When David Gormley started Sudbury, Mass.-based Adtech Systems in 1988, somewhere in the back of his mind, he was already thinking about what would happen to the company when he was ready to walk away from the daily grind.
What he’d hoped at some point in the past quarter-century-plus was that he’d step away from the daily operation of the company and hand the baton to one or both of his children. He learned, though, that neither one had any interest in going into the AV integration space, so Gormley had to form a Plan B.
“If you’re not going to pass the company on to your children, you have to look at what else you can do,” he says. “I wanted to find the right thing where I don’t have to leave right away but don’t want to end up working for a big equity company with short-term goals I’m probably never going to meet.”
Gormley, who shifted from CEO to senior vice president of business development in March, explored the idea of selling Adtech to an IT firm, acknowledging the continued emergence of the AV/IT marriage, but he quickly dismissed that idea, for fear the company he’d been building would become unrecognizable.
“Big IT companies are never going to get AV,” he says. “They create an AV division of their company and end up screwing that up at some point.”
With that idea squashed, Gormley explored the idea of selling Adtech to another AV integrator, but realized most of his competitors “are terrified to buy another AV company. They would rather just open another office than try to merge with someone else. When they do buy another company, they typically think they need to come in and change everything.”
Gormley had heard and seen all the tales of woe related to selling companies to private equity firms, many of whom are looking at the companies they buy as nothing more than an asset to flip in a few years if not sooner. Gormley’s newborn relationship with new Adtech CEO Dustin Campbell and senior VP Philip Muscatello, both industry newcomers who are still learning on the fly about AV integration, “couldn’t be further from that,” he says.
Campbell and Muscatello acquired the majority share of Adtech in March after almost a year-long process that included key Adtech employees interviewing the new ownership team as the sides got to know how they’d fit together if the partnership went forward.
Gormley knows many will see the change in leadership and the handoff to industry outsiders as a subtle message Adtech “will be flipped in a few years,” but Gormley stresses “that couldn’t be further from the truth.” Campbell and Muscatello are quick to squash that notion too, saying they aren’t planning to let Gormley, 52, leave Adtech “for the next 20 years.”
“New ownership with skin in the game is a winning combination,” Gormely says. “We found in them the same desire, the same goals and the same appreciation for the culture I’ve built.”
Gormley will play a key role in helping the perennial CI Industry Leader grow from its reported $45 million in revenue this year to double that in the next three to five years, says Campbell.
“David Gormley isn’t going anywhere,” he says.
Still, Gormley knows now is the right time for him to hand over the company to someone else who’s more invested in the steps it needs to continue growing. The company has come a long way since it made commercials like this one advertising its expertise in projector-based installations in 1997.
“When you go from $25 million to $50 million (in revenue), you start to see where the cracks are and feel the pressure,” says Gormley. “I’m a sales-based guy. These guys have the skills I lack in terms of structure and management.
“I knew I could stand in front of my employees and tell them this was going to be a great thing for everybody. We’re becoming more of a team every day,” he says.