Custom projects have a lot of moving parts and success hinges on the team that supports it.

For the past decade, Definitive’s Senior Project Manager Dennis Johnson has worked hard to ensure that every project got completed without a hitch. He leads the project management team, which is responsible for a variety of tasks — from procuring products to supporting technicians to effectively communicating with the customer and our team.

“Dennis is known for building a good rapport with customers and collaborating across the many teams that support a custom project,” says Mark Ormiston, CEO at Definitive. “He is endearing to customers and co-workers alike.”

In addition to being personable, he started working in hi-fi as one of his first jobs — and has been enjoying it ever since.

Project Management Prodigy 

In his early 20’s, Dennis worked in sales at a local hi-fi business. He remembers several people telling him that he wouldn’t last in the industry because he was too young. Little did they know it would be the launching point for a 44-year career. 

He worked his way through college in Eugene and moved to Portland to work for a local hi-fi shop.  In the early 1980s, two-channel audio was extremely popular, and audio systems were often simple including some kind of cabinet.  Compared to how complex home audio systems can get today, systems back then were pretty basic. However, Dennis was always pushing the envelope for multi-zone systems utilizing Mark Levinson, Bang and Olufsen and sometimes a combination of both.   

“It was an exciting time in hi-fi, we were starting to think about more complex distributed audio systems, with simple volume controls,” Dennis says with a chuckle. “Not much from a control standpoint other than Bang and Olufsen, but that was where the industry was starting to move at the time.” 

In 1984, Dennis moved to Seattle and began working at a prominent audio and video company. During his time there, he had a variety of jobs from retail sales to commercial sales and then followed his passion to work on custom A/V systems.  

Even early on in his career, he saw music become more accessible and make its way into more rooms in the home.  

The Industry Pivots to Custom Integration 

Right in our backyard, Microsoft envisioned the smart home of the future. This video from 1999, conceptually laid out a roadmap to what a connected home might look like. 

Bill Gates was certainly an early adopter. In fact, he experimented with a variety of cutting-edge smart home technology in his own 66,000 square-foot home. As technology progressed, home automation did, too. And it became even more attainable to the upper-middle class.   

Thanks to progress in technology and visionaries like Bill Gates, Seattle integrators started seeing more demand for integrated home automation systems in the mid-2000s. It was this industry shift that allowed Dennis to be promoted to Design Center Manager at his previous job. “It was this work that sparked my interest in custom integration and the complexities of integrating all kinds of technology in the home.” 

The company he worked for at the time was acquired by a chain retail store and — after organizational restructuring — Dennis began looking for the next chapter in his career.  

The Definitive Team 

It was 2008 and — due to the economy — not exactly an opportune time to be changing jobs. Regardless, Dennis really thought about where he saw himself working.  

Through patience and perseverance, he was hired at Definitive. Dennis worked to support the Bellevue store and supported the outside sales group with a focus on commercial projects. “I really wanted somewhere I could continue to build my career,” says Dennis. “I thought, ‘Who does custom work with a high-level of professionalism? Who is financially stable and can help me grow in my career? And who has a solid process and team in place?’ For me, the only answer was Definitive.”

Through patience and perseverance, he was hired at Definitive. Dennis’ first project was a big commercial project in Redmond that lasted several months, providing the workload to support an additional project manager.  “What stood out immediately to me is Definitive’s ability to function effectively as a team,” says Dennis. “Challenges that come up are quickly and creatively resolved. Sometimes, I have a brief moment when I feel like everything is on me. Then I have a sigh of relief and remember how many smart people are here to support me and our projects.” 

Dennis talks about what it’s like working for Mark Ormiston. He compares it to the show Undercover Boss — a reality series that follows high-level executives as they slip anonymously into the rank-and-file of their own organizations. 

“If Mark was on that show, what he would be pleased to find is the amount of loyalty here at Definitive,” says Dennis, “His team is full of people who believe in him and his leadership over the years.” 

Today, Dennis takes on his fair share of projects and supervises a team of project managers. He supports technicians, coordinates staff and helps with tools and technical training. Much of his day is spent planning and organizing every detail, in order to help move projects and people forward. 

“I pride myself on being available to work with our team and our customers. I really like to help other people,” says Dennis.  

Being connected to our homes and having control over a variety of systems — including lighting, temperature control, automated shades, music, movies, and security — is now commonplace. Customers want a complex system to run smoothly.  

“Working to put projects like this together keeps me thinking about it — sometimes even at night!” Dennis says with a smile. “Sometimes, I feel like MacGyver, trying to find resourceful solutions to dilemmas and make everyone happy.”  

Maybe that’s why Dennis has a positive rapport with his customers and his team.  

“I was really grateful to get the job at Definitive, and I will finish my career here. Right now, I can’t even imagine my week without my team at Definitive. Together we deliver custom projects on-time, on-budget and meet the customers’ expectations.” 

Looking Ahead 

Current trends in home automation include controlling your home remotely, voice-activated smart homes, automated lights and thermostat adjustments, mobile/email/text notifications, and music throughout the home.  

With 44-years of watching the industry evolve, Dennis looks to the future, “As home automation goes rapidly mainstream, home control will become more and more simplified and accessible to all ages. You already see this happening. My 85-year-old mom can FaceTime, my 4- and 6-year-old granddaughters actually show me how to play games on iPads — it’s impressive.” 

And the final question…

The question that we end every employee highlight with: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you? Dennis thinks for a moment and says, “I don’t like to establish patterns.” Whether that’s keeping his local barista on guessing his coffee order or modifying a new recipe at home – Dennis likes to be adventurous, experimental and keep people guessing! 

Through years of chatting with Dennis, it’s clear how much he loves his family. Dennis has two granddaughters that he spends a lot of time with, taking them to the park, teaching them to ride bikes – you know the things awesome grandpa’s do! And, he has been married to his wife Melissa for 39 years. The two of them love to take long walks on the water front, bike rides on the local trails and can be found exploring the Pacific Northwest coastline and learning kayak.  

From all of us at Definitive – thank you to Dennis for being with us for 10-years! We’re grateful for all your experience and dedication you bring to our team and our customers!