AVI-SPL: How They Remain on Top of the AV Integration Market

In 2011, AVI-SPL was the largest AV integration firm and CI’s first AV Integrator of the Year. CEO John Zettel explains how they’ve nearly doubled in size.

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Know this before you ask CEO John Zettel about AVI-SPL being the largest company in the AV integration industry, or about its annual revenue fast-approaching the $1 billion milestone. He’ll politely redirect your question before offering an in-depth answer about how important customer support is to any AV integrator.

Believe me. I’ve asked.

I’ll continue to ask, because the sustained size and growth of AVI-SPL is fascinating to me — and, I think, to the AV integration industry.

it’s not just that AVI-SPL is poised to reach $1 billion; it’s also that the AV integrator firm is approaching double the revenue it earned in 2011 when Commercial Integrator featured it as our first AV Integrator of the Year.

In the seven years since CI launched in 2011, the industry has watched AVI-SPL evolve its business.

AV integration, AVI-SPL, AV integrator

There have been several acquisitions — most notably Canadian firm Sharp’s Audio Visual and content, video service provider VideoLink and West coast stronghold Anderson AV. And AVI-SPL itself was acquired in 2016 by global private equity firm H.I.G. Capital.

Through it all — from when it was named AV Integrator of the Year in 2011 until now — AVI-SPL has been the largest, and in many ways the leading, company in the AV integration market. That, however, is too succinct of a description, according to Zettel.

He’ll tell you that his Tampa, Fla.-based firm has worked tirelessly to understand its customer’s evolving needs and to continually advance its solutions.

That’s why Zettel likes to redirect those questions about the size of AVI-SPL and instead talk about its focus on customers. That, in a nutshell, is why he says AVI-SPL remains entrenched at the top of the AV integration market.

Zettel talks about that — and a lot more — in a wide-ranging interview about the state of AVI-SPL.

Commercial Integrator: It was seven years ago that CI named AVI-SPL “Integrator of the Year.” The market has changed and evolved and you guys have, too. How has AVI-SPL managed to stay at the top of the industry?

Zettel: We’ve both come a long way since then. Over those last seven years, our guiding principle is definitely our customers and what they are looking for in the collaboration space,and that has changed a lot.

Not only has video conferencing become more important as connected solutions become more important, but then the consistency of delivery and the serviceability of that —of those systems —have become critically important.

So AVI-SPL has changed a great deal in terms of how we can best deliver on those principles, again, just really focused on what the customer expectations and needs are.

89 percent of our business for the last five years has come from recurring customers and that speaks to our ability to meet our customer expectations — John Zettel

CI: One way the industry has changed in the past seven years is there’s a much wider gap between the largest firms and the midsize firms.

As one of those high-revenue integration firms with probably more resources than a lot of its competitors, what advantages does that give to AVI-SPL?

Zettel: When you look at the enterprise customer, there is a tremendous value for having a consistent delivery across their entire platform and in having geographic presence, having the largest certified team of resources to design and integrate those solutions are critically important to that success.

Then, on day two, it’s serviceability and helping them manage and drive the utilization of their systems.

The fact that we have four help desks that operate on a 24/7 basis to make sure that those systems are up and running, that consistency plays into that and our ability to service those solutions quickly and get the customer back running if there are any issues or even driving optimization through our managed services.

That’s where the scale really, really helps us going forward.

And those same principles can be applied to all of our customers, not just the enterprise customers who definitely want that quick response when there’s an issue with their system, want to optimize the use of their system, they can leverage those same resources as well.

CI: Is there a flip-side to that? If I was a smaller or mid-sized integration firm, I’d hang my hat on more person-to-person service and I would paint a picture of the larger AV integrator firm not being able to provide that level of personal service.

Zettel: Our company culture is one that consistently looks at exceeding our customers’ expectations and it always has been. One of my favorite stats is that 89 percent of our business for the last five years has come from recurring customers, and that speaks to our ability to meet our customer expectations.

We also have customer satisfaction models in place to make sure that we stay on top of it.

What I would say directly to the question of the big battleship versus maybe smaller companies is that AVI-SPL has over 45 offices around the world and they take a local market presence to each of those offices.

So we are very nimble in the markets in which we serve, yet we have the scale to serve at a broader base as well. So we actually combine the best of both worlds when we’re dealing with our customers.