Timothy Pickett

Don’t let fear prevent success.


Timothy Pickett graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a major in Architectural Acoustics in 2000. He started Sound & Lighting Designs a year before graduation in 1999. In 2013 as the business grew SLD became Encompass Audio Visual, in order to incorporate all the technologies and services the company provided. Encompass (SLD) started working for Gibson’s Restaurant Group in 2008, with the first complete and new build out for the company in 2010 at their Oakbrook location.

Timothy / Encompass gained University of Chicago as a client also that year doing build outs of many classrooms for them at the Harris School of Public Policy. In 2016, Hickory Street Capital, (the investment arm of the Rickets family, also owner of the Chicago Cubs) hired Encompass to do a total of seven projects for them for all the new construction around Wrigleyville. This included the Four Corners Group Venture, Brickhouse Tavern, also the HSC owned Hotel Zachary and Mordecai restaurant, and the Boka collaboration Dutch and Doc’s. In 2017 Encompass completed the audio-visuals system for Gibson’s Italia, a premier restaurant Encompass’s current projects include Nobu Hotel in River West and the new Essex Hotel opening in 2019 on Michigan Ave.

Where did the idea for Encompass come from?

Essentially, I worked selling DJ gear when I was in high school. I started at the age of 14 with a work permit. I knew I didn’t want to be a DJ, so I went to Columbia for a Degree in Architectural Acoustics. About a year before graduating college, I had the chance to go work for a good size AV firm or start my own thing, so I started my own company. Encompass Audio Visual started as Sound & Lighting Designs in 1999. I graduated college shortly after in 2000 and never looked back.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I wake up at about 5am and check all the all critical systems. LOL, email, bank accounts, text messages, then I move on to the news. I try to sift out the garbage news, which is a lot and see what actually matters. I do this at home with my first cup of coffee, of course I let the dogs out and feed them at this time too.

Next I head in to the office for arrival between 7 and 730. Sometimes I bring the dogs with (if there’s no meetings). I check in with my staff, my project manager, my lead graphics engineer and sometimes my VPs are already in.

The warehouse staff is of course already prepping deliveries for the morning runs. I check in with everyone see if they need me or my input for anything critical, then I head to my office.

First off, I check in with my sales staff to see if there have been any developments or new needs, then I began to work on new project design / estimates.

Once I clear my desk of those I work on big picture items, such as marketing ideas, next moves and expansion decisions for the company and so on. That pretty much takes me to past lunch.

I try to schedule meetings out of the office in the afternoons, so sometimes I’ll head to the city to meet with architects, GC’s, project managers, or larger clients.

Finally I try to hit the gym a few times a week late afternoon, then begin to wrap things up by 6pm. Half of the days I’ll have dinner meetings, some business some pleasure at night, although even my pleasure meetings seem to be talking about or discussing business with my friends, the other half I stay home, relax, TV and books and usually in bed by 1030 pm. Then I do it all again the next day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

The idea is the easy part. Ideas come to me and my team all the time. Identifying which ones are worth pursuing takes some consideration. Once you decide you would like to pursue an idea the real work begins. At this stage I usually break down what needs to be done and in what order to bring and idea to life. This is not simple although it sounds so. Being clear about the process in which items need to be done is sometimes tough and foggy in your head. It takes days / weeks / months, sometimes years to have a crystal clear understanding of what needs to be done, and it usually evolves the idea to something a bit different but better by the end of this process. Next, you assign tasks to your team to accomplish, including you. Then it’s all about follow through and execution. Finally your idea becomes a reality!

What’s one trend that excites you?

The ability of technology to really affect life safety, wellness and economics significantly in the very near future.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Work ethic. The ability to see past and feel past the small stuff or the issues at hand. You cant let daily BS slow you down, it’s important and needs to be dealt with but that’s where having a good team in place to help with this is critical. My team is the best, they understand the big picture and focus, and they are amazing at helping with the daily monotony so we can move forward so myself and my higher executives can see the big picture.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be more conservative. Pay more attention to the details or employ someone to help you with that. Do more research and learn more before leaping. But don’t ever lose the fearlessness.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I’m not an alcoholic.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Get up early and get to it if you want it. Don’t let fear cloud your judgment or your vision and let the small stuff go.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Treat your people well. Don’t try to get rich stepping on your employee’s backs, take care of them. Pay them as good as you can, get them health and dental insurance even if the law doesn’t make you. If you do this for them, the good ones will have your back and take care of you. That being said, get rid of the bad ones as fast as possible, don’t be afraid of this process. It’s tough to let someone go, but they can affect the mental well being and the moral of your entire organization.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One failure? Are you serious? Any real entrepreneur will constantly fail, not always catastrophically, but over and over. You learn, you adapt and you move on. One my major failures was not putting the right team members in place and taking way too long (years not months) to address it. I have overcome it by being more careful with the people we hire, and more serious about it. Look into their references, do some due diligence.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Loan sharking seems to be a solid business. It’s essentially legal now.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I try to take like minded business owners or other people in our industry out to dinner or lunch often. Their knowledge is worth way more than the $100 you may spend on this entertainment and the reputation it brings you is also powerful over time.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

We have a custom piece of software that we can change as much as we want. It started off as a scheduling system, but now manages time clocks, work orders, invoicing and more. This living, breathing piece of software is quite invaluable to us. The name of the company that can make it for you is Less PaperCo. Look them up.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I don’t exactly know where your community is in their lives, but I would highly recommend Money Master the Game by Tony Robbins. We have a tremendous lack of financial knowledge in this country. The schools don’t teach or prepare any of these kids for real life when it comes to finances and long term savings / investment. It’s pathetic. This book is great quick education and can give young kids the ability to have a secure life and to be able to pursue their passions without being stuck in a job they hate because they need a paycheck. Money does not equal happiness, but security absolutely plays a huge roll. Take care of your shit early and you’ll be so much happier later.

What is your favorite quote?

“If you get up in the morning and think the future is going to be better, it is a bright day.” Elon Musk

Key Learnings:

  • Treat your employees with respect and take good care of them.
  • Get your ass out of bed and go to work. Don’t sleep past sunrise.
  • Don’t let fear prevent success.