Westbury National has certainly grown quite a bit in the 45 years since David [Benny] Bennett founded the company, but unlike many others in the AV integration world today, Bennett and fellow owners Rob Sandolowich and Frank Gerstein never once considered selling to a venture capital company.
Instead, Gerstein took over as owner, chairman and president at the end of November, although he says Bennett and Sandolowich will remain important advisers for him as the company enters its next era.
“Every day I wake up, I’m energized by the people here and their efforts to make our clients look better,” says Gerstein, 51, who joined Westbury’s ownership troika in February 2010 when he bought out partner Mike Tilka and became partner and managing director.
“I couldn’t be more excited about the next chapter for Westbury National.”
Gerstein has led corporate strategic planning, in addition to running operations, driving innovation in the company’s event and show services, and bringing new advancements to the audio and visual solutions division.
“I’ve been pretty much the operations guy for the last eight years,” says Gerstein.
Gerstein sees Westbury National adding more locations across North America to a portfolio that has included its headquarters in Toronto and a satellite office in Ottawa, with a total of 165 employees between the two locations.
Most of Westbury’s work has been in Canada for the first 45 years of its existence and Gerstein says it’s too soon to say how much that will change under his sole ownership.
The change, though, “provides great clarity at the ownership level” by giving “one vision for the company.” Still, Gerstein knows he’s not a one-man operation and will never pretend to be.
“It’s not just about Frank Gerstein,” he says. “I’m certainly relying on the senior management here to help us determine where we’ll take Westbury National in the next 45 years.”
Gerstein espouses the Three Musketeers’ approach of one for all and all for one, saying he doesn’t plan to be the lone voice in the board room on big decisions for the company. He expects to still lean on Bennett and Sandolowich, even though they’re no longer owners of the company.
“Our partners have been and continue to be valuable resources to me,” says Gerstein.
One thing Gerstein was adamant about as discussion about the ownership restructuring happened was that Westbury would not be sold to a private equity or venture capital firm.
Several private equity and venture capital firms have made overtures over the years, but Westbury National owners never considered them.
“It was extremely important that we didn’t put up a flag to say we’re up for sale,” says Gerstein.
“The welfare of the company is upon my shoulders now and we like the fact that our ownership resides here in this building.”