Almo Professional A/V’s E4 AV Tour has become a fixture in the industry. It’s easy to forget that a little over five years ago there was no such thing as Almo Pro A/V, let alone its innovative approach to regional training product showcasing events.
The commercial integration industry has changed a lot since Sam Taylor, then the head of crumbling distributor Electrograph, pitched the idea of Almo Pro A/V to Gene Chaiken and Warren Chaiken of Almo Corporation. The distributor launched as “a calculated risk,” according to Warren Chaiken, in July 2009 during a recession with zero customers, zero vendors and zero inventory.
At its E4 Philadelphia event and sales meeting Almo took time to recognize its five year anniversary and that it has grown to 35 vendors, about 35,00 dealers and $200 million in revenue. CI asked some key players to recount the early days of the marriage and milestones after five years of Almo Pro A/V.
In May 2009, well-established distributor Electrograph Systems shut down and began to liquidate all its inventory and assets. “I am deeply saddened by the result of this situation,” said president Sam Taylor, who had been with the distributor for 22 years.
Sam Taylor, executive VP, Almo Pro A/V: Five years ago was the middle of the recession. Business was tough for the integrators. It was tough for the distributors. It was tough for the manufacturers. There were a lot of people who were in financial trouble and one that didn’t make it out was Electrograph.
[When it went under] there were a lot of people fighting for Electrograph’s market share. That’s when I put 22 people together and went to Almo [and arranged an alliance] with nothing more really than a business plan and 22 people to come along and make a go of it.
Electrograph had about 250 employees at its peak, but went through a few of rounds of layoffs. When they went under I was able to take the top sales people, the people who had been there the longest and pretty much the top marketing people and we were able to take the sales and marketing end of Electrograph and serve it into Almo which had a very well run company and good corporate culture.
It was a good fit. They had very good logistics and very good finance. They were the back end. We were able to plug in the sales folks. When we started we had no customers, no vendors and no inventory.
Warren Chaiken, president and CEO, Almo Corporation: He said, “I’d like to talk to you about the opportunity. I’ll bring on 22 people and see if we can recreate this the right way.” It was over two or maybe three meetings and [we] hashed out everything and said, “This is what we need to do.”
One of the things we had to do was go to our bank. So we went to our bank and said, “Here’s the deal. We’re going to hire 22 people. We’re not going to have any customers, any vendors, or anything like that. And we’re going to lose X amount of dollars for the first year. You OK with that?” The bank went, “Yeah.” The reason is because they trust us. They knew who we were. And on the flip side just meeting Sam and a couple of other people we knew that it was the same culture that my dad has instilled in me since I’ve been at Almo, since I was a little kid, so we knew it was going to work.
Watch Almo’s Warren Chaiken recount the “calculated risk” involved with launching Almo Pro A/V five years ago: