After the wedding: AVI-SPL plans for the future

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 If you're looking for confirmation that the AV industry is in a robust state, despite all the economic uncertainties, then look no further than the growth chart displayed by AVI-SPL at its InfoComm press conference. The combined revenues of the former AVI and SPL companies rose from $312 million in 2005 to $419 million two years later. Perhaps more importantly, the newly merged company is budgeted to earn $463 million this year -- by any measure, a very healthy increase.

The two men behind both the merger and the growth are Executive Chairman Marty Schaffel and Vice Chairman Chad Gillenwater. Speaking at an informal press gathering in Las Vegas, the pair offered a rare insight into the vision that drives an entity like AVI-SPL. The merger itself was a hugely complex and drawn out process and, now that it's done, the biggest task facing the company is stitching the two formerly separate businesses together.

But that hasn't prevented Schaffel and Gillenwater from formulating ways in which they can continue to grow AVI-SPL in the months and years to come. One way will be to expand internationally. "We have business relationships with over 50 hotel chains worldwide," says Schaffel, "and like so many of our customers, these companies want to have relationships with fewer suppliers. We are already established in places like Dubai, Singapore, and Mexico, and our goal is to have alliances with local integrators that will give us a presence in 21 countries."

Another way will be to promote the company's range of services more aggressively to the construction industry, notably the architectural and interior design communities. "Our umbrella of capabilities gives us the ability to show the level of experience that architects are looking for," says Gillenwater, adding that AVI-SPL is well on the way to establishing systems integration as a key component of in the building design process. "When I started in this business, architecture was sticks and bricks," he observes. "Today it's much more than that, and we provide the infrastructure that enables a facility to function."

A cynic might say that AVI-SPL's ambition adds up to nothing less than a desire for global domination of the professional AV business. But that would be missing the point. If Schaffel and Gillenwater can realize their goal of becoming a truly international enterprise that can service customers more completely than has ever been possible, then they will raise the profile not just of their own corporation, but of the industry generally.

In my mind, that has to be a good thing.

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