Executive Q&A: A 45-Year Success Story

Philip Giffard, Solotech
(Image credit: Future)

 

SCN: How long have you been with this company, and what are your responsibilities?

Philip Giffard: I joined Solotech back in 2016. As president of sales and integration, I oversee all global activities of our worldwide team. We have market presence in the United States, Canada, U.K., and Asia. I also manage our e-commerce activities.

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SCN: How is Solotech celebrating its 45th anniversary?

PG: We’re very proud to have achieved this incredible milestone (opens in new tab). From that initial Montreal Olympics Games audio mandate to our recently created divisions, worldwide acquisitions, and expanded role in XR productions, we’ve parlayed our enthusiasm about this remarkable industry into a true success story. We’ve learned a lot since 1977 and have grown significantly in AV and technology. And that all comes down to our amazing employees who took the ride with us. It is their talent and vision that inspired and drove our achievements. For our 45th anniversary, we have marked the occasion with revamping our logo on all marketing platforms and merchandise, with a special nod to the holiday period.

Solotech

(Image credit: Solotech)

SCN: What are some of the company milestones that make you most proud?

PG: Our industry is in a constant state of evolution. Fortunately, this has meant that Solotech has been on an upward trajectory peppered with many milestones along the way. Among them are: first appearance on SCN’s Top 50 list (2017), attaining $100 million in revenues (2018), first overseas acquisition (SSE), new branding (2019), numerous U.S. acquisitions (2019-2021), and more recently, e-commerce diversification.

To be able to grow as rapidly as we have, to integrate different companies and build a unique culture, and to be as strong as we are today, you need fantastic employees. That is what I am most proud of. If I had to highlight just one event, it's how our team was able to face adversity (the pandemic), get even closer as a team, and find solutions to get out of it stronger.

SCN: What are the advantages of having so many different companies under the Solotech umbrella?

PG: Our different companies build us up now and set us up for the future. By having multiple locations with assorted fields of interest, it allows us to expand our global footprint, while also bringing us closer to a variety of clients with distinctive needs and expectations. Maintaining a common message and having multiple channels can become challenging, but we are dedicated to making it seamless for our clients. Our goal is to expand while staying true to our values: passion, innovation, excellence, respect, and collaboration.

With our traditional business now back on track, the gained knowledge base of collaboration technologies makes us a more robust company.

SCN: How did the pandemic change your corporate strategy?

PG: Day One of the pandemic saw most of our traditional business venues swept out along the wave, including sports arenas, cultural attractions, and airports. Our first instinct was to reach out to existing customers and help them navigate this unprecedented occurrence. We adapted their equipment for outdoor use and enabled their technology with increased streaming capabilities. Then, we looked for new opportunities.

We’d built strong partnerships over the years, but there is no denying that the CBCI acquisition allowed us to shift into second gear. With that acquisition came expertise and relationships with leading manufacturers to become a major player in that market. With our traditional business now back on track, the gained knowledge base of collaboration technologies makes us a more robust company.

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SCN: What are the short and long-term goals for your company?

PG: Our first consideration is stabilizing and growing the business in the face of ongoing labor and equipment shortages, as well as pursue our organic growth and diversification initiatives. In our 45th year, every decision made is to ensure we keep it going for at least 45 more years. Work ahead includes efficiently deploying our systems and processes to specific areas. To that end, we launched our Global Market Leader Program to identify resource persons in various markets and solidify our expertise. Moving ahead, developing e-commerce solutions will be a major focus. There is room to grow in some business markets and geographical locations where we can add enhanced value. Most important is to grow in a sustainable manner.

SCN: With so many businesses adopting a hybrid work strategy, what trends are you seeing in corporate AV projects?

PG: We have yet to find the magic recipe for hybrid work. Most companies are still looking for the right model, which will enable them to be productive while building the right work and personal life balance for their employees. Because we see so many different models, we feel like we can be a great advisor to our customers.

We don’t come in with a preconceived solution. We have access to a lot of data and trends which enables us to make insightful recommendations. We do a thorough needs assessments and, with our clients, build the right approach. Our state-of-the-art managed services, with a 24/7 NOC center, enables us to adapt our solutions to client needs.

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SCN: Where do you see the Pro AV industry heading?

PG: The pandemic aftershocks have currently slowed acquisition activity levels. Time will tell when and how it picks up again. Resilience and adaptability are key, as our industry has much room for maneuverability for consolidation. It is still growing at a very interesting CAGR and expanding into new markets. The dividing line between AV and IT is now so blurred—practically nonexistent, really—that the playing field is so much greater than in the past. We are a technology driven company, and given that, the accelerated rate of augmented reality and artificial intelligence innovations will have a continuous impact. As one of the leaders in industry, supported by three complementary divisions, we feel we are well positioned for the future.

Mark J. Pescatore
Content Director

Mark J. Pescatore, Ph.D., is the content director of Systems Contractor News. He has been writing about Pro AV industry for more than 25 years. Previously, he spent more than eight years as the editor of Government Video magazine. During his career, he's produced and hosted two podcasts focused on the professional video marketplace, taught more than a dozen college communication courses, co-authored the book "Working with HDV," and co-edited two editions of "The Guide to Digital Television."