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Here Is the Business Model that Is Helping Advanced Expand and Flourish

Advanced’s splintered approach to the market serves the unique needs of customers and creates new opportunities across Canada and U.S.

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When we introduced you to David Weatherhead in June 2013, he was early in his co-presidency of Advanced, the Ontario-based AV integrator his father started in 1995.

At the time of CI‘s profile article on Advanced, Weatherhead talked about how the firm operated several small companies under the Advanced umbrella and each flourished at its own pace.

Niche Endeavors Mature

In the three-plus years since that company profile was published, Advanced has continued to grow and flourish and Weatherhead has stayed active, retaining his role with Advanced while also overseeing APG Displays, a video wall distributor and rental company, and Projector Lamp Experts, which sells lamps to integrators.

Neither company is specifically part of Advanced, since they offer three distinct sets of goods and services, but Weatherhead is the tie that binds the trio together.

PHOTOS: Inside Advanced’s Toronto Office

Advanced has moved into a 30,000-square-foot facility just outside Toronto featuring an open concept and an 8,000-square-foot Customer Experience Center featuring five demo rooms, each with its own AV technology experience from basic digital signage to high-end video walls and everything in between.

All told, the new digs incorporate about $1.5 million in AV equipment, says Weatherhead. APG Displays, formerly Advanced Products Group, responded to the growing need in the market for modular video wall technology.

APG marked Weatherhead’s first foray into the U.S., with an office in Orlando, Fla., that opened two years ago and has been followed by locations in San Francisco and Chicago. The company represents a success story that became too big to be kept under the Advanced umbrella.

Related: Advanced Places Projection in Back, Control Up Front

“Over time, a niche gets bigger and becomes its own company,” explains Weatherhead.

Project Lamp Experts was Weatherhead’s bid to respond to an evolving market that he sees as continuing to have “a lot of demand” but not as many options as many projectors move away from lamps to higher-tech solutions such as LCD and LED. PLE is mostly in the U.S. but has some Canadian inroads too, he says, noting the company has doubled its sales team since it started.

“There aren’t as many bulbs now, but we have thousands of them in stock,” he says.

Synergies Spur Solutions

How does Weatherhead balance these different companies and make sure each has all the resources it needs to continue growing and thriving? As is often the case in these situations, it’s all about the people, he says.

“We have a strong leadership team and a business sector leadership for each business,” says Weatherhead, noting there are “some synergies” among the three businesses.

“We’re still ‘one throat to choke’ in terms of our model and that’s something customers need.”                      —David Weatherhead, Advanced

APG, for example, has opened opportunities for Advanced to do integration work in the U.S., he says. Still, the three companies are “all addressing unique customer bases” and Weatherhead wouldn’t want it any other way.

“We’re still ‘one throat to choke’ in terms of our model and that’s something customers need,” he says. “We know what we do really well, and that’s on the high-end side, so that’s our focus. It’s been our focus and it’s likely to remain our focus.”

Weatherhead sees Advanced’s K-12 unit, Advanced Education, as perhaps poised to be the next division to fly the coop and launch its own separate company, although he’s not ready to put a timeline on it.

“That market is very much in flux right now,” he says. “They’re moving away from interactive whiteboards to projectors and a flat panel.”

Weatherhead certainly doesn’t shy away from risk, but he doesn’t see the Advanced model as risky because it’s part of a strategic plan.

“The key is to make sure every area of your company is growing,” he says. “We saw these opportunities and we decided to pursue them. It was definitely part of the plan to find a unique way to address the market.”

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