Founded in 1982 by original partners Barbara Pook, Tony Diemont, and Ted Ohl, Pook Diemont & Ohl (PDO) is a theatre and studio equipment design and build contractor based in New York City and specializing in stage equipment systems for theatres and auditoria, sound stages, and corporate and retail installations. From venues including Carnegie Hall and the Kodak Theatre, to the Good Morning America Studios in Times Square for ABC Studios, to the CNN Plaza in Atlanta, the PDO construction and design staff includes a team of project managers, designers, engineers, and field technicians, working worldwide, including at offices in Brazil and Puerto Rico.
This year, the company celebrates 25 years of providing creative solutions in the construction and renovation of entertainment facilities. And in looking to create these solutions, the team has started to delve into product development also. In 2006, PDO received an LDI Product of the Year Award in the Stage Rigging Category for development of the Acoustac Variable Acoustics Banner. We caught up with Ted Ohl on this auspicious occasion.
LD: What was the motivation to start the company?
Ted Ohl: All three of us loved working together and loved working in New York City. We were running the stage department at the Juilliard School, a great place, but wanted to expand our horizons by doing freelance work. Given our complementary talents, we found ourselves freelancing as three people, which led quickly to the need for a structure, eventually a corporate one.
LD: How did the business develop through the years, especially with changing demands in construction and production, etc.?
TO: Throughout the years, the constant has always been the three of us working together. We have always been such a good team. Our focus has always been to bring the highest standard of safety and service to all of our projects and clients. As you well know, most of the other companies in our business have undergone major changes in their ownership and market strategies. For most of our history, we have been obliged to respond to these changes. Doing so, while maintaining our focus, has led our company into its prominent position in the industry.
LD: Where does most of your business come from today?
TO: While it is more complex than this, our business has essentially been built upon repeat business. Most of our projects lead to a relationship with a client, consultant, architect, or owner that leads us to more projects with them. Most recently, as we have developed our own line of specialty products, this has allowed us to initiate more projects, those that our products address.
LD: What accomplishment makes you proudest through the years?
TO: We are proudest of our consistency and tenacity, in building a company together in a highly competitive field where lowest price is too often confused for best value.
LD: How do you see the industry changing in the next year? In the next 10 years?
TO: Accelerating raw materials prices, shortages of skilled and trained labor and staff will continue to put upward pressure on costs. Continued overcapacity and absence of comprehensive industry standards will continue to place downward pressure on prices. Only so much reduction in margins can occur without significant deterioration of service and quality. There needs to be stronger cooperative activity among competing theatrical machinery companies to pressure the GC and CM community to recognize their responsibility and do a better job of integrating our work into their projects.
LD: What has been the most significant development in our industry in the last few years?
TO: The most significant development in our industry in the past few years is the development of the Entertainment Technician Certification Program (ETCP).
LD: What's something you'd like people to know about your company they might not know?
TO: Every business' first duty is to survive and thrive — for its employees who depend upon it for their families' livelihoods and for the owners. But every company must also have missions, tasks that it pursues consistently in spite of the daily pressures of getting the work done. For PDO, those missions are to advocate, promote, and practice higher quality levels of service and product, contributing to the professionalism and importance of our field of work, and bringing technical theatre's unique innovation and resourcefulness to industry, while fostering the development of professionals in theatre equipment and machinery work.
This last item is perhaps the least known about PDO: Many of our past employees now staff major theatre consulting firms and university faculties. We think they have taken our brand of dedication to service and collaboration in project delivery to their new professional homes. We also have great longevity and loyalty among our key staff members. Our rewards are not illuminated by glamorous Broadway lights, nor do we enjoy curtain calls, but the complexity of challenges faced and the permanence of work produced is very compelling.