"Like a true nature's child We were born, born to be wild We can climb so high I never want to die "
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Featured Studio Owner

John Fehling
Home Video Studio - Arvada

Date: 06/06/2014

The greatest thing we take pride in at Home Video Studio is our people. A successful Home Video Studio owner is a special person with many qualities and skills – but one thing shared among them all is a dogged persistence to move forward through any and all obstacles. This quality is certainly displayed in our Studio Owner of the Month, Steve Dalbec from Westminster, Colorado. Steve’s seven years in business have served as a roadmap for unpredictable starts, quick beginnings, surprises, and a few detours and bumpy roads. Through them all Steve serves as an example of humility, grace, and tenacity.

Remember the line, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans?” Dalbec was enjoying his management position at his thirty year employer UPS. Great job. Great company. Owned by the managers and managed by the owners. But life gives us hints – sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle. Dalbec is quick to recount not just one, but a few hints he received in the relatively short period of time between November of 2006 and January 2007. A not-so-subtle hint that Steve’s life was about to take a different course came in late November 2006 when “the widow-maker”, a full-blown coronary attack, came knocking. “My doctor told me,” muses Steve, “that the eight stents I received was his personal record at that time and I was on his leader board. I look at it like an event that you deal with. It came, it stayed awhile, and it went away. But it sure made me begin to reevaluate what I’d done with my life and realize there is more I am to do on this Earth.” Steve used his recovery to examine a fork in the road he realized he had come to.

One morning shortly after, when Steve began preparing to resume his management position at UPS headquarters in Atlanta, he received another hint. Having been at UPS for thirty years he, along with other employees of similar employment length, received an offer for early retirement with full benefits. Naturally he categorized this as an interesting alternative for him and his wife Kim to mull over in the days and weeks to come. Little did he know that on this same day, in the afternoon, he would receive a postcard from Home Video Studio. It was the same postcard he’d seen about every six months after responding to an ad in Videomaker magazine several years earlier. Usually he’d give it a quick glance and it would be tossed into the trashcan – only this time he decided to keep it.

This postcard was an invitation to own a video services business. It was a challenge to think about a change. Steve and his wife Kim had talked about change for several years - about going back to Denver where both of their parents and other family lived. Maybe it was time to stop talking. The card talked about a more self-directed lifestyle and turning your passion into your profession…

A passion for cameras, lighting, tripods, and all things photography was part of Steve’s world from the beginning. Steve’s dad was an Air Force instructor for photography. “My Dad’s life was photography,” says Steve. “Of course that made any holiday an excuse for family portrait day…and I mean even Groundhog Day and Arbor Day.” He adds, “This tradition of documenting family times is probably why I appreciate the value of people’s memories. Luckily we have beautiful professional photos and 35mm slides.”

While Steve was growing up the Dalbecs moved a lot before settling in Colorado. “I was born in Roswell, New Mexico, but dad was stationed in many different locations including a year assignment at a base located two hours outside of Paris, France,” says Steve. Steve developed a healthy self-reliance and a tendency to forge his own way in many situations. “I grew up introverted and kind of inside myself,” says Steve.

He was a math whiz and, at eight years old, solved logarithms in front of his dad’s photography students. “Dad would say, ‘If an eight year old kid can do these then you can’,” laughs Steve. “Every eight weeks when a new class of Airmen came in for their training Dad would tell me, “I need you for some math problems again son!” When the time came Steve went off to college to study electronic technology, but seemed more enamored by building his own computers. One day, while working part-time for UPS in Human Resources, he brought in his homegrown computer to show his superiors how this technology, very rare in business applications at this point, could solve a problem they’d been mulling over. Naturally the Industrial Engineering Department heard wind of it, stole him (and his computer) and the rest of Steve’s UPS career is history.

Dalbec forged a career in optimizing UPS’s efficiency by way of plans, equipment and people. As the decades progressed Steve proved himself vital to the whole company in terms of growth projection and facility expansion. Ultimately this took him to Atlanta and the UPS headquarters. “A lot was expected of me and of all UPS employees - the pursuit of perfect, consistent, on-time delivery of packages,” says Steve, “and I reveled in it. This is a company that expects your absolute best. Any problem that I faced was met by me locking myself in a room and working day and night until a solution was reached.”

...so, as Steve looked at that postcard from Home Video Studio on that fateful day he was considering the challenge to change. He decided to find out more, not just about starting his own business, but also tying it in with a move back to Colorado. Both Steve and Kim’s parents were getting older and having some health issues. Kim and Steve had always said that when the time came they would go back in Colorado. Maybe this was the time. Steve picked up his phone.

In January of 2007 Steve and Kim found themselves at a Show ‘n Tell held in Atlanta that was presented by Robert Hanley, Founder and CEO of Home Video Studio. This is HVS’s “discovery day” to learn about the business, meet people, and ask questions. They liked what they heard. “We remember, as does Robert, that at 1:15 p.m., after having gone through a presentation that had begun at 9 a.m., I wrote on a piece of paper ‘1:15 pm’,” says Steve. “At the lunch break Kim asked me why I wrote “1:15” and I told her it was when I had decided I would be making a turn at that fork of the road and would start my own business!” What Steve and Kim did not know at that time is that the most important decision they had made proved to be justified and timely. In June, amid the preparations to move back to Colorado Kim's Mom passed away.

August 27, 2007 began as a red letter day in Steve and Kim’s life. Their new life in their new home in a new state was beginning as Home Video Studio’s installer arrived early in the morning to begin assembling and wiring Steve’s studio. Soon the excitement and anticipation was supplanted by grief as word came that Steve’s dad had passed away. “Those very first days were interesting. My video business was open and I had my first project – it just happened to be a memorial photo montage for my dad,” says Steve. “But the good thing about that is every time I do a memorial montage it’s like I’m doing it for my dad, and I have shared with every one of my memorial tribute customers my promise that theirs will have the same attention to detail and my special touch.” Almost a year later Kim’s father passed away. Steve and Kim reflect on how glad they were to take a “Do it Now” attitude. “The postcard that December afternoon in Atlanta came at a perfect time when we really needed to make a move in every way,” says Steve. “It really was a matter of one door closing and a new one opening.”

When Steve opened he hit the ground running. He found his studio consistently in the top five for sales and had many weeks when he was tops in sales. In his second year, coming back fresh from the annual Home Video Studio Getaway Steve looked at his business plans and decided he would set a lofty goal for the 4th quarter. The best he had done so far in one month was just over $15,000 in gross sales. He put together a marketing plan and decided to set his goal for $20,000 - a 33% increase. His UPS days had taught him having a good plan with steps and completion dates worked well. He also remained in communication with Robert for tips, morale, and accountability. He also continued his personal growth with sales training courses. He reached his goal in November, and then some, posting over $25,000 in sales. Steve became the poster boy (or should we say “postcard boy”) of what a driven man can do - his picture and his results printed on a post card that went out to thousands of prospects. “What I learned is having a plan and executing the plan worked in my studio just as it did the many years I worked at UPS,” says Steve.

Aside from the financial successes, Steve also achieved personal and artistic success. He won Hanley Awards recognizing his video making abilities. He became active in his community. He joined and became a leader in Toastmasters, changing an introverted, “lock me in a room” problem solver into an outgoing and dynamic public speaker. He began speaking to community groups about “The Amazing Journey of Time Travel” and his passion for family memories on old movie film and the amazing stories his customers tell him. Being a Home Video Studio owner transformed Steve Dalbec. He had indeed turned his passion into his profession.

What makes Steve’s story human and real (and hopefully encouraging to some) is that after this start he hit a rut that almost pulled him off the road. And he is here to talk about it. “I’ve always been a big fan of Neil Young and in the early 1970's he had a hit album “Harvest”. There’s a quote where he says ‘Harvest put me in the middle of the road, but I didn’t like it, so I tried the ditch for a while.” Steve, always one to test the margins, decided to try the ditch. “Every studio has a list of ‘Prime Directives’ – a list of must-do’s. “I got away from everything I was taught about how to run a HVS business,” says Steve. “You can sometimes think you have better ways.”

Life started hinting again: “My sales plummeted and there were times I lost the passion I once had,” Dalbec recalls. “Kim had some health issues - I had some health issues and things just put me into a funk that lasted a while.”

Sometimes you can’t stop life from kicking you – but you can determine the direction you’re going. Steve began to realize something: “I am good -very good - at what I do. I love what I do, and I realized I had the desire to re-build my sales to what they once were.” He determined he was going to work his way up – starting with the basics. He started following the prime directives again. He communicated. “Part of my rebuilding was reestablishing my relationship with Robert. I realized my best sales periods were when I was calling him and bouncing ideas off of him. And most of the time he didn’t agree with my ideas,” laughs Steve, “but as time went by I realized he was probably right - I was probably heading for the ditch again.” Little by little Steve’s name began to be seen on the weekly top sales.

This year Steve has become re-charged with passion, and anyone who knows him knows he can make his dreams and goals happen. He continues to show up on the weekly top sales more frequently. He is once again becoming a force in the community for video archival. He’s even writing a book about his customers’ amazing stories.

What has brought him back? Determination, faith, a plan, and a family. “I’ve always felt that the HVS family was with me and supportive – always ready and willing to help if I wanted it,” says Steve. Home Video Studio is filled with outstanding people and we’re proud to have Steve Dalbec among us.

John Fehling
Arvada Co

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