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John Zettel

New Position: Chief executive, Audio Visual Innovations, Tampa. Previous Position: Chief financial officer, Audio Visual Innovations, Tampa

By Times Staff Writer
Published January 9, 2006

With 20 regional Audio Visual Innovations' offices scattered from California to Florida and a new venture planned in Mexico, John Zettel expects to be spending time on the road as the company's new chief executive.

He has overseen the Tampa company's finances as chief financial officer since 2000. Since Dec. 7, Zettel has taken on additional operational oversight. "I already travel some," he said. "There will more traveling to visit offices more frequently."

In addition to its regional offices, Audio Visual Innovations works with 30 to 35 hotel properties across the United States and in Puerto Rico, providing audio visual services for conventions, conferences and corporate meetings.

The company is starting a rental division in Mexico, Zettel said, "our first real venture into international waters."

Audio Visual Innovations, founded in Lakeland 26 years ago, offers three types of audio visual services: installation of systems small and large, from $10,000 to $8-million, for customers, as well as rental services at certain hotels.

"And then we have a big Internet and telesales," Zettel said. "We sell to individuals, to home theater enthusiasts. They buy the equipment from us; they install it."

Zettel was born in Detroit and moved to Puerto Rico with his family when he was in the first grade. He stayed there through high school, where he became an avid tennis player. He later attended Florida State University on a tennis scholarship.

While in high school, Zettel said, he developed an entrepreneurial spirit. "I had lots of side businesses. I had paper routes. I strung tennis rackets. I walked dogs. I (did) car detailing."

Zettel, 39, earned a bachelor's degree in finance and accounting from Florida State in 1988. Upon graduation, he joined Deloitte & Touche in Tampa, leaving as a senior auditor after seven years to take a position as chief financial officer with Jordan Nicholas & Elliott, also in Tampa.

In 2000, Zettel joined Audio Visual Innovations as chief financial officer. He has helped the company expand from annual sales of $20-million to about $200-million, he said.

Zettel said he is attracted to management-level finances, in part, because he grew up with numbers: His father was a CPA. "That steered me probably in that direction," he said. "I like business. I like finance. I do like numbers.

"I like finance more than I like technical accounting. I'm better more on the business acumen."

Zettel is on the board of trustees of St. John's Episcopal Parish Day School in Tampa.

He and his wife, Christi, have two children: Caitlin, 7, and Courtney, 4. The family has a vacation home in Weeki Wachee, Zettel said, and when time and weather allow, the family likes to get out on the water. "We do a lot of kayaking as a family," Zettel said. "We do a lot on Weeki Wachee River. The manatees are out this time of year."

[Last modified January 7, 2006, 16:43:02]

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