Young Professional 2018: Phillip Morton

Phillip Morton, General manager, senior project manager at Sound Solutions Northwest

Phil Morton

(Photo courtesy Rich Breshears of Breshears Photography)

Age: 33

Education: Associate’s in general studies, bachelor’s in criminal justice and political science, Christian apologetics grad certificate

Hometown: Richland

Do you have family? Pets? I don’t have any pets at the moment. But here in the area I do have my parents, my brother, sister-in-law, and one niece and one nephew.

Briefly describe your company: We are a commercial audio/video integrator. We design and install professional audiovisual systems. A few recent clients include Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Amazon, Kennewick Police Department, Franklin County Emergency Management, as well as several of the new schools going in around the area. But SSNW has been serving the AV needs of the Mid-Columbia since the 1980s.

How long have you worked there? I started at System Solutions in June 2017.

What word best describes you? Dependable

Your biggest flaw? In the past I have struggled with spreading myself too thin, and as a result wasn’t always able to devote the time and attention that I would have liked to certain things.

Biggest pet peeve? My alarm clock

Dream vacation? Either scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef, or to see my family’s castle in Scotland

Favorite book? “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge

Favorite movie? “Apollo 13”

Favorite musician? Pretty much any classic rock: Van Halen, Journey, Foreigner, CCR, etc.

Favorite sports team? Pittsburgh Steelers and Penguins, Seattle Seahawks, Tri-City Americans

Favorite website/app? Spotify

Favorite Tri-City restaurant? Sterling’s or Rocco’s Pizza

What thing would people be most surprised to learn about you? People are usually surprised by all I am involved in, or the famous people I’ve worked with.

If you could have dinner with one person (living or deceased) who would it be? Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus

Describe your job: I got my first exposure to the audio/video world as an eighth-grader with the Hanford Middle School drama program in 1998, and shortly thereafter I started volunteering with the youth group band at Bethel Church. From there I went on to work with the Hanford High School choir and drama programs, CBC’s Freeform vocal jazz, and got my first paid job in the industry in master control and production at the KVEW-ABC television station in Kennewick where I learned the basics of broadcast. From there, I started with Moon Security as an install and service technician, which gave me my first exposure to the permanent install side of the industry. Meanwhile I was also doing work part time for Gary Ford of Ford Audio Service in Burbank working on large live events out at the Gorge Amphitheatre and other larger market venues with major national music acts. I moved to the East Coast for a few years where I worked in both live and installed audio and video in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area for a company called RCI Sound (now RCI Systems) in Beltsville, Maryland. There, I took a bigger role with major touring acts, political events, a presidential inauguration and on several Broadway shows, and got my first project management experience. Upon my return to the Tri-Cities, I was hired to the production staff at Bethel Church, obtained my project management professional certification and then finally came on with System Solutions Northwest as a project manager. SSNW is an audio/video integrator; we design and install commercial AV systems. Once here, I was promoted to general manager within my first year on staff. Today, I run the office, accounting and I manage personnel and staff assignments, as well as continue to design, consult and project manage. I have also spearheaded new initiatives geared at lowering overhead operating costs and increasing income, as well as lead an effort to give our office a much needed facelift, the results of which are already being seen in our net profits.

Mentors: I have been blessed to have had several. First and foremost, my father, Mark Morton, has always been a key influence in my life, who happens to be a very well respected international authority in nuclear decommissioning and deactivation with Polestar Technical Services in Richland. I can’t say enough good things about him, and count myself truly lucky to have had the opportunity to have grown up in his shadow. My brother, also named Mark Morton, and also now with Polestar Technical Services, was the source of my very first motivation to start down the path I did. Early on in my professional development though, the drama director at Hanford High, Matt Leggett, and the choir director at Columbia Basin College, Dave Cazier, were both extremely important, as was Chip Roebuck at Bethel Church, who is now with PNNL. They taught me technical skills that have stuck with me through the years, but more importantly they modeled the virtues of hard work, diligence and having a good attitude. My most recent mentor was the owner of RCI Systems, Jay Kingery. He is a legend in the AV industry, and in my time there I got to work with him extensively, as he put me in charge of a few of his pet projects, and he became a surrogate uncle to me, taking me under his wing, showing me what it means to build a legacy.

Toughest career decision: The hardest career decision I’ve made was to leave my job at RCI and move back to the Tri-Cities. I had a lucrative job that I truly enjoyed there, but to be able to finish college and for the opportunities I knew were here, long term I felt that moving back home was what was best for me and my career, and I think it’s clear now that was the right thing to do.

What do you like most/least about your job? What I like least is that I have a lot of ideas for how to do things better or more efficiently, and despite now being in a position to be able to make some of those changes, it’s a slow process. I am working against years of habits and entrenched behavior that go back decades in some cases, before my time with the company. It can feel like I’m a small rudder on a large ship some days.

But, that said, what I like most is that change is coming. I’ve already gotten to see some of the changes that I have championed and spearheaded be implemented and make a positive impact- both to our bottom line, as well as to our interpersonal team dynamics. So getting to see that, even though it continues to be a challenge, especially in just a relatively short period of time, is very gratifying.

What was your first job? I got my first real job during my Junior year of high school. It was with the City of Richland Parks and Recreation Department as a Recreation Aid. I ran the front desk at the Richland Community Center on off hours, and facilitated community events being held there. That job taught me a lot – certainly all the basic things like punctuality and professional communication that teenagers need some help with early in their careers; but more than that, I left that job with a sense of purpose. I still didn’t know what that purpose was yet necessarily, but there was a drive to work hard and succeed that I had never had before. It sounds cliché, but I learned the pride you can take in your work, the intrinsic value of an honest day’s pay, and what it means to “earn” something. Up until then, I really didn’t have any real concept of any of that beyond theory.

Achieving work-life balance: Achieving a healthy work-life balance is difficult; I have many passions and responsibilities with schedules that often conflict. And if I am being honest, I am much better at it some days than others. But as much as possible I try to make a schedule and stick to it. I schedule time for myself at the gym and with friends and family, etc. It may not be as spontaneous as some might prefer, but it really forces me to be intentional with my time and how I spend it, which I think adds its own value.

Community involvement: Currently, in addition to my full-time job, I have a number of other places I spend my time. I am a volunteer with Columbia Basin Dive Rescue, where my duties include being rescue qualified in surface support, a rescue diver in training, as well as an interim team officer. I am a deputy coroner with the Franklin County Coroner’s Office for which I have earned and carry a board certification in forensic death investigation through the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators. I work with my church in our production department running sound and serving as production director on Sunday mornings. And I also volunteer with the Richland Rod and Gun Club with their hunter and firearm safety programs, as well as in their partnership with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife environmental and wildlife conservation efforts.

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