GUEST COLUMN: Chris Hellmuth from Vivid Audiovisual Media on losing a business due to Covid

Chris Hellmuth, founder and CEO of Vivid Audiovisual Media on achieving his dream of growing a business only to see it fall away due to Covid.

The outlook was positive: a prospering economy, many companies willing to invest, new markets to open and a World EXPO as well as a World Soccer Championship ahead. To me 2014 seemed to be the perfect year for founding a company in the Middle East as I always wished to become an entrepreneur and to be the master of my own destiny. With my previous experience as area sales manager as well as marketing manager for various well-known AV manufacturers and an active network of qualified leads in my pocket I felt the time was just right.

Once I had a trade license and an office space, I quickly realised that my good reputation and local contacts do not really help when you have no products to sell. Moreover, gaining the trust of a manufacturer, distributor or system integrator as a start-up one-man show simply takes time. Anyway, I did my homework, started from scratch, knocked on many doors and finally obtained some ‘B-Brands’ to represent. Whilst enjoyable, it was a lot of work for very little return.

And this is the point where you really need to be careful with what you wish for, because wishes come true! I wished to have my own company, but I forgot to mention that I wished to earn sufficient money to be able to live as well. So first lesson I had learned was that you should be precise with the wording of your wishes.

But as it’s never too late for another wish I formulated my wish correctly this time and all of a sudden gained some prestigious ‘A-Brand’ manufacturers as new clients, still lots of work but the financial return was much better. Things seemed to go upwards now, despite a massive drop in the oil price in 2015, the sanctions of Qatar in 2017, regional wars and distribution changes of some of my key A-Brand manufacturers in 2019, to name just a few obstacles of the past years.

My business grew, and I reached a point where my company made enough money to employ staff and to support my business partners with attractive marketing activities (roadshows, trainings, product bundles). In addition, I made new business friends, received offers from different people to join my company and was regularly approached by new manufacturers to represent them - probably the best appreciation you could get as an independent sales agent.

But what I’ve also learned over time is that a wish fulfilled is a dream shattered at the same time. Or to speak in AV conferencing terms it’s like being on a request list and once you’ve been assigned to speak, your “dream” to talk instantly disappears from the list as you’ve now become the actively speaking person - and your wish to speak got fulfilled!

After five successful years being self-employed, I was wishing for a new challenge and returned to my home country Germany for a full-employment as a regional sales manager. I still kept my trade license active however, in 2020 there was no chance to do any travelling or business in the Middle East - and now I have become one of those many ‘Corona Collaterals’ in our industry. I definitely have not wished for this.

Yes, there are people who may say “I knew this would happen right from the start” or “I would have done it a lot different”, but you know what? I had a dream and it came true so from my side I cannot be happier! I haven’t hurt anyone and the experiences I’ve made, the people I’ve met and the fascinating AV projects I had the opportunities to work on - all this cannot be taken away from me, ever. Not even by a global pandemic. So I want to encourage all AV people out there to keep on wishing, especially if you are about to lose your company or your job.

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