Forget One-Size-Fits-All: Westbury National Continues to Succeed with Custom Solutions

Westbury National isn’t your run-of-the-mill integration firm. It charges more for projects than many competitors, but steady growth and continued success have proved the approach works.

What started as a sound company for local rock-and-roll shows out of the back of a van at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, by founder David Bennett has become the go-to company for sophisticated work done right, even if it means it’ll cost its customers a little bit more.

In the 45 years since Bennett launched his fledgling business, not too much has changed about the approach Westbury National takes, although it’s obviously on a much grander scale and in many more markets today.

“Our strength has always been our technical capability and our technical expertise,” says Brock McGinnis, sales manager at Westbury since 1998 and part of a three-person leadership team that includes director of design and engineering Andrew Foord and systems installation manager Guy Wallace.

Foord focuses on technical aspects of projects, while Wallace emphasizes the logistical aspects. “I don’t know if we do it differently,” says Wallace. “It’s what we’ve developed and it’s what works for us. It helps to limit our exposure and limit our clients’ exposure.

A lot of our proposals are very collaborative. We think we complement Brock and the sales force, bringing different offerings to the table. “I look at things from a risk perspective, while Andy looks at them from a technical and fabrication perspective,” he says.

Wallace leads a team that includes five designers and five full-time project managers as well as programmers and field engineers. “One of the things that helps us is the breadth and depth of our experience,” he says. “We’re in many verticals and we can bring experience to each of those.”

WestburyNational Show Systems 
westbury.com
Primary Location: Toronto, Ontario
Additional Location and Primary Purpose: Ottawa, Ontario (government sales and installations)
Principals: David (Benny) Bennett – president and principal; founder of Westbury Sound in 1971
Rob Sandolowich – vice president and principal; founder of National Show Systems, which merged with Westbury Sound in 1987; leads Event and Show Services Division
Frank Gerstein –managing director and principal; joined the company in 2011, buying out a retiring shareholder
Years in Business: 45
Employees: 160
Number of Commercial Installs Last Year: 150+
Top 3 Markets: Corporate, Entertainment (including sports and gaming), Higher Education
Top 5 Brands: Christie Digital, Crestron, Harman, LG, Extron

Each of the men brings his own strengths and perspectives to the table and that partnership has made Westbury among the most successful AV integration firms in Canada — and in the entire industry, with an average annual growth rate of 20 percent from 1998 and 2011.

“Andy developed and maintained the technical standards we’ve followed,” says McGinnis. “We’ve never been about marketing and sales. We’ve always been about whatever it takes to help our customers.”

All three of Westbury’s leaders have whiteboards in their offices, which serve as the focal point when Foord, McGinnis and Wallace have disagreements about whether to go for a particular project.

“When a salesperson comes up with a challenge, we go straight to the whiteboard,” says Foord. “We look at the opportunity and decide if it’s something for us to use our expertise or just a cattle call.”

Big Problem? No Problem!

Westbury National is nothing if not bold in its approach and technical ambitions. “The bigger the problem, the more our people are interested,” says McGinnis. “That’s what turns our crank.”

Westbury found itself a truly major league integrator after its work on what was then known as SkyDome, the home of the Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Argonauts now known as Rogers Centre. Harmonix called on Westbury to create and install a first-generation digital audio and life safety system for the massive facility.

Westbury does work at Rogers Centre to this day, including video board installation and other enhancements. “The experience gained there catapulted us into the big leagues,” says McGinnis. “All of a sudden, we could point to that as a job we did and did well and that helped us to get other business. With that story, we were able to pursue anything that happened.”

Rogers Centre is far from the only large facility with Westbury as its AV and lighting team. The company has branched out into casinos and gaming facilities while also working extensively in the corporate and higher ed markets too.

“We’re in the big audio business and the big lighting business,” says McGinnis. “[Bennett] has always had the attitude that, whatever it takes, the band goes on at 9:30.” That means Westbury is known for getting the job done by whatever deadline the client sets, no matter what it takes to get there.