In most cases, when a company wipes out its entire management team, it represents a last-ditch effort to keep the business afloat.
But when it happened at Advanced AV in 2008, with Mike Boettcher elevated from service department head to CEO as part of the wholesale shakeup, it represented not only a fresh start for the West Chester, Pa.-based integrator but the beginning of a global success story that continues growing to this day.
Boettcher’s own history with Advanced AV began in 2001, when he came to the company after working in services-based industries and saw AV moving in that direction.
“When I started, I was really concentrating on services and how it was changing at the time,” he recalls. “We tackled service agreements and the service group was growing, from three people up to 15.”
That service-based sales philosophy is one that came out of necessity as company leaders looked at the industry’s landscape and saw it changing. They knew business as usual wasn’t going to work anymore.
Advanced AV, LLC
Primary Location: West Chester, Pa
Principals: Chairman Joe Ewart; CEO Michael Boettcher; Directors Stephen Chang, Robert Menn and James Rich
Total Revenues (2014): $31.5 million
Commercial Revenues (2014): $28.7 million
Years in Business: 30
Commercial Installs Last Year: 390
Top 3 Vertical Markets: pharma/healthcare, financial, legal
Top 5 Brands: Extron, Cisco, Christie, Polycom, NEC
“We took a lot of business, but it wasn’t always good business,” says Boettcher. “There was too much focus on top-line revenue. It was a focus for years. We were a design-build company that found ourselves chasing a lot of bid work. We hired a lot of great people, but we lost our way a little. We were unable to manage the process to be efficient and profitable.”
John Greene, VP of sales and marketing, sums it up this way: “Success is a good thing, but it caught us unprepared.”
Although Boettcher hadn’t been groomed to become CEO, he took the challenge and ran with it. “I had confidence in who we had,” he says. “The only question was, ‘Could I manage the process?'” As Greene sees it, “We brought order to chaos.”
Shift Impacts Company Culture
The management shakeup “was a wakeup call for everybody,” says Boettcher, including himself. He had not been thinking of his involvement in terms of running the company before he was asked to do so. “We focused back on who we were.”
Boettcher explains that the sales teams bring a process-driven philosophy and a service-oriented model. That organizational structure includes an entire team to support clients, with the project manager acting as the point person. “We try to make a hard delineation between sales and installation,” he says.
Adds Greene: “We identified the clients that matched our model and found a focus. We’re never out of communication with a customer.”
That change in philosophical approach has brought with it an added emphasis on finding employees who feel the same way about how to conduct business.
“It’s not easy finding any employees, let alone those who fit your culture. There’s a high expectation within our organization,” says Boettcher. Greene notes that Advanced AV has a very low turnover rate, highlighted by Boettcher at almost 15 years and one of the company’s top sales agents at more than 20 years.
“Once we get them, we keep them,” says Greene. “That helps with culture.”
The culture has evolved as Advanced AV has grown, adding another level of complexity in the search for the right fit.
“When you go from 50-60 employees to 100, you’re no longer that lifestyle business you used to be,” Boettcher says. “You’re too small to be a big company, but you’re too big to be a small company.”