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Getting to play with the latest technological gadgets is one of the best parts of Robert Sclafani’s job.
“I’ve always been a gadget guy so I love showing up to work to play with holograms, videos, broadcast systems and other multi-sensory software,” said Robert Sclafani ’78 as he discussed the key attributes to his business’s success with more than 100 members of the Lycoming College and Williamsport communities at a recent lecture on campus.
Sclafani, who majored in business administration at Lycoming College, is the founder and owner of Multi Image Group, a live event production company specializing in creating immersive brand experiences, extraordinary shows and award winning exhibits.
Like many startups, he began his business in his family’s home shortly after graduation by experimenting with high-tech devices and software, including some that were so new, he was the first commercial user. Over the past 35 years, he built a company that now supports more than 140 employees and serves businesses from around the world.
His trail from Lycoming student to his current position is about working hard and getting pushed by others. “We all need good leaders and mentors to push us out of comfort zone to do something new. When I wanted to change my major late in my time at Lycoming, my professor told me I’d have to study like crazy. But he also told me he thought I could do it. So I went back to my dorm and put a sign in my room reminding me to study hard. I proved to myself that I could accomplish my goals with hard work.”
When asked during the presentation about how hard to work, he responded “Ask yourself — how much do you want it?”
He and his staff have tapped into the latest technological advances to design innovative experiences. But the creative use of technology alone is not the main reason for his success. His teams’ designs energize, engage, inform and inspire. They create experiences that participants cannot forget. In other words, he pays as much attention to the human aspects of his experiences as the technological. Listening carefully to what clients and consumers want helps him deliver the delightful surprises they seek.
“Listening to our clients and integrating their products gets us their attention,” Sclafani said. “All CEO’s want to be a rock star so we listen to what makes them feel cool and tailor their entrance to that. We ask ‘What is our concept? What feeling are we trying to create?’ We aim to take our experience right out to the edges of the space.”
For example, for a dealer show for Nissan, they drove a Nissan car that interacted with virtual snow as it drove around the space. He takes great pride in repeat customers like Advocare, for which they have done 26 consecutive annual events. “They told us something I truly value. They told us that they don’t think of us as an event planning company, they see us as a trusted partner.”
Understanding the people side of his employees and listening to them also is important. Multi Image Group now supports more than 140 producers, writers, directors, designers, engineers, photographers, editors, managers, technicians, carpenters and “no shortage of dreamers.”
“I work with some of the smartest and coolest people I know,” said Sclafani. “When I hire, I look for attitude, intelligence and experience.” He also credits strong collaboration among them as reason for success. “We have all of the technologies needed for large events under one roof so collaboration is easier and faster.”
He also credits his parents with sharing their insights about what makes a business successful. “My parents were also my mentors and taught me that, along with hard work, positive emotions in business eventually pay off.”
He does his part to foster his employees by encouraging a fun working atmosphere. “Look for ways to make your day fun, like holding cookout Fridays. Create as much positive energy as you can. I am very proud that our culture helped us earn recognition as one of the best work places in Florida.”
He also mentions the three willpowers in life. “The first is the will to be right. The second is to the will to be important. Unfortunately, egos always get in the way. The third will in life is the will to be loved. People work for people they like. If you respect them and care for them, they will love working for you.”
He also shared how he keeps himself buoyed after a trying day. “Everyone has a self-confidence that goes up and down all day long. If you can keep it up where it should be, you’ll feel good about yourself. If you let it go down, you will create a self-fulfilling prophecy of defeat.” To keep his up, he has several things he consistently tells himself: “I am enough. I am unique. I am where I should be.”
His last piece of advice to the group was to always be looking for the next big thing. “If you have the passion and will to work hard, everything is possible. Passion plus hard work equals success,” he said.