Jeff Craycraft was chosen as our Employee of the Month for October 2023, and to be honest, I’m so excited to be writing a post about such a quiet, unassuming, yet oh-so-necessary presence at IA Stage. Jeff is the Sales Manager for SkyDeck™, IA Stage’s feature product. This past August marked Jeff’s 15th year with the company. When he first started with us, he was working in the shop on various projects as needed. His time in the shop only lasted for about 9 months before he was brought into sales. Before we go any further, let me tell you how he got here.

Jeff’s originally from the mid-west. He was born in Illinois, but the family moved to Michigan when he was one. They moved back to Illinois when he was 15. His mom moved to Florida in the mid-1990s, and he joined her here in 2006 because he “needed a change.”

Jeff had signed on with Labor Finders when he arrived and was brought onto a big IA Stage project building acoustic roll-up banners for the Experimental Music Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He was on that project for approximately 4 months. Roughly two months after the temp placement wrapped up, Jeff looked at IA Stage’s website for possible employment. When he saw that a Drapery position was open, he applied for it. “I had Band-Aids all over my fingers from sewing the pipe pockets closed for the EMPAC project and I needed a job. I had such a good time working with Mattie, and Kenny, and Steve-o,” he laughed, “so I applied.” Turns out that a Drapery position was not available, but after speaking with Jeff’s supervisor on the EMPAC job, Mark contacted him almost immediately. Jeff came over to meet Mark in his dirty work clothes and after a good talk, Mark offered Jeff a job starting as soon as possible. Jeff didn’t want to leave the project he’d been hired to do in the lurch, so he made arrangements to start in a week.

Fast forward 9 months, with Mark calling Jeff into the office for another chat. It went something like this:

Mark:   How’d you like to do sales?
Jeff:      When?
Mark:   Now.
Jeff:      Let me finish the project I’m doing for Pat [shop foreman at that time] and I’ll be right back.

After finishing said project, Jeff came into the office in sweaty, greasy shop clothes and began training in sales. This is quintessential Jeff. There’s no time like the present, and if he tells you he’s going to do something, it’s as good as done. His work ethic is rock solid, and he leads by example. Did you know that he also finished his bachelor’s degree in business from Belhaven University’s Maitland, FL, location, while he was working over the course of his first two years with IA Stage? The first class that Jeff took towards his business degree was Communication, and he utilizes lessons learned in that class every day.

Generation X to the bone, Jeff is not a fan of too much technology. “I liked when we had answering machines instead of everybody wanting to text everything,” he says, smiling. “Think about it. Did tech really make our lives easier or more convenient? Instead of doing 5, 6, 7, things in a day, you’re expected to do 15. It’s taken the place of face-to-face interaction, so I bring my staff into my office to listen to my calls. We analyze how actual conversations sound and move between me and current or potential clients.”

Six mini-Austrailian Shepherds sitting in two rows in front of a Christmas tree.Outside of work, Jeff cherishes time spent with his three grandchildren and his pack of mini–Australian Shepherds. “All my spare time I spend with my grandkids or my pups.” At the mention of his grands and his dogs, Jeff visibly lights up. While he can’t bring his grandkids to work with him on a regular basis – he has on occasion brought them in to meet his colleagues and show them what Grandpa does at work – Jeff does bring the dogs in, one by one, regularly. There’s Root, Roxie, Winter, Duke, Gracie, and Sonny. Sometimes he’ll bring one in the morning and another in the afternoon! “These guys keep me active and can really pull me out of a bad day,” he says. And if he sees someone else having a bad day – “if I can tell they’re on edge, you know?” – Jeff will bring a dog to work with him after lunch because, “I’m not a talker; I’m pretty quiet. But dogs have a way of brightening up your day.” It’s wonderful to watch. Jeff’s dogs are so beautifully trained and socialized that they’re truly a pleasure to be around. They make the rounds through the entire office, and you can feel the mood lighten after everyone’s had some puppy pets and kisses. (Just look at those faces!)

As to the direction his career took after he joined IA Stage, he says, “I enjoy a challenge. I enjoy the different people I get to interact with on the phone, through emails, at trade shows,” he says. “I’m very appreciative and humbled…honored to be here.”

The honor is ours, Jeff.