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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.

“We don’t take risks on project execution. We don’t hire random subcontractors. Our business is about doing great projects for great clients,” he says. “It’s important to have real experts on staff and to develop in-house expertise. We’re always amazed how little most AV integrators know about audio, acoustic echo cancellation, proper rigging and mounting, real rack wiring and system programming,” says McGinnis.

Expanding Its Reach

Although the bulk of Westbury’s business has come in southern Ontario, the company has expanded more into Ottawa lately and “we follow clients or other relationships,” says McGinnis.

That means you’ll see the Westbury touch on the Richmond Coliseum in Virginia; the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, Ill.; the home ballpark of the Quad Cities River Bandits; the Overture Center in Madison, Wis.; Gulf-stream Park race track in Florida; as well as projects in London, Croatia, Qatar and Hong Kong, among many others.

Westbury installed an intricate system of lights on the CN Tower and the Peace Bridge in Buffalo and installed a sound system at the Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. About 95 percent of Westbury’s work comes in Canada, although the company does work for most U.S.-based NHL teams. And for those U.S. customers Westbury truly is the “go-to” integration firm in that they go to Westbury.

“We have not knocked on a door in the U.S. and have no ambition to rule the world,” says McGinnis. “We have the ambition to make our customers happy. Nobody does work like us. Solving these kinds of technical issues is what our people live for.

“We don’t roll a truck to start an installation until we’ve figured out everything that’s going to happen. About 50 percent of the cost of every project comes from engineering, project management and programming. Our best customers are professionals. They run arenas, they run casinos, they run performing arts centers.”

In 2011, Westbury experienced what McGinnis calls “a hockey stick year” in its revenue, scooping up as many government and higher ed projects as it could — and it was its biggest mistake yet.

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The U.S. economic recession actually increased Westbury’s sales dramatically, as the Canadian government invested significant “stimulus funding” into numerous large new university and college buildings. “We took on some great projects and killed ourselves,” says McGinnis. “Our people worked too long and too hard and our quality suffered. It was a bad experience for everyone.”

In 2012, Westbury’s revenues dipped below 2010 levels as the company struggled to finish the work it took on in 2011. “We had no appetite for new work,” says McGinnis. “We lost some employees and some capabilities. It was way too much.”

“We have not knocked on a door in the U.S. and have no ambition to rule the world. We have the ambition to make our customers happy. Nobody does work like us.”—Brock McGinnis

In 2013, Westbury “got back to a nice level and we’ve been relatively flat since” as they work on what McGinnis calls “the next phase” of the business. That includes “getting our process nailed,” adding more space and creating a middle management layer that’s led to McGinnis himself hiring an assistant, David Menzel.

Foord, McGinnis and Wallace “still look at every quote before it leaves the building and that’s how we maintain consistency,” says McGinnis. The company recently hired an operations manager, Patrick Svensson, a nod to its leaders’ business mortality, although none of the three is planning an imminent departure.

“Part of our maturation is creating a new generation of people,” says McGinnis. As the company has expanded, the mandate from Wallace to “hire for attitude and train for skills” has become even more important.

“We’re having a real challenge growing our team of key employees [technical salespeople, system designers, project managers and field engineers] fast enough to keep up with market demand,” says McGinnis. “We’ve reorganized to provide better training and skills development through mentoring and job shadowing because we’re finding the industry talent pool far too shallow.”

“Too few of the experienced applicants share our work ethic or commitment to quality and customer service, so we’re ‘growing’ people who already have the right attitudes and personalities. Our sales growth is 100 percent dependent on the growth of our team, so we have to be patient and find the right person for us,” he says.