In the Mood

It didn’t taken Steve Richards long to make a difference at Mood Media Corp.

The Altoona native was named president and CEO of the company in September and under his leadership, Mood, based in Austin, Texas, has established itself as a leader for delivering integrated in-store music, digital signage, advertising messaging and scent solutions, to more than one thousand global brands, in 470,000 client sites, reaching 150 million people daily, according to a company press release.

“He re-cast the vision of the company and identified very critical deficiencies and plans to address each,” said Tom Garrett, Mood chief financial officer, who has known Richards since 2008 when Garrett worked as chief financial officer at PRC in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“Within 90 days of coming on board, the company completely re-built the senior management ranks without one dollar of executive recruiting fees. He outlined the plans to execute cost savings, re-organization, sales build and to make the company all it can become by maximizing the power of our global asset base and channeling focus and energy to the right endeavors and objectives,” Garrett said.

“I think he has had a dramatic impact. He very quickly put a plan in place to stabilize the business and grow the top and bottom line,” said Ken Eissing, president of Mood Media North America.

“What he did from day one was develop a theme of one team, one plan and one goal,” Eissing said.

Throughout his career, Richards, a 1980 graduate of Altoona Area High School and a 1984 graduate of Penn State, has taken pride in transforming underperforming companies to achieve their greatest potential through revenue growth and profitability growth.

“I am one of the most persistent people. I have a never give up attitude,” Richards said.

Richards spearheaded transformations at both Transworld Systems in St. Louis and PRC.

At Transworld, where he served as president from 2005-08, Richards said he authored and delivered a complete company turnaround by achieving record revenues, earnings and earnings as a percent of revenues and drove earnings growth of 51 percent.

“We achieved record revenues three of the four years I was there; we increased profits of the company,” Richards said.

He then moved on to PRC where he served as chief executive officer from 2008 to 2010.

“They had gone through a bankruptcy. I became CEO to transform the business a month out of coming out of bankruptcy. We went from shrinking to growing revenues and increased the profitability of the business,” Richards said.

Richards, who said he and his brother, Craig, were both Altoona Mirror paper carriers while growing up in Eldorado, became interested in the communications field when his mother worked for Bell of Pennsylvania in Altoona.

After graduating from Penn State, he started his career at AT&T where he worked for 14 years handling various marketing and sales assignments. He also was selected for AT&T’s exclusive Management Leadership Development Program.

“AT&T was the foundation for my career and gave me the opportunity to broaden myself,” Richards said.

He then moved on to Excel Communications, where he was senior executive vice president and chief marketing officer, then to RMH, where he served as chief marketing officer and executive vice president for the Telco Division, and then to Transworld and PRC. He then moved on to Muzak, which merged with Mood Media in 2011.

Before becoming president and CEO of Mood Media, he was president of Mood North America and CEO of Muzak.

High school friends and college roommates Dave Mercer and Dan Lawruk remember Richards well.

Mercer said Richards was in his wedding party, and he was in Richards’.

“Steve is always upbeat. On my wedding day he called my wife and mother-in-law and asked them if they needed anything or if he could do anything for them. He would give you the shirt off his back,” said Mercer, a Wells Fargo financial adviser in Allentown.

“He was always a very extremely passionate about his work, family and life,” said Lawruk, president of Lawruk Realty.

“He was a hardworking and creative thinking student, and I know that has carried through to his working career,” he said.

Neither Mercer nor Lawruk are surprised by Richards’ success.

“He treated his studies like a full-time job. He was a straight A student. He was very driven and motivated – that is why he is a CEO,” Mercer said. “I would have been surprised if he didn’t achieve this amount of success.”

“Steve’s love of life is what I have always admired, always positive and never accepting something couldn’t be accomplished,” Lawruk said.

C. Richard Shaffer, Richards’ high school history teacher, also remembers him from Altoona Area High School.

“The most prominent thing I remember about Steve is that he came from a tremendous family,” Shaffer said. “I just loved the kid. He was so down to earth and respectful.”

Those who work with Richards also speak highly of him.

Garrett called Richards “incredibly talented and incredibly driven.”

“He is a great leader who others want to follow. I admire Steve for the ability to cast a powerful vision and then enroll very talented people needed in key roles to deliver the vision. Steve is demanding, believes in personal accountability across the organization, expects results – and he is also enormously fun,” Garrett said.

Richards said his parents, Elizabeth and the late Had Richards, were his role models while growing up.

“I treat people with kindness. I encourage that in any organization. I also am very organized; that was one of the skills of my mother. I blended those attributes with persistence in a caring and engaging way, and that has helped me to succeed,” Richards said.

Richards said he enjoyed growing up in Altoona but only gets back home once or twice a year.

“It was a small town with a very friendly nurturing environment and was a nice place to grow up. I go to Texas Hot Dogs and the Meadows when I get back,” Richards said. “I miss Penn State. I would like to get back for more football games and enjoy the campus.”

Richards, 51, has no plans to slow down.

“I am still pushing hard. I still have a lot of energy. There are a lot of opportunities that will keep me going and having fun,” Richards said.