AV integration is a business of people and regions. We can point to technological expertise and product lines, but ultimately it’s all about who works where and how those factors combine to build better companies. And in an industry very much in transition, with bombardment at every turn from IT and content creation and high-voltage companies (yes, they’re still out there), the best tactic for survival might be a return to the consideration of who you’re working with and where you can go together.
The acquisition of Snader Associates by Diversified Systems earlier this year exemplifies not only the dream scenario of East meets West, but also a fortuitous combination of personnel and infrastructure, plus a bonus helping of forward-looking service and technical offerings.
The equation represents a perfect set of variables. Diversified’s got the content creation and digital signage worlds covered with its firmly established Diversified Media Group division managing major nationwide rollouts every day. Snader’s got the on-site technical support and service model. The latter brings traditional AV know-how to a company that built its reputation in high-end broadcast applications—odds are if you’re watching sporting event, Diversified had a hand in it.
The relationship between the two firms had its origin in logistics. Snader had 37 years of history and an established sales presence on the West coast. Many members of its team have been with the company for decades, and those roots were garnering big new project opportunities. Meanwhile, Diversified’s nationwide reach was becoming more focused in the region, with a permanent office established by Duane Yosiov, who happened to be an old pal of Snader president John Beritzhoff from when the former worked at Sony’s integration group.
“It just made sense when we came across these larger opportunities, based on my respect for what Diversified had done as an engineering-driven company—I had a comfort level bringing them in on opportunities,” explained Beritzhoff, who now holds the title of senior vice president of Diversified Systems.
Eight years and some $22 million from collaborative projects later, Diversified and Snader decided to take the next step. After the two companies were repeatedly called “the dream team” on projects, said Kevin Collins, COO of Diversified Systems, “We gained an understanding of each other's cultures, and it became more and more clear that we had similar philosophies.”
As a national integrator and a major player in broadcast, media entertainment, and sports, Diversified was also building a robust AV presence with global audiovisual design for Fortune 500 clients in Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. From there, the manifest destiny was apparent. “We were doing a fair amount of that work in the west, supporting it from our resources in the east, which is inefficient,” Collins said. “We were trying to organically grow the team in the west, and at the same time working with Snader. It became obvious that if we combined, we’d bring in an experienced AV team and round out our diversification coast to coast.”
Meanwhile, Snader’s established service presence supporting installations in the Silicon Valley was a key component to the acquisition. “AV is a local business,” Collins said. “The customer wants day-two service after you’ve built these complex solutions. Snader had a good organization, a good process, and now we can provide a national service offering to our Fortune 500 customers.”
The new organization has well over 200 employees in eight offices across the U.S., including Diversified’s headquarters in Kenilworth, NJ, and locations in Dulles, VA, Chicago, IL, Seattle, WA, Santa Clara, CA, San Rafael, CA, Sacramento, CA, and a new outpost in Los Angeles, CA.
Beritzhoff, who was the first official employee of Snader Associates in 1979, and when founder Bob Snader retired in 2006 became sole owner of the company, took the acquisition question seriously. “I had been approached in the past,” he noted. “I wouldn't have sold my company to just anybody.”
Snader Associates brought 50-plus employees to Diversified, and the merger has been a smooth one. “There's a culture match,” Beritzhoff said. “I helped my former partner Bob Snader in creating a culture of working with people you like in a fun environment, and I had those feelings when I met Fred [D’Alessandro, president, CEO, and founder of Diversified Systems] and Kevin and Duane.”
Now, just about two months after the acquisition was announced, “we're still in the combining process, but you can already see the magnified opportunities, especially with the Snader team,” Collins said. “As they get to know us and our capabilities, they're going back to existing customers and proposing new ideas. We want to continue that down the road. If it's got audio or video involved in it, we want to be acknowledged experts in it.”