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In the Design

baltimore, md -- Back in October 1996, Design & Integration counted one Catholic church as its client. The facility required a new sound system, and the newborn systems integration firm, founded by Jake Rivera, was happy to provide it.

Today, Design & Integration boasts a full client roster comprised of houses of worship, government agencies and educational facilities in need of fully integrated audio, video and lighting systems. The firm employs 15 staff members who, according to Rivera, are accustomed to wearing many hats: after the launch of new rental and service departments over a year ago, staff members often jump from one department to the next, depending on what needs to be accomplished.
"The advantage of this is that our technicians are cross-trained in different parts of the company," Rivera noted. "The person running the rental department experiences what the end-user does when he has to integrate the system and then operate it. When he returns to the rental department and combines that experience with the skills he already had, it makes him a stronger technician."

The systems integration department is still the company's largest venture, and Rivera estimates that it brings in approximately 85 percent of the firm's business. The new divisions were established, however, in an effort to regulate cash flow. "When you are a systems integrator, your cash flow is all over the place," he said, echoing a primary concern for many systems contractors across the country. "There are peaks and valleys, and what we are trying to do is level out and create a base cash flow. These other departments are going to help us to level out our cash flow stream, and we think that this is going to make us a better contractor as a result."

Rivera credits his employees for pushing Design & Integration forward. "I am very proud of our employees," he said, noting that not everyone is cut out to work in a small business environment. "Each individual employee must decide what they value. If they want to work at a very young place where there is a lot of energy and forward momentum, growth and the potential for added responsibilities and opportunities, then they will thrive at Design & Integration. We have smart, young people that are working hard, and that is what I am most proud of."

Presently, the bulk of the projects handled by Design & Integration are design/build, but the company still does perform a significant amount of bid work. Rivera explains that customers that don't hire dedicated consultants to specify systems come to his company, however they must expect to pay for the design work that is delivered. "If you do a good job at designing a system, it takes too much time to give that work away for free," he said. "We may not be the cheapest company in town, but we are a good, thorough AV contractor."

Design & Integration is currently in the process of moving into a new 7,000-square-foot facility that the company purchased outright. "In terms of growth, the sky is the limit," Rivera declared. "We are only limited by our own vision and hard work. We are very growth-oriented as a company; we want as much of the pie as we can possibly take."

Carolyn Heinze has covered everything from AV/IT and business to cowboys and cowgirls ... and the horses they love. She was the Paris contributing editor for the pan-European site Running in Heels, providing news and views on fashion, culture, and the arts for her column, “France in Your Pants.” She has also contributed critiques of foreign cinema and French politics for the politico-literary site, The New Vulgate.