PTG: A Values-Driven Integrator

CI offers a glimpse into the integrator’s transparent, open and honest company culture, which has helped it transcend macroeconomic challenges.

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PTG: A Values-Driven Integrator

The PTG Team feels and appreciated the company's ethos of caring for its employees. There's no better evidence of that than PTG recently having been recognized as on the "Best and Brightest Companies Work For."

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For many AV integration firms, business ground to a halt at the start of COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Indeed, for Promotion Technology Group (PTG), the Wixom, Mich.-headquartered integration firm that creates, installs and services commercial audio, video and interactive experiences for some of the world’s most prestigious restaurant and retail brands, projects were at a standstill. After all, many of PTG’s customers had temporarily closed amid pandemic restrictions and stay-at-home orders. In fact, one of PTG’s largest enterprise customers went out of business completely, shaving $1 million off the integrator’s bottom line. 

Naturally, employees began to worry. Bill Fons, president of PTG, recalls staff members coming up to him and asking, “Are we going out of business?” One staffer said, “My husband just lost his job. Am I going to lose mine?” 

Fons would reply with his characteristic candor and honesty. “You’re not going to lose your job today,” Fons would say. He would also level with team members, saying, “I really don’t know. This is the first time I’ve ever gone through this. I can tell you the company is financially stable — we don’t have any debt, and we have everything paid for. We’ve got a long runway until things would get dicey.” He would close with words of honest, albeit tempered, reassurance, saying, “I can promise you one thing: We’re not going out of business this week.” 

Knowing that the team wanted regular updates on the company’s stability and welfare, Fons made a commitment. “I’ll tell you what,” he said at the time. “I’ll jump on a video call on Monday and give you an update and tell you how we’re doing.” From that moment forward, PTG leadership resolved to check in with staff once a week, giving them the good, the bad, the ugly and, most importantly, the honest truth. 

Consistent Employee Engagement 

PTG Company Profile Quick Facts In the first half of the weekly Monday morning meetings, Fons would offer a business update to the staff. Then, the second half of the meeting featured an interview with somebody interesting — indeed, sometimes, it wasn’t even someone who had anything to do with AV at all. “We got all kinds of takeaways,” Fons recalls. “It was a fun way to start the work week.” 

Since, at the start of the pandemic, there wasn’t much work for PTG to do, company leadership decided to come up with programs and contests to keep employees engaged. Graphic artists on the team came up with custom Zoom backgrounds, which are now printed on poster boards in the 70,000-square-foot headquarters building. Employees dressed up for themed Zoom meetings. PTG hosted a “Shark Tank”-like contest in which various departments came up with new products that the company could later use, such as sanitizing kiosks and medical carts. The company invited customers to vote for their favorite product. Although PTG didn’t sell very many of the products, the initiative kept them busy, engaged and, most importantly, together. 

Over time, the weekly company meetings turned into an open invitation. “We had one of the producers of the Oscars come on, talking about what it was like to produce the show,” Fons recalls. “We had the CEO of [media company] Nitro Circus, which does stunt shows, talking about how long it takes to prepare for stunts.” In fact, he adds, PTG even had a Pixar animator come on, talking about how they produced a movie, with everybody working from their living rooms. With a smile, Fons also recalls a musician coming to the meeting and creating an on-the spot jingle. This later would be used as the opening theme for “The Morning Toast” podcast! 

Bill Fons, PTG president on the set of the Morning Toast Podcast

During the pandemic, Bill Fons (above), PTG president, hosted a weekly company meeting for employees, often bringing in special guest. This evolved into the “The Morning Toast” podcast.

Post-pandemic, as business came back, PTG went back to its normal cadence and “The Morning Toast” podcast took a backseat. However, employees missed it so much that they demanded Fons keep it going. Since the pandemic, he’s refined the effort a lot, transitioning it to a monthly series. Nevertheless, it’s still going strong, attracting a substantial audience both inside and outside PTG. “‘The Morning Toast’ podcast was certainly a gem that came out of a very difficult situation for our company,” Fons reflects. “And it fell right in line with what our culture is all about.” 

PTG’s Award-Winning Culture 

PTG prioritizes keeping its staff members connected and working together as a team. In fact, if you ask Fons, he’ll tell you this is part of who PTG is. Thus, the company prefers employees to come into the office, rather than working remotely. After the pandemic, leadership invited employees to bring their pets into work with them, adding another note of fun to the workday experience. “On any given day, there could be seven or eight pups running around at any moment,” Fons says happily. 

Related: Podcast: Industry Economist Dr. Kuehl on Recession Threat

Clearly, the PTG team appreciates the company’s ethos of caring for its employees. There’s no better evidence than the company recently having been recognized as one of the “Best and Brightest Companies to Work For.” Quoting words that PTG’s founder, Lynn Matson, weaved into the company’s DNA, Fons says, “If you care for your employees, employees will take care of the customers, and the customers will take care of the business.” He elaborates, saying, “It’s not just a triangle. You really have to do it in that order.” As a manager and leader, Fons’ first priority is to dig in and understand the changing dynamics and changing needs of his staff. “The way those needs look today is very different than [how they looked] 20 years ago,” he acknowledges. “And you’ve got to be in touch with that.” 

PTG's Deb and Bill Fons holding Best and Brightest AwardDeb Zupancic, executive VP, speaks proudly of how her colleagues and she have worked to craft PTG’s company culture. “[It has been a] conscious effort for us to be able to build the culture that we want it to be,” she reflects. “It really stems from the top down from the leadership team here. I don’t think you will find a humbler servant leadership team out there.” 

Part of being a good leader is not only understanding how best to serve your team but also being willing to let that team judge your efforts. “[As an executive leader], you sometimes you sit behind the desk and hope you’re getting it right,” Zupancic says candidly. “But [with the award recognition], our staff said to us, ‘You did get it right.’ [We] are getting it right, and that, to me, meant more than anything.” 

A Best and Brightest Award isn’t just a trophy or plaque, though; more importantly, these recognitions can be magnets to attract talent, thus setting companies like PTG on a course for continued success. As Zupancic observes, “[These awards] can be used as recruiting tools. It has created a buzz throughout the industry.” Reflecting on a longstanding challenge for integration businesses, she adds, “There was a moment when everyone was having trouble getting talent into the building. We’re bringing in top talent now. People want to be part of what we have going on here.” 

A good example of PTG’s ability to secure top talent is Katelyn Kazanowski, who was honored as one of Commercial Integrator’s 40 Under 40 last year, and who serves as director of sales. She says, “At the end of the day, we all have a lot of fun together. We laugh a lot — we never take ourselves too seriously.” Kazanowski thinks that energy shines through to PTG’s clients, as well as stakeholders up and down the line. “It makes doing business much easier,” she declares. “If you’re having fun while you’re doing it, it doesn’t really feel like work.” Positing the analogy of flies being attracted to light, she says talent is drawn to the aura of PTG, where team members truly seem to like what they’re doing — and whom they’re working with. 

Implementing Key Principles 

The focus for PTG this year revolves around three key principles: Innovation, Customer experience and Efficiency (ICE). “We need to be more innovative with our customers,” Fons states plainly, adding that PTG has oriented itself around a focus on the customer experience that it delivers. What’s more, the company has invested in a new ERP platform, Solutions360, to help maximize business efficiency. As just one example of this, the company now has one login for the whole business, as opposed to having 12 different logins. 

Words of Wisdom Lynn MatsonThis constant drive for self-betterment stems not only from Fons’ and the leadership team’s desire for excellence but also from a recognition that macroeconomic challenges will continue. Fons says that supply-chain difficulties are far from over, and they have compelled PTG to be strategic. “The resilience of our industry on the integration side could not be more apparent,” he enthuses. “Companies like us have found a way to direct [clients] to the ‘B product’ or the ‘C product’ — not what I’ll call our habit brands.” 

In addition, inflation remains a challenge, not least because it’s something that’s entirely outside a business’ control. This has caused many integrators to strictly time-limit proposals or to try to pull them back in response to price increases. PTG is in an advantageous position, however, in that it’s debt free and financially stable. Thus, the company can reliably weather these storms. “We know how fortunate we are not to have to worry,” Fons acknowledges. 

Continuing the thought, Fons explains, “There’s almost this whole other category of nuisance that you must deal with when you’re having cashflow problems and when you’re having issues regarding your finances. And that is just completely off the table [for PTG].” Indeed, the company stands apart from many with respect to how it conducts its finances. “It could be a whole lot worse for us, and a lot more difficult, if we had to worry about lines of credit and things like that,” he reflects. “We haven’t used [our line of credit] in the last three years.” 

A Cottage Industry 

Industry veteran Fons compares commercial AV’s origins to a “cottage industry.” He explains, “There are a lot of people who would like to keep [the AV industry] little. I love the cozy feel of it.” But Fons makes clear that he’s not among those who don’t want commercial AV to “grow up” and mature. “I believe that with a mature industry comes better alignment with education programs,” he says, noting that education offerings for audiovisual integrators aren’t as robust as they need to be. Fons also echoes a common lament that, right now, there aren’t enough education institutions from which students can graduate with a degree of some kind in AV. Although a few institutions offer pathways to cultivate audiovisual experts, they’re not numerous and many people don’t know they exist. “[As an industry], we have a way to go,” Fons says candidly. 

There’s no better time than now to make those adjustments because, as Fons explains, he foresees ample opportunity for integration businesses as enterprises continue to transform their footprint. “I’ve seen it happen in other industries,” Fons describes. “Where a company like Microsoft, for example, takes an interest in the boardroom. They double their footprint, and, in a 30-day timeframe, [they’re deploying] many Teams rooms.” He continues, “I believe we’re on the verge of something happening in our industry that we have never seen. Integration companies that have a really strong foothold should be in good shape.” 

PTG is “all in” for a new era, well positioned to pivot into and profit from whatever tomorrow’s commercial AV industry looks like. It’s about not only a fantastic company culture that’s a magnet for talent but also a leadership team that truly values its staffers and seeks to give them every advantage. In so doing, PTG’s clients reap the rewards of working with a motivated, inspired company. 

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