A Path to Success Means Facing & Embracing Change

Prestige AV and Creative Services is a thriving family business located in Bond Hill that delivers a diverse range of solutions for producing events at hotels and meeting venues. The company's commitment to creating and managing increasingly elaborate events is perhaps best summarized in what Prestige employees call The Prestige Way: having a pride and passion for what you do and knowing that you have a dedicated, family-like support structure to help you serve clients.

Prestige won the 2018 International Live Event Association WOW Best Technical Production Award for a project in the Hall of Mirrors at the Hilton Netherland Plaza Cincinnati.

The company's president, Tony Ramstetter, started Prestige in 1987 as a corporate audio visual firm specializing in the management of hotel audio visual services. Terry Ramstetter, Tony's brother, joined him as CEO of Prestige in 1995. What started with rentals of microphones, speakers and projectors, has continued to evolve over the last 30 years into a "one-stop hospitality organization" dedicated to helping customers create outstanding, memorable events for their guests and attendees.

Brian Monahan, VP of Sales and Business DevelopmentWhile this customer-focused business has thrived for three decades, finding a path to success meant facing and embracing a variety of changes. Brian Monahan, Vice President of Sales and Business Development at Prestige, joined the company in 1997 and initially supported Prestige clients in the Dayton area. At that time, Prestige had around 13 employees almost exclusively dedicated to serving hotel and banquet facilities by providing AV rental solutions. "We embraced the opportunity to become their in-house audio visual department," says Monahan. "Now we've grown into a company today where we do large-scale productions for corporations, in a variety of sectors from trade associations to Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States and internationally."

Prestige AV & Creative Services created dramatic lighting effects with gobos of Cincinnati’s most recognizable landmarks.Today, the Prestige 'family' includes more than 90 employees who share a like-minded dedication to making this family business a customer-focused hospitality organization. "Our customers' events aren't about 'AV.' They're trying to get a message across to attendees, to motivate investors or raise money for a cause," says Monahan. "Our product is part of a bigger picture."

That picture changed in 2015 with the passing of Terry Ramstetter following a heart attack. Tony assumed many “roles” that Terry fulfilled as CEO; too many for one person to fill. Tony needed the talents of his entire workforce if the company was going to survive this tragedy. "When Terry died everyone at the company had to step up and the whole company grew in one day," says Monahan. "It became this beautiful thing as everyone took on a greater role. Each of us realized, 'I have to live different and do different,' in our own way. "

After Terry's passing, Tony Ramstetter created a leadership council for the company including heads of every department, and through that, they established that Prestige needed a strongly-defined leadership team comprised of family and employees who have also contributed in the success of the company over the past 30 years. The current executive leadership team working under Tony includes six vice presidents and directors, one being Tony's brother Mark Ramstetter, Vice President of Operations.

Rarely do you see Prestige's equipment during a show. At their 30th Anniversary celebration, it was out front for all to see."That summer after (Terry’s death) I looked at a 5-10 year plan for me professionally and for the company, and I got a bucket list together," says Tony. "On a personal level, I’ve been doing the bucket list. On a professional level; part of this has revived a passion for the work. I stepped out of a comfort zone and was able to do something that was difficult. I know there are a lot of people in this building that were doing the same thing. I felt a great energy to keep that going, to stretch myself and to grow the people here professionally. The future is to continue with that."

In January of 2017, the Prestige executive leadership team released its first functional organizational chart to help employees better define their current roles within the company and understand how they can individually work to make changes. "We're letting departments operate true departments and make departmental decisions," says Monahan. "I think it creates more confidence in the workplace because people know where they fit into the company and leaders in each department have specific team members they can help develop. It's helping to create a second renaissance of leadership in the company."

Prestige travels the country with their clients. This set was designed for a project that traveled to numerous cities along the east coast.

The more things change ...

Even before Terry's passing, the team at Prestige was quite familiar with how change can both disrupt and revitalize business. In the 1990s and early 2000s Prestige AV partnered with a number of production services companies in order to meet the demands of clients. Prestige would provide the AV equipment rental and logistics while another production services company would handle the complete conference and meeting services from initial concept though production and staging.

Kathryne Gardette, Head of Logistics and Marketing"Tony and Terry recognized that there were smaller production companies offering solutions that Prestige didn't and realized a way to grow as a business is to merge or buy into other industries," says Kathryne Gardette, Head of Logistics and Marketing at Prestige. Prestige AV acquired Encore Production Services in 2006 and became Prestige AV and Creative Services. Six of the former Encore employees, including Gardette, remain with Prestige today.

Oddly enough, change might just be the hidden secret to stability at Prestige. Employees credit the company culture of embracing change and new talent with new ways of thinking as a key element of why many of them remain with the company. "When I think of the peers I work with, we have longevity," says Gardette. "When you look at our roster I'd say more than 50 percent have been here at least five years and more than 50 percent of that group have been here over 15 years."

The changing face of technology

Prestige began its life as a company with AV equipment rentals, and a large part of that business continues to be built on acquisition of new gear as presentation technology changes. This includes cutting-edge projection systems as well as audio and lighting systems to help make client productions more exciting and dramatic. "The leadership of the company has taken the stance that we will be an early entrant," says Gardette. "We may not be the first, but we'll be an early entrant into a new piece of technology or a new standard for business. When I think of us being the first in this region to offer a 120-foot screen ... where do you put that in Cincinnati? That didn't stop us from investing in new solutions because 80 percent of our business comes from outside this region."

Prestige AV & Creative Services is an early adopter of the latest presentation technologies."We are willing to invest in what our clients need and what we need to move forward with them," says Monahan. "We've added LED display technologies, investing in our first LED wall system allowing us to do both indoor and outdoor events. We're even moving into virtual reality solutions that let us show clients exactly what an event experience will look like from any location in the room using a 3D environment before we set up the actual location on the day of the event." As if echoing the philosophy of The Prestige Way, Monahan is quick to point out that, "We don't want to find out after the fact that we failed to meet or exceed our clients' expectations. Investing in new solutions help us stay proactive and remain in great standing with clients." "We don't wait for them to tell us there's a problem," Monahan says. "We aggressively seek out potential problems and make sure we're delivering on our promise. If we're not delivering on that promise, we have to make those changes fast."

The Prestige Way has evolved into a corporate identity that embraces future change as much as it is about pride, passion and hospitality in the here and now. "In 25-50 years," Tony says, "I see an employee-owned company. People who have invested a lot of blood sweat and tears; I see them as being a more formal part of this ownership. I see us continuing to evolve and be a place where people can be creative, talented and be able to display those things. Our product is not just a widget, it’s an experience."

Prestige AV & Creative Services brought a corporate clients theme to life with a custom set.

Support for this special report is provided by Prestige AV and Creative Services.

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Tony Ramstetter
Tony Ramstetter
Prestige AV & Creative Services

Tony Ramstetter is the president and founder of Prestige AV & Creative Services, a Bond Hill-based event production company that provides creative services, installations and equipment for major conventions and events across the country and beyond. Tony started the company in 1987. His brother, Terry, joined the company in 1995, and Prestige became a thriving family business. Then, tragedy called the company’s future into question.

Soapbox:  What was it like to run a business alongside your brother?

Tony:  We have different personalities but a lot of the same core values, so we were able to feed off of each other’s strengths and build a business. In the early days, that meant just finding like-minded people who would work hard, were very customer-driven and had the same sort of values.

We both were energized with the passion of building a company and having that support and confidence in each other. It was a good synergy. We’re different people. He was a very driven operations person – very good business sense. I’m more of a culture guy. I want to help create a good client experience. It’s a good combination. Sometimes we’d be looking at different ends of an issue, but overtime it became very complementary.

Soapbox:  I know your brother passed away (suddenly from a heart attack). How did you cope with that from a professional standpoint?

Tony:  It was a complete, knock-you-down moment for so many of us. All these people have been with us for so many years. I just kept knowing that somehow Terry prepared us for this. He helped people grow, helped people be dedicated, be resilient. It was a defining moment for that resilience. Through all that tragedy, it was such a great thing to see people become their best selves. I’m just so grateful (for that).

I just went around to each person and I said, “I need your help to get through this.” I had to go back to doing some stuff I hadn’t done in years, and just trying to sort through things that had been on Terry’s plate that he would handle with ease. I had a lot of help. I had to get out of my comfort zone and trust that we have a good team, and we do. I know that more today than I did prior.

We leaned on each other. People stepped up. It was really amazing. That was toward the end of our fiscal year, and the following year, we had our largest year ever. I think we were just very inspired to not give in to the grief or loss, so we all picked up different pieces.

Soapbox:  What did you learn through adversity?

Tony: You don’t know how strong you are until you have no choice. When you experience that and respond in such a fantastic way, it becomes part of who you are. (We always talk about) coming in every day and accepting nothing less than our best.

We have a lot of trust now in what people are able to do and what they will do, and that gives you a lot of confidence. And we have faced other challenges, and we continue to try to stay out in front of (those challenges).

Soapbox:  What advice would you have for other business leaders in approaching change?

Tony:  Don’t ignore it or fight it. You have to look at it and use your instincts to know how to embrace it and make a transformative change that will keep you on your same path and practicing the same values.

Soapbox: What about this company makes you the most proud?

One thought Terry and I shared was let’s put people in the best position to be successful - to be happy - to be productive - and the company will benefit. I’m most proud that we have people doing something that they love and are good at, and there’s a great combined energy there.

Terry RamstetterThe Terry Ramstetter Foundation is inspired by Terry’s giving nature and life. Its mission is to lift up those less fortunate and present them with loving opportunities and support. Terry’s life was dedicated to helping others. Giving to families gave him joy and his foundation will keep that joy alive. He was always there with a twinkle in his eye offering little gifts to show how much he cared. As he grew in success, so did his contributions to others. Terry’s legacy is a life of unending love and the Terry Ramstetter Foundation is founded on these principles.

The 2018 Terry’s Tailgate is Sunday, September 23 at Prestige AV & Creative Services 4835 Para Drive Bond Hill. Proceeds from previous tailgates have supported Anna Louise Inn, The David and Rebecca Barron Center for Men, CAT House, First Step Home, DePaul Cristo Rey students & families, Ronald McDonald House, Bethany House, Resurrection School, and Corryville Catholic School.

For more information about The Terry Ramstetter Foundation, visit here