January 08, 2013 By Tom LeBlanc
AVI-SPL, the largest integration firm in the U.S. with $584.7million in 2012 revenues, has announced two strategic steps that broaden its global presence.
The Tampa, Fla.-based firm has launched European headquarters in London. Meanwhile, it has added locations in three major Canadian cities - Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto - through a select asset acquisition of A/V and IT integration firm Duocom.
“These are very exciting steps for AVI-SPL,” says CEO John Zettel. Although the firm already has locations in Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and two Canadian offices, Zettel lauds this announcement as “true movement into international presence.”
For AVI-SPL, which specializes in video communications solutions and managed services, international expansion is a logical step, according to EVP of operations Doug Carnell, since unified communications clients tend to have multiple, often international locations. “Connected solutions don’t stop at the geographic boundaries of the U.S.,” Zettel adds.
AVI-SPL had already been serving clients’ European facilities, and with locations in Calgary and Vancouver it had a presence in Western Canada. These moves provide the integrator with feet on the growth in five key Canadian cities and local European staff. “Advancing our services internationally provides our customers more direct access to our resources,” writes AVI-SPL in a statement. “Such barriers as time zone and language are minimized for the end-user.”
AVI-SPL says its locations in U.K. and Canada will offer the firm’s full slate of video communications solutions and post-installation support.
London was chosen as AVI-SPL’s European hub in part because of “channel relationships that we already have,” Zettel says.
The European headquarters will allow AVI-SPL to go beyond serving U.S.-based clients’ European facilities and target more European-based clients. “This gives us an opportunity to land customers based in those locations versus following U.S. customers across borders, and that speaks to opportunities in selling more services,” Zettel says.
London expansion makes good strategic sense, according to Carnell. “This is an extension of a plan that we started so many years ago with our growth into video. We wanted to be there [Europe] to capture new growth that happens as London comes out of its recession. We think we can do so from a position of strength. Our goal is to establish ourselves as a European company, and do so in London first.”
AVI-SPL’s European hub in London is already up and running with about a dozen employees, Carnell says. James Shanks, managing director, heads up the London headquarters with a staff of solution architects, engineers, project managers and technicians. AVI-SPL’s VNOC Symphony software platform and Customer Care International Help Desk will be part of the U.K. operations, according to an AVI-SPL press release.
“The U.K. office will operate independently but will benefit from access to AVI-SPL’s global resources,” Shanks says.
AVI-SPL will get an opportunity to tout those resources to European companies when it exhibits at Integrated Systems Europe 2013.
After launching operations in Calgary and Vancouver in July 2012, AVI-SPL liked what it saw of the Canadian integration market.
“We have always felt there was opportunity in Canada based on what our customers were asking for, so we established our first presence in Western Canada,” Zettel says. “We felt like there was a tremendous opportunity to drive some scale in Canada and that we’d come from the Eastern side.”
Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto are “key hubs,” Carnell adds.
Leading AVI-SPL’s eastern Canadian offices is newly hired managing director Zoreena Abas, who in a press release AVI-SPL calls an industry veteran and IT business leader. “I’m excited to join the AVI-SPL team as the company begins to really take off outside of the U.S.,” Abas says.
AVI-SPL’s Canadian operations already have between 30 and 35 employees, Carnell estimates. “I’m proud of our standing as a financially strong company, and we’re bringing that to other parts of the world,” he says. “There’s never a concern about our performance from a financial aspect. Our goal is to provide the same in those parts of the world, and provide the same level of strength.
“Is there risk? There’s risk involved in any investment, but you try to minimize that risk by making sure you can afford to do that and you can minimize your risk through knowledge and hiring [good employees], and we’ve minimized the risk.”
AVI-SPL is focused on more global expansion. “We’re excited about this,” Zettel says. “We think it’s the first step of what could be others.”