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Inside AVI

At a time when many AV firms are finding it difficult to grow at all, the last three years for Tampa, FL-based Audio Visual Innovations Inc., have been nothing short of phenomenal. According to the company's executive management team, AVI will bring in about $200 million this year, an increase from about $170 million in 2004 ? and double the company's revenues from only three years ago.

At a time when many AV firms are finding it difficult to grow at all, the last three years for Tampa, FL-based Audio Visual Innovations Inc., have been nothing short of phenomenal. According to the company's executive management team, AVI will bring in about $200 million this year, an increase from about $170 million in 2004 — and double the company's revenues from only three years ago.

AVI's executive management team, lead by John Zettel, CFO (right), Stephanie Scanlon, executive vice president (left), and Martin Schaffel, founder and CEO (center), has grown the company at an unprecendented pace over the last two decades.

AVI's executive management team, lead by John Zettel, CFO (right), Stephanie Scanlon, executive vice president (left), and Martin Schaffel, founder and CEO (center), has grown the company at an unprecendented pace over the last two decades.

In early November, AVI announced a new acquisition that company founder and CEO Martin Schaffel expects to help continue this pattern of rapid growth, which has already made the company one of the most successful and well-known firms in the industry. By acquiring Dallas-based AVKM, a 23-year-old firm with broad design, installation, and rental capabilities — and a particular strength in government and military applications — AVI inherited the Battle Command Information System (BCIS), a patented AVKM product that AVI believes will be a significant addition to its own resources.

“We view this as a strategic acquisition,” says Executive Vice President Stephenie Scanlon. “We went after a unique military product that we felt would make sense to add to our offerings.”

According to Schaffel, acquisitions have been a key part of the company's growth strategy. In particular, he notes, “a lot of our growth came from some demises in the industry,” such as when AVI acquired parts of MCSi after the company's breakup in 2002. “We also picked up about $25 million in rental business when Caribiner imploded.”

Although these acquisitions brought in some immediate revenue streams, Schaffel says a far more important factor was the leadership personnel AVI was able to add to its own team.

AVI plans to continue acquiring other firms. “I get a request every other day from one of the smaller entities, often from a company that wants to do systems integration but can't handle the finances,” he says.

Still, Schaffel adds that over the years, acquisitions have accounted for only about 10 percent of the company's growth, while core businesses have generated the rest.

Peer perspectives

Vendors who work with AVI attribute much of the company's success to the personal direction and attitudes of its founder. Schaffel “gets up every morning and seems to work for AVI every waking moment,” says Randy Klein, executive vice president at Crestron Electronics Inc., headquartered in Rockleigh, NJ. “His spirit and will to succeed are unmatched. But most noteworthy of all is his courage — to go new places where others don't even think of going, to put his resources on the line everyday, and above all, to trust and believe in his people to do the job and complete his vision. We should all take a page out of Marty's book.”

Andrew Bergdoll only recently encountered AVI when he became president of Liberty Wire & Cable, Colorado Springs, CO, in early 2005. Nevertheless, this short association has already impressed him.

“After just six months I feel I know AVI well,” Bergdoll says. “Marty really reaches out to his suppliers and makes himself available. He has extremely high expectations of his suppliers, and is very demanding. He tells you the good and the bad, but does it very directly.”



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