Learning Curve | Above & Beyond lives up to name
Audio-visual production specialists a small team who produce big results for many of the city’s corporates
He turned his childhood hobby of making music for pocket money into a career.
Twelve years after formally establishing Above & Beyond Productions, David Leverington prides himself on running a small team who provide audio-visual productions to the giants of the city’s industries.
Can you give some background on yourself and how and when the business was started?
I’ve been in the industry my whole life; my dad was in the music industry and I grew up around it.
When I was about 13 years old, we started getting into doing mobile discos and DJ’ing because we had all the equipment already.
I just started doing it for extra money, one [event] after the next, and it just grew.
That sort of defined my career.
I carried on through high school and after school I decided I wanted to DJ.
I actually found a school in Manchester in the UK, called the School of Sound Recording, and I said that was where I was going.
I studied it for just over a-year-and-a-half.
Out of the 60 students who started, I was one of 15 who completed the whole course.
I decided to come back and went back into doing the mobile thing.
I gained one or two corporate clients, which involved doing the audio-visual side of things.
In 2006 I eventually got two business partners involved, as we were doing corporate and government events and needed to grow, and we formalised Above & Beyond Productions.
After about three years, I bought the partners out and we haven’t looked back, we’ve been going strong since then.
When my dad passed away, my mom needed help with their company, Keyframe Media, so we decided to put all the businesses together under one roof.
So we run three companies from here: Above and Beyond, which is the main company; Keyframe, which is multimedia and broadcast; and then I have another company I started in 2006, called Liquid Funk Bars, and it does mobile bars and liquid catering.
What is your core service?
We handle the hire, sales and installations of audio-visual equipment, as well as sound, lighting, staging and conference equipment – anything in the audio-visual game.
We do a bit of event management, though I prefer to call it production management because there are event managers but they need [help] to integrate the technical aspects.
We also have a 50-piece wireless tour guide system, and I think we might be the only company in PE to provide this.
What makes your business unique?
I think it’s definitely our handson, personalised approach. We’re small, but we produce big results.
When I look at what our competitors do with a massive team, we produce the same level of quality with a small team. Our standard is very high.
What are some of the day-today challenges of your business?
Personally, I think time is a challenge. Our industry demands a lot of time, it’s not a 9to-5 industry.
You’re living up to people’s expectations, and dealing with technology, which is sometimes difficult to match with expectation.
In a technology world you don’t always get 100% perfect.
The industry’s also tough because it’s directly affected by the economy.
If the economy’s down, companies spend less, and they host fewer functions or gala dinners or product launches.
Our industry feels it directly and we’re constantly fighting the economy. Just getting paid is a challenge, especially for a small business.
How did you acquire funding for the business?
We’ve been self-funded since the beginning.
All our equipment, barring one or two items, is completely paid off – which I think is one of the reasons we haven’t grown massively all of a sudden, but taken a long time to grow steadily.
What kind of advertising do you do?
We use social media – our Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram – and we have a website.
We advertise in some of the industry magazines and have a monthly newsletter, and then we belong to a lot of business networks.
What is your target market?
Our target market is high-end corporate clients and manufacturing companies, and on the other end event managers and conference organisers.
How many people do you employ?
Currently we are seven people, excluding myself.
What have some of your business’s highlights been?
It’s really good to put on a really nice show, and when it is 100% successful and the client is over the moon.
We literally go above and beyond, and I think our clients see that.
We always give extra.
We’re technology-based and there’s so much fantastic technology coming out; it’s pretty cool to see it first-hand.
We have fun.
There’s not one job that’s the same, even if we do the same job over and over again. You’ll never get bored in this industry.
What do you wish people knew about your industry?
There are a couple of misconceptions, but I think one of them is how much time is put into planning any event, even if it’s just the technical aspects, and the amount of effort it takes to put even the simplest thing on.
Even the lowest technician has so much knowledge in order to make a piece of equipment work.
It’s learned, and people don’t understand it and because of that, it is under-valued.
The biggest challenge in our industry is that the technicians are under-valued.
Clients should be paying more for the technicians than the equipment, and it’s a big industry problem.
There have been very few times where we’ve been at an event where the client came up to us to thank us for a job well done, and it’s a massive reward.
What are the biggest challenges and advantages for your business, in a city like PE?
The challenges are massive. We don’t have the budgets.
Even though we’re a large manufacturing area with a lot of corporates, for some reason PE is under-valued when it comes to events.
People can host the same roadshow in Johannesburg and here, but they will drop the standard for the PE event.
We’re expected to produce the same results, but with less budget.
Our economy dictates us here, where Johannesburg has a lot of big businesses.
In terms of advantages, I think you can have a lot of fun.
You get to meet interesting people and there is still money to be made.
Tips for budding entrepreneurs
Systems, systems, systems. It’s one thing I’m learning at the moment.
No matter what business or industry you’re in, if you have the right systems – for marketing, human resources and payroll – those systems will set you free.
In our industry, time is precious, and the way I’ve [navigated that] is to build better systems so I don’t have to micro-manage anything.