Talking Shop with Scott Starzinger and Drew Balsman of HD Media Systems

Monday, May 16, 2011
Drew Balsman, left, and Scott Starzinger are the owners of HD Media Systems in Cape Girardeau. (Kristin Eberts)

Scott Starzinger and Drew Balsman have grown HD Media Systems from a part-time job to make extra money on the weekends into an award-winning business. The company received the 2011 Electronic House magazine Home of the Year Award for audio, video, lighting and home automation systems installed in the Cape Girardeau home of Shannon and Angie Davis. Some of the home's automation features include a shower that's preset to the perfect temperature and water velocity, an iron that heats up automatically and a chandelier that flashes when the bathroom is out of toilet paper. HD Media Systems also recently opened its new office and showroom in Cape Girardeau at 2126 Kingsway Drive.

Question: What did you do before teaming up to start HD Media Systems?

Starzinger: My background is in IT. I graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1993 with a degree in industrial technology. I worked with computers doing advanced networking for several years. I pretty much got to the point where I was burned out on it. I've always had an interest in audio video. The technology started crossing platforms and it was something I wanted to get into. I started talking to Drew. and his background is AV.

Balsman: My background somehow in some way has always been in audio video. I started installing car stereos when I was in high school and did things on the car audio side for 14 years. I was working at Rapco Horizon doing cable design, and I had a son who was born with a lot of medical problems. I needed to start doing everything I could to pay for therapies and medical bills. So Scott and I started doing things on the side. We were working nights and weekends, within a couple of months we both went full time. Now we've gone from two to 11 employees in four and a half years.

Q: What makes your business different from others that sell similar equipment?

Balsman: The market has always been strong here. You've got other retailers in town who have been here for a while and developed a good following for audio video needs. But our approach is a little different. We're not what I call traditional retail. We're more based on customer service and a personalized experience than we are selling boxes. We do not sell cash-and-carry products ever. We sell solutions for what people's needs are.

Starzinger: We have an IT side and an audio video side, but they cross over. We do home theater, surround sound, TVs, whole house audio, security alarms, surveillance cameras, home automation. On the IT side, we service computers servers, laptops, desktops and small business networks.

Q: How do you keep up with rapidly changing technology?

Balsman: We're ate up with it. To be in this industry and stay on the cutting edge you have to love what you do. You have to research a lot. You have to read a lot on what's coming. Especially because I think we're in an emerging changing market between the computer side of things and the audio video side of things. We try to research as many products as we can to make sure the products we're representing offer the greatest value to our customers. I got home last night at 7:30 and read tech articles for at least two hours when I got home. It does take a lot of time and research, but if you didn't love it wouldn't be any fun to do. To me, it's not that big a deal. It's just the way I've always been. A lot of other people think we're nuts.

Q: Home automation may seem like something off of "The Jetsons" cartoon. What is the biggest misconception people have about home automation?

Balsman: As it becomes more main stream, more manufactures get into the market and the market gets bigger, the technology becomes cheaper to the general public. It used to be if somebody didn't have six figures to spend on it, it wasn't worth talking about. Now, we can talk about home automation for less than $1,000. There are bigger players that are getting into the market. Google is releasing a home automation platform. Verizon has a home automation platform that's coming. There's all kinds of things coming. With iPhones and iPads, you have an easier interface than before that 99 percent of the population knows how to use. If people know how to interface with their house and their products, they use it more.

Starzinger: People want more control with less effort. There's also a lot of cost savings that comes with it, with lighting control and HVAC control.

Q: Describe the work you did on the Davis' home that led to your Electronic House magazine award.

Balsman: It's the largest-scale home automation project we've done. We looked at it as an opportunity to see what we could showcase and show [what[']s] possible with technology that's available today. We had awesome homeowners who were willing to try new things.

Starzinger: It's the little ideas most people don't think of. Shannon, the home owner, would come up with a lot of ideas. Anybody can put in a control system and make it turn lights off and on or make your thermostat turn up or down. That's where a lot of people just fall off. You have to think outside the box to push the system to its full potential.

Balsman: The integration of new ideas is what made us win the awards. If you look at what the homeowners spent on the projects, we got first and by far were the smallest project in there. Second place was $1.2 million. We were less than $200,000. To win an award like that in Southeast Missouri, when you're going up against homeowners on the East Coast and West Coast that had 10 times the budget that our homeowners had, we had to do some things to make it stand out.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: