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5-Minute Interview: Gillenwater & Schaffel

Chad Gillenwater, President and CEO of SPL Integrated Solutions, has more than 30 years in the AV industry, with a background in audio, video, and construction fields. Martin Schaffel, Owner and managing chairman of Audio Visual Innovations (AVI), founded AVI in 1979.

Chad Gillenwater President and CEO of SPL Integrated Solutions, has more than 30 years in the AV industry, with a background in audio, video, and construction fields. He is a CPA and on InfoComm International's Board of Governors.

Martin Schaffel Owner and managing chairman of Audio Visual Innovations (AVI), founded AVI in 1979. He began his career with a national retailer followed by a large office products distributor.

SPL Integrated Solutions and AVI plan to merge before the end of the year, forming AVISPL, the largest AV integrator in the industry.

PRO AV: What will be the advantages of being the country's largest AV systems integration company?

GILLENWATER: We will be able to take two companies that are in the same business, but don't overlap a lot, that approach the market from a little different perspective. Where AVI has a wonderful backbone in infrastructure, SPL has tended to be a much flatter organization, and we're at a time where SPL really needs the back-office capabilities that AVI has. So, for SPL, it's a wonderful opportunity to give us the chance to have the internal resources to grow the company at a time when gaining resources in this business is extremely difficult. Combining the name recognition and the brand equities that both companies bring to the table will be something that attracts clients to the business as a whole. We believe that it will help grow the business for everyone, not just AVISPL.

PRO AV: How will being merged change your business strategy?

GILLENWATER: It enables us to have a larger footprint, which allows us to offer clients turnkey door-to-door solutions in a lot more places. It also brings together a very sophisticated sales and management force that, combined, we believe will be able to excite the marketplace even more, give us greater mass to go to the Fortune 1,000 companies, and help us do what we both always try to do, which is to lead this business forward.

PRO AV: Do you anticipate AVISPL will acquire smaller AV firms in the future?

SCHAFFEL: I think there'll be acquisitions — both in our specific industry of other AV companies and [those] that are geographically strategic, as well as acquisitions of companies that do similar, ancillary-type services such as security, telephony, IT, or structured cabling.

PRO AV: Do you foresee the combined company going public in the future?

SCHAFFEL: I'm not a big fan of that. As the saying goes, never say never, but I'm not a big fan of [going public].

PRO AV: Do you have a financial backer, such as a private equity?

SCHAFFEL: We have gotten some significant companies involved in helping us put this together. They're not yet available for disclosure.

PRO AV: How do you plan to avoid the fate of MCSi?

GILLENWATER: We start from a different place. We're two very healthy companies that already had integrated large national organizations. We've done it independently. Now, we only have to marry two systems. Is it going to be the simplest thing in the world? No. But we're only marrying one system to another system. And what we've learned in our discussions is that one, it's not going to be that hard to do, and two, we like each other.



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