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In Norwood, a king of many media
Bizlines/by Cromwell Schubarth

Monday, June 11, 2001

Tom Martin has made a career out of making other people look good.

His Norwood company, Cramer Productions, adds state-of-the-art styling and pop to its clients' corporate videos, live events, Internet sites, print and new-media marketing efforts.

Lately, though, the spotlight has been on Cramer and, when he can't duck out of the way, Martin himself.

Last week, the 62-year-old Cambridge native collected an award for entrepreneurial success from the U.S. Small Business Administration and was named a finalist for the annual Ernst & Young New England Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Not bad for a guy who is closer to his roots as a certified public accountant than he is to being a new-media whiz.

``I keep my eye on opportunities and the balance sheet,'' says Martin. ``When it comes to the product, I'm a good critic but a terrible creator.''

Martin got his entrepreneurial opening in 1979 when he bought a small video production equipment business from Cramer Electronics, a company where he had risen from CPA to Northeast sales manager in the 1970s.

``Cramer was being sold to Arrow Electronics, which didn't want to be in the video business, but I did,'' he says.

Selling equipment under the Cramer name, Martin quickly realized that he could reach a wider customer base by producing corporate videos, too.

Producing videos led to producing the events they were shown at, as well as creating all of the sets and support materials for them.

``Our timing was perfect,'' Martin says. ``It was a struggle from about 1985 to the early '90s, but we survived because I understood a balance sheet and could talk the same language as the money people who invested in us.''

Since 1996, revenue has soared to $28 million last year from $9.4 million.

Despite being involved in new media, Martin resisted the temptation to grab for the dotcom ring, something he says he's glad about.

``I was never really tempted. I like the independence and flexibility of remaining private,'' he says.

Not all of Martin's kudos this year have been business-related.

In February, his hockey jersey was retired to the rafters at Boston College's Conte Forum, where he was an All-American three times before going on to represent the U.S. in the 1962 World Ice Hockey Championship and co-captain the 1964 Olympic hockey team at Innsbruck, Austria. He also worked as an assistant coach for three seasons at BC under John ``Snooks'' Kelly.

Martin says he learned key lessons on the ice at BC, the most important being, ``You can't win them all.''

Lately, though, he's been winning his share.


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