Chris Miller and Tom Roberts haven’t quite been part of PSNI since the AV integrator network launched in 1986, but after more than 29 years in the group—including 13 years as co-executive directors—there’s no one better to talk about the growth of Professional Systems Network International.
Miller and Roberts joined PSNI in 1987 as co-owners of Fairview-AFX, a company they sold in 2000 to MCSI, in part based on advice they took from fellow PSNI members and lessons they’d learned from others in the group and at PSNI events.
“Had we not had those mentors and those relationships, we never would have been in the position we were in at that time,” says Miller.
PSNI was started by John Fuchs to be a national service network in the model of regional Bell Telephone affiliates.
“When PSNI started, it was driven by the industry—dealers and sold products with protected territories and not many competitors,” says Miller. “Now our clients dictate where we go and where manufacturers go.”
Miller and Roberts were elevated to co-executive directors at a tumultuous time for PSNI, when the group lost four of its members in sales to MCSI. Miller describes the decision to take on the leadership role as “paying forward to the industry what they did for us.”
And, as many things have changed in three decades of PSNI, “one thing that hasn’t changed is we’re still stockholder-owned and stakeholder-focused,” says Miller. Roberts points to “an incredible amount of growth” in its affiliate count and vendor partners since PSNI launched 30 years ago.
“We’ve focused on the challenge of understanding how important building relationships is,” says Roberts. “We’re always looking at where we’ll be in three to five years. I enjoy the success we’ve been able to have and it comes from a focus on openness and teamwork. We’re not a commerce engine; we’re about building relationships with our partners. We’ve been able to leverage a level of trust, not only for one company but for the entire group.”
PSNI has continued to thrive in part because its 32 affiliates (more than 3,000 employees and 100 offices) include six past presidents of InfoComm International and two recent NSCA presidents. Affiliates must reapply annually to be part of PSNI, ensuring the group features some of the best and most innovative thinkers in the industry.
“This isn’t something you can come in and pay for,” says Miller, noting the affiliates are chosen by stockholders and have some level of geographical exclusivity in most cases.