It was just a matter of time. Sure, there are acquisitions just about every week in today’s commercial integration market, but we all suspected that a headline-grabbing blockbuster purchase would happen sooner or later. Diversified’s purchase of Portland, Ore.-based CompView serves as one of the industry’s biggest acquisitions in 2017. The combined new company gains eight additional office locations and a workforce of about 1,300 people in eight divisions.
CompView, a founding member of the Global AV Partnership last year, “contributes unique capabilities in serving the corporate enterprise, higher education, and healthcare markets.” That’s how it was billed in the press release, adding that the “expanded footprint and combined capabilities will provide clients with an unprecedented level of support and an enhanced customer experience.”
Diversified, of course, has been on a roll acquiring smaller integration firms, most notably Atlanta’s Technical Innovation. That move helped Diversified leapfrog Whitlock to become the industry’s second-largest firm behind AVI-SPL. It also contributed to Diversified being named CI’s 2016 Integrator of the Year.
On the day of the announcement, CI editors got a chance to discuss the acquisition on the day of the announcement with Diversified chairman and CEO Fred D’Alessandro and CompView CEO Scott Birdsall.
Tom LeBlanc, CI: Can you compare and contrast the characteristics of CompView and Technical Innovation that made them appealing to acquire?
Fred D’Alessandro: They both have a similar culture to Diversified. We’ve kind of crafted criteria for what companies would fit and why they would fit, and culture is No. 1. I think that’s why we’ve been so successful with the TI integration.
LeBlanc: Are there some different things that CompView brings to the table than what Technical Innovation brings in terms of capabilities and market presence and offerings?
D’Alessandro: Yes. I would say all three of those. When you look at their footprint from offices — we picked up eight offices. [The new offices in California from CompView] fit well. Now we have eight new offices. We have a whole new set of clients that Diversified didn’t have in the past, and I think from a lot of their project management and processes we’re going to pick up some really good things to implement in the entire organization. Scott’s done a great job. It’s an exceptional organization.
Craig MacCormack, CI: Scott, what is your role going to be with the new company?
Birdsall: I’ll be running the Western region for the AVE business, audio visual environments. We [now] have offices all the way to Arkansas and Minnesota today, and there are opportunities for us to continue to grow with our clients there.
LeBlanc: CompView, I’m guessing, is about a $70M revenue integration firm. You’re adding revenue to the bottom line for Diversified about 15 months after also adding TI. Can you talk about that focus recently on expanding through acquisitions?
D’Alessandro: When we did the TI deal, one of the reasons was demand of the marketplace and the clients. The organizations that we’re working with have an appetite for a single company to be able to provide services globally, so when you look at Diversified before TI, we had kind of an East Coast presence only. Adding TI, we added the Southeast, and now, with CompView, we add the Northwest and fill in some of the middle sections of the company with Minnesota and Arkansas.
For that reason, we are fulfilling what our customers are asking us to do. When you look at the TI acquisition 15 months ago, you go, ‘Wow!” Actually CompView is going to be probably more of an $80 million company. You put that on top, the revenue’s great, but it’s really not the focus. It really is on the best service possible for our customers. That’s how we’re growing. Integrating the organizations quickly without … loss of jobs. This is not a play for efficiency. It is truly a growth strategy.
MacCormack: Scott, when I heard about this, the first thing I thought of with CompView is the Global AV Partnership. Where does that stand now?
Birdsall: First of all, the reason why we started the Global AV partnership was because we saw the requirement from our clients to drive and provide services across the U.S. and then across the globe for them as they were doing large-scale collaboration rollouts, and it’s been a core strategy of CompView’s for the last 10 years and something we continue to excel at. Last year, we started the Global AV Partnership with Digitavia and Unified AV, and we’ve been focused on starting to grow that.
Now, with this acquisition in many cases, the national footprint is covered. I think we will still use partnerships for the global portion of it, and we have partners in the United States that will still be partners. That’s part of our industry. I see us still really focusing on an expansion of the global presence and being able to find partners like Digitavia, other partners, and continue to grow our global business. That’s what our clients are asking for today, and it’s a passion I hear from Fred with their global strategy, and I see, as CompView’s part of Diversified, that that’ll be core to our strategy going forward.
MacCormack: It’s staying intact? It’s just Diversified’s going to be the partner rather than CompView?
Birdsall: Like anything, the partnership will grow. It’s going to have to adapt a little bit. This is the first day of this. We haven’t had all those discussions with the partners. We’ll be having those conversations over the next few weeks. I see it as a great tool to continue to provide fantastic services to our clients. I think the tool will grow and adapt.
AV-over-IP is gaining tremendous steam in the industry. Are you jumping on the bandwagon?
MacCormack: Fred, you mentioned this is two years in the making, which I guess is around the same time you were talking to Technical Innovation. Was there a hang up somewhere, or what led you to this point?
D’Alessandro: The original conversation that we had was really just exploratory. It was CompView two years ago really just testing the waters. I don’t believe that at that time, CompView was really interested in an acquisition or to sell the company, but again, like all owners, you would expect that they’re going to look at their options. There was a lot of chatter in our industry of consolidation. That’s really all that was. I think the real conversations happened after the Technical Innovation deal when I think that Paul [White, founder] and Scott really looked at their options as a business and which direction they wanted to go to, and as we continued to talk more.
MacCormack: Why was this the right move?
D’Alessandro: This is about being the best company, not the biggest. It’s never been about big. It’s been about best, and there’s a lot of policies, practices, process that CompView does that I think are fantastic. As we did with TI, we will look at, again, every aspect of it, and we will come up with a better way of doing business. That’s really what’s exciting to me.
Learn more about Diversified on their website.