Ray Martinez credits business success to CMC education
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Those business plans Ray Martinez learned to write when he attended Colorado Mountain College’s Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs have sure come in handy.
Today, Martinez is vice president of Paragon Technology Group ” ranked 23rd in the nation in revenues within its field, according to CE (Custom Electronics) Pro magazine.
Martinez attributes his success partly as a result of his business education at CMC.
“CMC’s atmosphere is just great,” he said of the two-and-a-half years he spent as a student at the college during the early ’90s. “The level of friendship, the leadership opportunities, and the ability for students to network with staff all play a vital role in CMC students’ overall success.”
Now, Martinez plays a key role in managing a staff of nearly 80, from Steamboat Springs to Aspen, and designing high-end home theater and electronics systems. The company also integrates phone, data, video, audio, heating, cooling and lighting systems into some of the world’s most exclusive homes and venues.
So how did a kid from California who loved the momentous sound effects of “Star Wars” and had a knack for electronics end up creating top-end audio and video systems, and making a living at it, too?
Interestingly, growing up, scholastics were never a top priority for Martinez.
“Frankly, I didn’t do so well in high school,” he says.
After graduation, Martinez wasn’t ready for college. So he took construction jobs, “working my butt off for the man,” he says, knowing all along that there had to be a better way to live and make a living.
“My father was always financially challenged,” Martinez says. “I watched him, as I grew up, spend his life as a general manager at a men’s fine clothing store and support his four children and his wife. But he never had the capital to start something on his own.”
After a few years in the workforce, Martinez could see he was headed down a similar path, and he realized he wanted a different life. When he was 25, he “fell in love with Steamboat,” as he put it, when he came to town for a softball tournament. Then he found CMC.
“Something had to change, and college at CMC was the logical choice,” he said. “I knew I had to step to the next level.”
At 25, Martinez was older than most of the other students, and he landed a job as a resident advisor at Monson Hall during his first year at CMC.
Initially, Martinez was drawn to the college’s resort management courses. But soon he found he was much more interested in learning about business. He learned about writing business plans. And he collected mentors along the way.
“I still see Roger Segler (around town), who inspired me to go into business, and Patti Asbury, who taught principles of speech and communication,” he said. “She’s still one of my favorites.”
About the time Martinez left CMC and was ready to rejoin the workforce, his father had passed away.
“I was 30 years old and I realized, ‘What do I have to lose?'” he said.
So in 1996, Martinez took his newly gained business knowledge from CMC and started Custom Design Audio.
“It was a good thing I was single at the time,” he said with a laugh, remembering the hours and effort he put into his Steamboat Springs-based company.
“I created one-, two- and five-year business plans and projections, and solicited every banker in town,” he said.
But Martinez kept hitting brick walls.
“They kept saying, ‘There’s no other business like yours,'” he said.
That, in fact, was precisely the point. Martinez knew there was a market for his services, and refused to give up. Instead, he kept going forward with Custom Design Audio, expanding it, and maxing out credit cards on occasion to keep the company afloat.
His hard work paid off. Within three years, he’d gone from one employee to eight, and had doubled his money.
“And I always came back to those CMC business plans,” he said. “I’d modify them and keep growing.”
For Martinez, not only the business plans, but the education and experiences he received at CMC continue to direct and influence him.
“I sent my bookkeeper to accounting classes at CMC,” Martinez said. “I told her I’d give her a $2 an hour raise if she got a B or better.”
She met his challenge, and got the raise.
In 2005, after building a healthy clientele and employing upwards of 12 staff members, Martinez merged his company with David Raife’s Paragon Technology Group, becoming Paragon’s vice president in the merger.
Paragon, which started in 1996, serves Vail and Aspen as well as Steamboat Springs, and has its central operations in Glenwood Springs. Paragon continues to expand. The company opened a new design office in downtown Aspen in September to provide optimal service to its Aspen clients.
Now at 42 years old, Martinez looks back on his time at CMC, and knows it’s never too late to get an education ” or to excel in business.
“I’m glad I waited,” he said with a smile.
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Cam Daniel is a former youth addiction counselor who’s been a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy for three years.