Global Expansion Strategies: An Integrators’ Guide to World Domination

Integrators are finding unique opportunities by following their customers beyond North America and around the world. There are challenges, but the allure is captivating.

GPA members pay annual dues and are required to attend three global meetings each year — at ISE, InfoComm’s June show and in one member country. Members also commit money to global projects.

“We absolutely believe our model is the right one,” says Phillips. “We don’t open offices in different spots around the world.”

The GPA has presence in most major business centers around the world, including new additions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, says Tarry, but continues member expansion efforts in numerous regions, including active recruitment efforts in Spain. Those efforts, he says, are driven by customer opportunity, strategic planning and the GPA’s identification of what it calls “market-leading integration” companies in a region.

“The amount of global business is on a dramatic increase,” says Phillips.

Opportunities Aided by Aligning Cultures

Verrex is another company that somewhat accidentally went global, after leveraging partners from around the world, says president, CEO and chairman Tom Berry Jr.

“When you’re a little guy like us, you get boxed out of a lot of opportunities,” he says. “We had to go out and find those partners ourselves. We found a whole bunch of ‘Verrexes’ around the world.” Verrex developed what it calls an alliance network of 100 contractors, each of whom has to sign a 10-page checklist that includes information about revenue, certifications, insurance and other issues.

Verrex’s Bill Chamberlin on challenges to going global:

“Their desire to fill that out tells us a lot,” says Berry. Verrex also conducts video conferencing interviews to meet the team before adding them to the alliance network. Most of the relationships with alliance members start at the ownership level.

Berry sees South America, Africa and the Middle East as hot markets and says Verrex is working to get into Russia and India after largely saturating Asia and Europe.

Advanced AV offered its first global service about six years ago, following one of its largest clients to Australia, the U.K. and Europe. Director of service operation Paul Schneider has overseen the growth of the offering since its inception.

“From a sales perspective, being able to say you’re a global company is exciting,” he says. “From a service perspective, it’s a little scarier. It’s in our DNA to help our clients and that’s what this is about too.”

Advanced AV has gone into a number of regions, including Switzerland, Latin America, Italy, Greece and Asia Pacific as part of its customers’ expansions around the world, says Schneider.

“We used to look at how many clients we could get,” he says. “Now we talk more about how many opportunities there are for us.” About 95 percent of Advanced AV’s international work is done by its trusted partners, with the other 5 percent done by Advanced AV staff themselves.

“Our U.S. clients have always brought us into other markets. We’ve never thought about actively going after it. But, instead of being afraid of it, we embrace it. We’re always up for a challenge,” says Schneider. Partners are vetted through Schneider and the management team and are initially given “test cases” to see how they can handle smaller jobs before continuing to grow.

“Once you do that, everything starts to naturally occur,” says Schneider. “A lot of it comes down to communication and understanding the cultures. You can’t assume [people in other countries] understand everything you want. You have to be cognizant of the differences.”