Island Systems And Design Lights The Way To Expansion
They call him the machine. It’s a nickname resulting from his ability to transform one hour of a normal work day into a heap of accomplishments varying from his routine roles of contract negotiation, sales and construction logistics, and infrastructure planning, to the infinite list of other tasks that make everything else possible.
Eavesdrop on Chris Chuilli, director of construction for Island Systems and Design, on a given day and you’ll hear him go from closing a major deal with an architect, or general or electrical contractor, to discussing the contractual obligations of an AIA document. Then his work might take the form of a
Chris Chuilli, director of construction for Island Systems and Design. construction protocol dissertation for the techs, followed by negotiating pricing with a manufacturer, and finally collecting a client’s check for a quarter of a million dollars. Meanwhile Island’s team of engineers, technicians, estimators, and sales, operations, and administrative people also want a piece of the machine.
Still, Chuilli will remind you that by definition, a machine has many parts, each with a definite function and together performing a particular task. “I’m appreciative of my colleagues’ accolades, but to me the true meaning of the term ‘machine’ is the company as a whole,” Chuilli, who joined Island almost two years ago, explained. “I’m dedicated to the history built by the ownership of this company, and I want to make every effort I can to help them to succeed.”
Island Systems and Design represents the truest form of family business. Founded 22 years ago by Carlos and Pam Gonzalez, the Rockledge, FL-based company has grown to include
The Island Systems extended family (l-r): Chris Chuilli, Pam Gonzalez, Jeremy Gonzalez, Carlos Gonzalez, and Jimi Gonzalez. the couple’s sons Jimi and Jeremy, who possess their parents’ knack for earnest business dealings in addition to some real whiz-bang techno intuition. Together they have developed and maintained a national business which for the past eight consecutive years has been recognized by Hispanic Business Magazine as among the 500 largest Hispanic businesses in the U.S.
Today, Island is on the brink of its next evolution as a company. Its headquarters is located in rocket scientist territory—NASA and the United Space Alliance are nearby—and the high-tech surroundings suit the visionary process that Chuilli and the Gonzalezes are developing to propel their business into the future.
Island’s business model includes both design/build and traditional bid work, but Chuilli’s background in the construction industry has led him to develop a plan to transform the company into “an all-inclusive low-voltage, structured cable firm.”
Unveiling his new Structured Technology Asset Management (STAM) plan, Chuilli detailed a partnership with two undisclosed entities which will enable Island to design and implement the complete AV and data package on projects. Additionally, STAM will maintain a 24/7 help desk and national service contracts. “This is where the industry is going,” Chuilli observed.
Island president Carlos Gonzalez feels that STAM reflects the overall evolution of the AV industry. “We anticipate a lot of consolidation because of the industry moving toward the world of IT,” he explained. “We’ve already invested heavily on the technology side so we can interact with the IT people. We understand their issues, and at the same time we understand that the electrical contractors are going to do the manual work. The days of installing speakers, displays, and pulling wire are coming to an end for the traditional AV integrator.”
The picture Carlos describes is already reality in Las Vegas, where Island established an office nearly a decade ago to service its casino and hospitality clients. The fast-paced growth seen in Las Vegas in recent years showed Island the necessity of aligning its design and business practices with those of architects, consultants, MEP companies, and electrical contractors.
“We’ve moved to an estimating model, where the sales person is selling and the estimator is doing the design work, and then the sales person has final review,” explained Jimi Gonzalez, vice president of sales and marketing. “That has allowed us to become a lot more sales focused. It’s helped the company grow.”
The embodiment of that realignment is Chuilli’s work with Island’s chief estimator, John Beers. “They make a great team—definitely two minds thinking as one,” Jimi said. “Chris speaks the language of the construction industry. He connects the AV world to the construction world, and that’s something the AV industry has to do in the next number of years.”
Already, Chuilli’s machine-like stamina has produced a vast pipeline of projects. In the past 12 months, he has closed deals totaling $2 million in Florida, and $4.5 million across North America. Chuilli is also working on a vast slate of other notable prospects. The machine is just getting started.
In Las Vegas the company just wrapped up work on the new M Casino; Caesars Palace’s new Octavius Tower, west convention space, and pool expansion; the Wynn Encore Tower suites; the Palms theater expansion and convention space; and Red Rock Casino’s 20th floor highend suites.
“We learned a lot from our experience in Vegas,” Jimi noted. “There’s really been such a shift in the way we’ve done business over the past few years—for the positive. We’re still involved in hospitality, but we’ve shifted and diversified ourselves. The next logical step is providing a one-stopshop for customers. Our construction experience and work with electricians helps, because as a company we know how to play well with others. We’re very confident in that ability.”
In a move to further their collaboration with the design and construction community, Island is also working toward LEED AP certification. As more projects demand LEED-certified design teams, Island is planning to be qualified.
All these steps combine to maintain Island’s steady evolution. But while the business constantly expands its type and scale of work, it hasn’t lost the personal touch that is such a huge part of its branding. The personality embodied by the Tiki theme of Island’s logo and marketing materials is a memorable one for those who have dealt with the company. “So many people we deal with in the industry have known us for years,” said Pam Gonzalez, vice president. “Some of our reps remember Jimi and Jeremy as toddlers. Relationships are a big part of our business.”
Just as Chuilli himself said, he is in fact part of a well-oiled machine. “I am surrounded by the best group of people in the industry, and it’s a great support cast,” he said. “I can count on them to back me up. I’m happy to be part of the family.”