An Interview with Bob Bruns, Founder
Why did you purchase Headlight AV?
My motivation was that after 15 years working for a large corporate organization, I felt it was time that I did something on my own. Even though I had a really good job, I had a gut feeling that I wanted to get away from what I was doing. My dad was very concerned because I was stepping into an unknown industry. He felt I was giving up a lot, like having a new company car every 2 years, which was something that never happened to him. He thought it was a terrible risk. I can recall my boss driving me home in the company car I had and asking me if I was sure I wanted to do this. And I said, yes I was. I could tell you a few years later when we had some difficult times, I used to have dreams that my old company would call and ask me if I would come back, which never happened of course, and I am thankful for that.
Originally when I purchased the company from Kermit Hansen in 1975, it was called Headlight Film Service. I had been involved with music a good part of my lifetime, so audio was interesting to me. I had known Kermit through his son-in-law, Richard Greely, who was a top notch sound guy. When I made the decision to try to make it with a company of my own, I went in the direction of audio visual.
Do you have an earliest Headlight memory?
I had two partners out of Long Island, New York, who basically gave me the tools to work with in the early years of the company. They provided me with catalogs, product from various manufacturers that I didn’t have access to, plus their expertise in the field. Also, through them I was able to go to National Audio Visual School. They helped out a great deal, and it was good for us to have that support in the early years.
What has been your proudest professional moment?
I would call this more of a characteristic, than a defining moment. I am proud that I have found good people. It is very, very important to me to have an employee base that has been solid and consistent. Turnover has been almost non-existent. In fact, I have had employees who have left only to come back. You would be surprised the total combined years of service of the people who work here.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
In 7th grade my grandmother helped me put together a school presentation of what we thought we might want to be when we grew up. And I thought at that time, because in the 5th grade I started out playing the bugle and then the trumpet, I wanted to be an orchestra leader. Lincoln Junior High School had both a band and an orchestra then. But through high school and until I started the business, I just played for fun. Once I got involved with Headlight in 1975 I basically left the music world in terms of my own self-interest. When we (Headlight) had our 30th anniversary party at Fort Williams, I had hired a German band through Eric Anderson, who I had known since 5th grade. Eric reminds me to this day that it was he that got me back into the music because he drew me out of the crowd at the party and asked me to join them to play a number. Today I play in a quintet with Eric.
How has Headlight AV evolved over the years?
When I bought this company, I started out with a handful of gear. We operated out of a really small building in South Portland. And there was just myself and my brother Phil, who I hired in 1978. Today we operate out of a 16,000 square foot building in Portland, have a thriving rental, production, and installation department with over 30 employees.
What do you want your legacy to be?
Integrity. If you lack integrity, how do you expect your business to survive? I have always felt that it is important to serve your clients with the highest level of workmanship possible. Also, having the ability to be upfront with our customers is key to me, even if that means losing some business because we don’t have the capability to meet their needs. The only way to build a lasting customer base is to generate a strong relationship with them. Integrity is the best way to do that. That is what has kept us in business for the first 38 years, and we will continue that model for many years to come.