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ProAV to HomeAV: Adtech's David GromleyCompany president talks about the challenges of branching out
AV systems integration company Adtech, Wayland, Mass., was in business for 16 years when the company decided to branch out into HomeAV as well. What was behind the decision? How well is it working for them? David Gormley, president of the company, talks with ProAV guru Gary Kayye about Adtechs experience in order to help other commercial systems integrators considering a move into HomeAV.
Gary Kayye: Describe your company, when it was founded, how it began, and what the main focus of the business was for the past 16 years.
DG: Adtech was founded back in 1988 as Advanced Technology Presentations by my wife, Elizabeth Gormley. Prior to opening the company, she was with a small software developer selling the first black and white LCD panel from nView Corp. It's a fair assumption to say she was a pioneer in selling these panels, and quickly became recognized by the manufacturer as one of their best reps. When I met her, she was frustrated with her employer and ready to move on, so we called nView and convinced them to sign us up as a new dealer in Massachusetts.
Her first day in business she sat at a desk I had set up at my own company, sold an nView panel at list price on her first phone call, in the first hour. I knew we had fallen into something good.
For a year, I ran my own business by day while handling all the operations of building Adtech at night. She spent her days on the road and on the phone selling nView panels, followed shortly after by InFocus panels, and then Proxima. I joined her full-time a year later. By then, the company was filling a niche as the AV company with computer expertise, and with product always in stock and ready to ship. In those days, you got a lot of orders because you had it in stock while the other traditional AV companies did not.
We must have been doing something right because soon enough our Proxima rep decided to leave her job and come work for us, followed later by our InFocus rep, who saw the light as well.
The main focus of our business for the first six years was primarily following the LifeCycle of LCD panel to LCD projector, and reaping the rewards of easy sales of allocated products at high margins. Despite the advice of many to diversify at the time, I didn't see any reason to spend precious resources diversifying when we couldn't keep up with the business of selling high margin projectors. Instead we diversified into new ways of selling projectors, opening a national sales division and selling through the computer magazines with weekly ads and an 800 number. Within months, we were selling so many boxes that at 4 p.m. each day, I and whomever else I could find would head for the shipping department to join the frenzy of getting every order out the door by 5:30.
All good things eventually come to an end. Those who survive it have to recognize that fact and figure the right time to change. For me, that was around 1996 with the internet looming and our good customers asking us why we couldn't install their projectors. It was time to transition from box sales to AV integrator, without ruining a hard-built reputation of first-class customer service and support. I brought in a local industry veteran who promised to bring the knowledge, expertise and contacts necessary to make a successful integration business. The only problem was that two years later, I finally figured out that he forgot to bring the customer service along with him. My objective in building this new division was to grow slowly, take only small projects we could handle and build a reputation as the company that delivers what they promise, starts and finishes on time and doesn't leave until the customer feels they got exactly what they paid for. When I recognized this was not happening, I terminated that relationship and developed a new position of COO and made one of the best hires of my career.
From that day on, we committed to building the AV integration business I wanted, one step at a time, while continuing to grow and adapt in our box sale business. We grew quietly, one system at a time, adding good technicians and engineers as we found them and developing a company atmosphere that would attract and keep the best talent in the industry. We weren't on the A B or C list of the big AV consultants and architects, and we didn't make the bid list on the million dollar projects, but we were quietly making our way into many of the big companies and schools - with a solid reputation and good referrals leading the way. If you had a project under $50k and didn't want to wait the eight weeks for someone else, you found Adtech and were done in four.
Those customers kept coming back for more and we made sure of it.
Today, we are capable of completing any integration project, big, small, complicated or simple. Our customers know that when we accept a project, it's because we know we can complete it and they won't find themselves waiting for us because we took on more business than we could handle. We have what I would consider the most efficient, knowledgeable and caring team of technicians, engineers and sales and support staff that I could ever have the privilege to work with. We are able to accomplish the volume of quality work that we do primarily because of the pride each takes in what they do and how they contribute to the overall success of this company. I consider them the New England Patriots of AV integration, and we have all seen what that kind of teamwork does for a great football team.
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