I Am CEDIA Profile: James and Caroline Gray of Graytek
Here at CEDIA, we spend lots of our time touting the collective expertise of our 3,700-plus members. We go to great lengths to tell the “big-picture” CEDIA story to audiences within the industry and beyond. But rarely do we get the chance to sit down and really get to know just one of those thousands of businesses and the people behind it.
That’s why we’ve undertaken the “I Am CEDIA” initiative.
“I Am CEDIA” is about connecting with our members, finding out how they got into the home technology profession, uncovering their personal backstories, and learning about their dreams, desires, and tastes.
Then we share those stories with everyone.
Here in their own words are James and Caroline Gray, co-founders of Graytek in Vancouver, BC, Canada. They’ve been members of CEDIA since 2004.
ON THEIR BACKGROUNDS
I was installing distributed audio when I was seven or eight years old. If you asked my parents, they'll say that I drove them crazy because I installed speakers in our bathroom. Big box speakers. Dragged miles of speaker cable from the stereo and put speakers in the bathroom, off the B-channel of our old stereo amp and blasted music in the shower.
I grew up on an orchard. I'd pull speaker wire and extension cords into the orchard while I did work in the orchard. So music and getting sound and music to where you're actually living, I was doing that as a kid.
My husband, James, and I started Graytek together, and a combination of his passion for audio, video, and integration, and my business background put together — it's landed us with Graytek.
I remember Caroline said one day, "Hey I just found this great organization called CEDIA, this looks right up our alley." I think that was actually the beginning of the decision to get into this industry.
ON THEIR BUSINESS
When I started out, we had very little experience in the industry, outside of IT. We'd look at the CEDIA entries or Home Theatre magazine and see some of these installations. It was so far beyond the possibility of reality for us. So now, when we go to the CEDIA Awards in Dallas and we're standing next to a winner in China, a winner in Colorado, another winner in Vancouver, it's hard to put that in perspective. We started in a little garage and now we're installing and being recognized as peers of some of the best companies in the world.
We have a demonstration home that we use at Graytek to bring qualified clients though. I think really the heart of why we have a demo home is because we truly believe that when people get to touch and feel home integration elements, it comes to life for them. They realize that it's about lifestyle and how it's going to be part of their home, rather than just pieces of technology added in.
We're usually the last trade in the house. We're in houses ten years after all the other trades are long gone. That's a special privilege.
ON HOME AND FAMILY
We have a six-year-old and an eight-year-old. Both of them are fully comfortable with the technology. They love sitting down at the touch panel at the kitchen while their eating their breakfast, turning on their favorite shows on Netflix or turning on their favorite playlists, and love it when their grandparents come over and they can get it all set up for them. It's just a lot of fun.
My preferred method of listening to music is on vinyl. I think it sounds better and, even more than that, I think the act of having to sit there and focus on it, it takes effort to get that record to play. You can't just skip tracks. Then you have to flip it over. You have to be paying attention.
I have to say I do like country music. Nobody else in the family shares that passion, though.
I have a little bit of a guitar collection. It would be a lot bigger if I let myself just buy whatever I wanted that day.
I hate technology. That sounds like a really terrible thing for a guy who owns a technology-based company to say. I actually think that's what makes us really good. I hate technology for technology’s sake. I only like technology if it adds value to our lives, as human beings and as families. If we can put speakers in a house and add music to a house and it makes the house feel alive and lived in and comfortable and it brings it to life, then I'm all about the technology. It has to add value to us, as humans, as people.
I think the part of the business that I get the most excited about is how the pieces fit together to create family life. We have video distribution systems that we can put into a house, but really, what does that mean? It means we can sit together as a family and love watching movies together, have a great experience, great music to listen to throughout the house as we're having a family meal.
What we do matters because, I think, we add value to peoples’ lives, in their home. There's nothing more important than family and a home, basically, as human beings. For us to be able to be a part of that, to improve peoples’ lives, what could be better than that?