as many customers as possible.
Acoustics is progressing from being seen as a “luxury,” to being seen as essential to employee happiness and productivity.
One more thing : Some tips for people like me
He has one main tip for people like me: take some accounting, marketing, sales, and management classes if these are available.
You never know when you may be the entrepreneur – starting a new company – who really could use that business knowledge in addition to the technical competencies!
Outside of that, it’s important to combine technical knowledge so as to know which solution is the best, business knowledge so as to build a strong company and to be service-oriented so as to guide customers who often don’t understand acoustics.
If you want to learn more about this interview, you can read these 2 documents where the answers are more developped:
One more time, thanks again to Edward Basanese from West General Acoustics. A new interview is coming soon ! But that will be for the next post !