cary, nc-Frank Yarborough's integration firm, AVCON, celebrates its 10th year this July, and in his eyes it's just the beginning. And while AVCON is your classic long, hard road that comes to fruition, Yarborough embraces his past in looking toward the future.
AVCON integrated AVL services for the worship facility renovation at the Living Word Family Church.
AVCON was started thanks in part to the generosity of a man in Yarborough's church. "A guy I didn't really know in my church was a good business man and I shared my vision with him. He ended up giving me an office in his building. The people in his organization embraced me and that launched the organization." Yarborough spent the previous years in the sales field, wetting his feet in the corporate world. "As I look back on where we've been it's like comparing a baby to a full-grown adult. The maturing, the hard road you have to travel. I grew up as a sales doorknocker. So when I got into this I didn't really know what I was doing, but I had a vision and people trusted me."
The trust others put into AVCON helped it flourish, and now the one-man shop has turned into a 24-man shop. Yarborough attributes the success to the technology. "Along the way we continued to evolved with the sophistication of the marketplace," he said. "My vision was to be that progressive company and be unique, but you can't do that from day one, much like raising kids without an instruction manual. We have pushed the envelope. In the corporate arena we're on the edge of technology, from integrated equipment, to distributed media across the web, to VBrick." But the technology would be nothing without the passion of Yarborough and his employees. He explained, "It's been a hard road. We've had to persevere and keep our chin up. I've been blessed with phenomenal people that most AV companies just don't have. We keep motivated because of the passion we have for what we do. And I love this industry, it's exciting to me and it fits me very well because I'm driven a lot by emotion and passion. When we deliver solutions like we do, the elegance, that wow factor. That's who I am and who we are."
AVCON spent many years in the corporate AV world, and in the past few years it has made a strong move into the houses of worship market. Yarborough said, "We grew up in the corporate world, and we migrated into the houses of worship market because they started integrating a lot of the technology that we were working with in corporations for a long time," he continued. "In the church market, we're one of the most high-tech oriented companies. There aren't many people in this market, or even in the country, that do that at our level." Yarborough saw that many integration businesses in his area were involved in the bid market for local universities, but that market didn't interest him. He expanded, "A lot of the universities around here are buying boxes and getting into the price mentality. But I didn't want to be in that business, so I continued to leverage and build the corporate client base I built since 1986 when I got into professional sales. That was the world I enjoyed working in, where people valued the relationships and what you brought to the table. I know a lot of people make a lot of money in the university bid sector, but we're more into the design/build market. Being the owner of a smaller company, people we work with value that they can deal with the owner and have access to me. People do business with people."
AVCON provided the design/build AV services for the new headquarters building project for Salix Pharmaceutical.
One of the aspects of the business that Yarborough tries to instill in his employees is differentiating between the vertical markets. "I've been fortunate enough to grow up in both markets we work in, and there's a different personality in each one. I see with my sales reps, sometimes they have trouble managing both worlds because there's a lot of complexity in both. But I'm constantly trying to teach them about the personalities in each."
In the worship market, Yarborough has found that his clients like to be more involved. "Churches are often very hard to deal with a lot of times. Nowadays, you're dealing with a very high-tech worship environment, not just with the gear, but the people as well. They're engineers, they're computer programmers. A lot of them know the equipment very well, or think they do. In that environment you're not dealing with the executive or the management level people in the corporation that don't want to be troubled with figuring this stuff out on their own. In churches, you have to work with people who want to be involved. Some of them want to be hands on and a part of the development. Sometimes it's an issue; sometimes it's a great help. So understanding the personalities and the motivations behind them, and why one is different then the other. You can't expect them to adapt to you because you've always done it one way, you have to adapt to them. Different things are important to both segments, sometimes there's overlap, but there is often a great difference."
Part of this training is understanding Yarborough's approach to selling to clients. "We're not trying to sell boxes, we're trying to help organizations understand what it takes to fulfill their vision the right way, the first time. When we go into a house of worship, I ask them what they want to accomplish and I will help them achieve that the first time. We put together a cohesive plan to help them understand what it takes to achieve the vision; we work with them on budget prioritization, and then help them integrate foundational components that are building blocks, that they can migrate toward that ultimate vision. The most important thing, no matter what level they enter in at, is that they know what to expect and that we've established a predictable solution with expectation. So when they turn it on they understand what they've chosen to buy, and what they've chosen not to buy. They understand functionally what they have. The ministries we work with are very happy with what we provide because we use that approach. I believe the key to our success is helping them understand what technology does for business and why they're important to meet a functional need."