In early January I wrote a blog A Direct Look at the AV Environment – The Focus Ahead which in one section talks about how the AV integrator is the heartbeat, the lifeblood of this industry and their models of advancement certainly serve as an example. AVI-SPL, based in Tampa, is that example of an integrator who embodies this model of advancement as well as success where as I also say in the blog that an open mind perspective to their successes can certainly lead to enhancement of one’s business model, as well as outlook.
Now that’s certainly not to say that there aren’t other successful integration companies in the AV industry, however AVI-SPL with their global footprint, as well as being the first multi-national integrator to achieve InfoComm APEx certification which CEO John Zettel stated proudly in the morning meeting at the Summit, has stood out as an example of one of the industry’s AV integration trailblazers.
The Sales Acceleration Summit (for which a special Twitter hashtag #SAS2016 was created) is an annual event for the company that took place last week and on Thursday, which was also Media Day, I walked into the large ballroom where AVI-SPL executives took to the stage in front of an SRO audience to talk about the company, their successes, their plans for 2016 and more. One common thread you notice in discussion among the executives is how they refer to their global team of employees (representatives from their worldwide offices were present) and their continuous efforts to help grow the company. They also thanked their partners in the room, who exhibited at the event, for being a major part of the company’s growth as well.
Another look at the packed ballroom
A tweet from David Maldow, Founder and CEO of Let’s Do Video from the morning event:
— David Maldow (@LetsDoVideo) April 7, 2016
Morning Meeting with the Leadership Team
In the morning press and analyst meeting with the AVI-SPL Leadership Team which followed the morning ceremony, CEO John Zettel set the tone detailing certain facts and figures including how in 2015 AVI-SPL’s sales bookings grew by 20% and how every office was ahead of the 2014 numbers. He also stated how over 90% of billings are from repeat customers, a fact that he’s proud of. One major point that was also made in his discussion was in reference to significant new managed services wins as AVI-SPL considers themselves to be an industry leader when it comes to implementation of a true managed services model, with a number of Cisco certified employees and the provision of IT-like service level agreements (SLA’s).
Another thing that Zettel detailed was AVI-SPL’s determination at one point of the need to branch out from being just a traditional AV integrator in terms of implementing managed services, 24/7 help desk (of which he gave three examples where as well as a merger with IT, for which he states that Microsoft and the Surface Hub became a major bridge to the IT side. He specified their global delivery platform of 32K+ installations, 7K+ service contracts, 60K+ managed conferences in 101 countries. A truly inspirational discussion with a well-known industry CEO.
Dale Bottcher, Sr. VP of Sales, pointed immediately to continued growth as a collaboration services provider, which is the major basis of business for AVI-SPL. Being among the initial group of Microsoft Surface Hub partners, this collaboration profile is of utmost importance to the company as the market has continued to grow and expand. His statement in terms of driving collaboration forward is that “the workplace is changing,” as well as a push toward supporting mobile worker environments in remote business models – in essence empowering a mobile workforce.
Most important for Bottcher within the company is the development of his sales staff, including better training and on-boarding of sales people. He also expects a consistent message as well as experience to be delivered to the client across the whole company.
Jeff Davis, COO, who has been with the company for just over a year, also talked about the company’s expertise in collaboration as well as the Microsoft practice and Gold Communications certification, along with winning Skype for Business deployments which is also a major cog in AVI-SPL’s collaboration business. Along with this and meet client’s needs for standardization and efficient procurement/deployment, Davis also discussed their localized service support pointing directly to in-region field service, improved response times, optimized utilization of office resources and providing a better customer experience.
Davis also talked about subcontractors in terms of cutting it down to a smaller ‘community” and the process which involves rigorous vetting as well as contractor info and ratings which all in the company can access. Another discussion involved recruiting and onboarding where they take internal referrals first, have organized apprenticeship programs, learning plans creating a holistic approach to the recruiting process. With this new employees are already highly encouraged and motivated when starting with the company.
Kelly Bousman, Sr VP of Marketing also contributed to certain topics indicated here as well as discussing overall marketing efforts for the company, which for an organization of this magnitude is no small task all. Kelly also detailed setting up the foundation for the future in terms of igniting efforts concerning overall external (customer) and internal (employee) experiences for the company, along with driving toward global expansion.
For Kelly, putting together an event like this (which she did along with Dale) is truly a non-stop effort from day one of creating the program as well as during the week, where having to put together numerous rehearsals, deal with on-the-fly changes, generation of content for presentations — As with all that takes place within the company, this was a total team effort as well.
Lunchtime was spent at a very well put together partner exhibitor area, where I visited with numerous companies including Crestron, Draper, Kramer, SMART, Polycom, Extron, Bluescape and more. Excellent conversations there on enterprise and education solutions, as well as AV and IT.
— KBZ Communications (@KBZcom) April 7, 2016
— Draper, Inc. (@DraperInc) April 7, 2016
— Christie (@ChristieDigital) April 7, 2016
Below is a picture of AVI-SPL’s partners entering the building where they would be exhibiting in front of all in attendance. I was told that the company put together a “clap-in” area where they would stand and clap for them as they walked in, a show of grand appreciation for the work that they’ve done in partnership with AVI-SPL.
Afternoon Executive One-on-One session
My afternoon one-on-one session was spent with four people from the company handpicked for the meeting – Lou Chiorazzi, VP, UC&C Solutions Engineering, Linda Civitillo, VP Unified Communication & Collaboration Solutions and Microsoft Surface Hub Practice Leader, David Thorson, Senior Manager, Programming Architecture and Tim Hill, National Director of Engineering as we discussed the following topics: collaboration, the workplace, Microsoft Surface Hub and millennials. We discussed managed services, built end-to-end by AVI-SPL, as well which has certainly helped to define the company’s leadership in the market.
Collaboration of course became the overall thread of discussion for us as we talked about the enterprise and how the solutions that the company integrates help to scale with the ever-changing workforce as Lou detailed along with the others. We touched on workflow, cloud, software-based applications and collaborating at a distance. David added how different types of users have to be comfortable utilizing the collaboration solution.
We next talked about millennials and how companies may not be able to attract enough of them, where they choose to work in relaxed collaborative environments, and the goal as a result is to create a welcoming atmosphere for collaboration for the client which would in essence result in the best workspace to attract millennials. David also talked about how usage of e-mail is diminishing and usage of apps like Slack taking its place (we also discussed Cisco Spark which is in the plans). I also brought up the subject of Generation Z, which elicited great responses from all.
Tim focused on design and installation discussion including how they approach network readiness, as well as the company being well-versed in discussing Skype for Business implementation ahead of an installation.
Finally we discussed the Surface Hub for which Linda is the company’s lead and it’s certain that AVI-SPL is one of the leaders in Microsoft’s partner environment. I was told by Linda that the next six months are focused on implementation and rollout as well as building solutions around the Surface Hub. This along with their own VMR platform UnifyME and discussion of plans for monitoring, management and analytics.
The day ended and as I headed for a little R&R, I noticed a well-dressed group passing by – here is a tweet from AVI-SPL’s UK office, dressed in style for the evening dinner and awards presentation (this is how you know that an event built true excitement for all involved):
— AVI-SPL UK (@AVISPL_UK) April 8, 2016
Talk about a worldwide AV industry integration company gathered at a single location celebrating global success, continued leadership presence in the collaboration space along with well-guided aspirations for the future. The Sales Acceleration Summit 2016 was certainly all about that for AVI-SPL.
— Corey Moss (@Cbmoss) April 8, 2016