Getting AV/IT Business Done in the Great White North

sharpsav-logo-0214The competitive battle for U.S. AV integrator market supremacy has grown hotter over the last few years, and newer technologies in AV/IT, cloud and BYOD are beginning to elevate this movement toward market reign. In many articles that I have read lately, suggestions (and even directives) are being expressed to the integrators to embrace these technologies in order to compete. This competition, however, extends beyond borders and the U.S. market alone is no longer the central focus for AV integration role players. InfoComm has done a very good job of continuing to extend the lines of recognition internationally where these companies are gaining higher visibility in the AV integrator realm. Here in North America, while the U.S. market continues to thrive, our neighbor to the north deserves great recognition as well for achievements in the AV industry. Canada, the world’s second-largest country by total area also shares distinction with the U.S. for the world’s longest land border shared by the same two countries.

In highlighting AV/IT business in the “Great White North,” I have chosen one of the largest and most prominent companies in the Canadian AV integration market – Sharp’s Audio Visual.

Ninety-one years ago, Sharp’s AV founder William Henry Sharp (1879-1954) embarked on a journey to entertain the masses across the Canadian Prairies with Sharp’s Circuit Shows, a traveling moving pictures ensemble. While showing movies to primarily rural audiences, the need to evolve came from the growth of towns into cities and the development of structured movie theaters. In 1931, with the advent of more local movie houses, Sharp’s Circuit Shows transformed into Sharp’s Theater Supplies to supply theaters with projection, popcorn and soda machines, primarily in Alberta and British Columbia. With the emergence the television in the 1950’s, Sharp’s Theatre Supplies continued its diversification into audio visual aids for schools and eventually entered into the corporate marketplace. In the early 1970s, the company transformed itself again and became Sharp’s Audio Visual, a full service audio visual sales, rentals & event staging company. With continued growth eastward into Montreal and Halifax, they shed their rentals and staging business and took on another Canadian AV company’s assets to form a systems integration and design division defining the current company structure.

While today’s Sharp’s AV is comprised of a number of important and influential individuals, for this article I chose to interview the one person tasked with continued high-level sales efforts for the company, the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Tim St. Louis.

Corey Moss: Tim, please tell me something about Sharps AV and what your company specializes in.

Tim St. Louis: Sharp’s Audio Visual has been serving the Canadian audio visual marketplace since 1923. With our head office in Calgary, Alberta, Sharp’s has branch offices in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax. We specialize in the design and integration of audio visual systems technology for boardrooms and other meeting spaces, digital signage solutions, classroom technologies and lecture theaters. We offer design consulting services, curriculum consulting and on-site training for our customers to get the most out of their audio visual systems experience.

Our product line focuses on best of breed commercial offerings including NEC, Sharp, Crestron, Extron, SMART Technologies, Omnivex, and more. Sharp’s Audio Visual emphasizes a skilled workforce and has more Omnivex Digital Signage certifications, Crestron Digital Media, Crestron certified programmers and SMART Technologies certifications than any other audio visual provider in Canada. Additionally, we are proudly the Global Reseller of the Year, four years running for Omnivex Digital Signage software.

Sharp’s recognizes the importance of a broader participation in the audio visual industry. Jeff Faber, President and CEO of Sharp’s Audio Visual sits on the Infocomm Board and Byron Tarry is the newly appointed Board President for the Global Presence Alliance.

CM: What do you believe sets your company apart from others in the AV integration business in Canada?

TSL: I believe that our approach to professional and managed services sets Sharp’s apart from our competition in Canada. We are focused on several pillars to long term customer engagement. Consultation to get the needs of the customer analyzed and recorded. Design to meet the need appropriately. Installation and implementation using trained and skilled staff to get the job done on time and on budget. Adoption to maximize the client use case experience. Proactive maintenance and repair response to maximize client satisfaction through our Rapid Care service level agreement. Further consultation to discover future needs and continue the service cycle.

In addition, I am a strong believer in a safe work environment. Sharp’s Audio Visual is a leader in the Canadian AV market when it comes to safety and many of our clients recognize this as a strategic advantage.

As a member of the Global Presence Alliance (GPA), Sharp’s Audio Visual can offer standardized audio visual practices to a multi-national client base across Canada and pretty much anywhere in the world. The GPA has been a huge success for Sharp’s and has enabled us to provide exceptional services to our clients outside of Canada and those moving into Canada. These are projects that could not have been pulled off without the GPA.

CM: How do you apply AV/IT in particular to your business model?

TSL: Sharp’s approaches AV/IT at several levels. For example, I see a huge push for Microsoft Lync Room Systems coming in Canada. We have installed six demo facilities across Canada to show off this excellent product category as it is the most logical migration of AV technology into the use of day to day tools such as Lync 2013 that our enterprise customers experience. We are a big proponent of servicing our clients with monitoring services through Crestron Fusion Enterprise Management Platform as part of our Rapid Care offering. Specifically Fusion RV, where Sharp’s can monitor, manage, track usage and more on the behalf of our clients.

Sharp’s also offers a cloud hosting service to our customers for their digital signage needs. We enable the client to make real time adjustments to their DS screens or provide the content services for them if required.

CM: Where do you see Unified Communications in the AV business in terms of sales and implementation?

TSL: I see UC as playing a larger and larger role in the AV business – particularly within the enterprise space. There is no more logical extension of technology than taking the products that our clients use at their desk or mobile device and placing them into the boardroom or meeting space. There are big players such as Microsoft, CISCO, Polycom, Crestron and SMART that are creating this demand today and the AV integrator that is poised to deliver solid project management, implementation and after sales service should be in a good position.

Thank you Tim for your participation in highlighting Sharp’s AV and your company’s leadership role in the Canadian AV integration market. For those who may not yet be aware of Sharp’s presence as an AV industry leader, I encourage you to visit the company’s websitefor further information on the company.

As for getting business done in the Great White North, Sharp’s AV does it – AV/IT and all…