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CCS California Founder Cuts Ties with CCS Presentation Systems

After 20 years, David Riberi leaves CCS Presentation Systems to ‘reintroduce’ LightWerks, with plans to expand across Pacific Northwest. CCS is left for now with no California partner.

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One of the largest integrators suddenly finds itself without representation in one of the country’s largest states.

David Riberi, former head of CCS California, has left the CCS Presentation Systems family with eyes on expanding his footprint under the name LightWerks Communication Systems.

Riberi, co-owner of LightWerks, left CCS effective Jan. 1.

It wasn’t abrupt. The move followed about six months of talks with CCS CEO John Godbout and the company’s other partners, many of whom hoped Riberi and his co-founder and wife Gina would reconsider the decision to leave the CCS family after 20 years.

“We’re seeing national companies acquire some regional players,” says Riberi. “We think that leads to opportunities for local companies. At our size, we think we’re doing work that’s unique. We see an opportunity with the changes in the economy.”

Godbout was “saddened” by Riberi’s decision to leave the CCS family, noting some of the partners were “a bit surprised” by the move.

“Dave made a decision he wanted to go in a different direction,” says Godbout. “We thought he’d make a different decision than he made.”

Return to Its Roots

LightWerks is the original name of the company that joined CCS as its California partner about two decades ago. It has five offices with about 50 full-time employees and generates about $20 million in revenue.

In 2016, Riberi had clients ask him to do work that took the company into territories covered by other CCS partners, a violation of the licensing agreement each partner signs.

Each of the partners under the CCS umbrella is tied to the parent company through a licensing agreement, with Godbout emphasizing this is not a franchise setup. Each partner also owns his or her own business and can build and create his or her own equity through the relationship.

LightWerks, which was the name of Riberi’s firm before it joined the CCS family, generates about $20 million in annual revenue.

If a company with a headquarters outside a partner’s territory contacts a CCS partner in an area that’s covered by another partner, that work is traditionally referred to the partner in that area, says Godbout. It’s a violation of the licensing agreement if a partner hires someone to compete with another CCS branch, he says.

Riberi decided he no longer wanted to turn down the work that took him into Portland, Ore.; Boise, Idaho, and other major Pacific Northwest territories, thus the decision to leave CCS to kick off 2017. LightWerks could expand into Seattle and Montana some time in 2017, he says.

“We’re doing some stuff in California that we can take to other markets,” says Riberi, saying the company’s main focus will be on what he describes as “elite private schools,” such as the Buckley School in Los Angeles, where the company installed AV in the theaters as well as its math and science buildings, among other areas.

LightWerks is using what Riberi calls “creative” approaches to business, with shared work spaces and partners on its warehouse, along with cloud-based, off-premises network and conferencing. His decision to leave CCS wasn’t easy, he says.

“It’s been a magnificent partnership,” says Riberi. “We had some frustrations about not being able to expand into some markets where our clients are going, but we were somewhat limited. We wanted to see where we could take the business in the next five to seven years. We can do anything that makes sense. There really are no restrictions.”

Riberi describes the departure as “like a 20-year-old kid who’s living at home, then the time seems right to do things on your own. There are no hard feelings. Mechanically, it’s not that big of a change. Right now, we’re reintroducing ourselves but there are a lot of relationships that are going to carry over.”

Who Fills CCS’ California Opening?

Godbout has been talking to two business owners about filling the vacancy in California, one of which is an established business, a rarity in the CCS model.

Riberi’s decision represents the first departure of a CCS partner in about eight years, when the partner there sold his company.

“Business happens,” says Godbout. Since word of Riberi’s move started to get out, Godbout heard from one of the CCS California clients, asking whether the main office in Scottsdale, Ariz., now handled their work. Godbout referred that client to Riberi, he says, noting he’s not trying to hurt his former partner, although certainly the new CCS California partner will compete aggressively with LightWerks.

Riberi decided he no longer wanted to turn down the work that took him into Portland, Ore.; Boise, Idaho, and other major Pacific Northwest territoriesCCS could be back in California by the end of the month, says Godbout, if he’s able to strike a deal with the established company. If not, CCS puts its potential partners through a six-month vetting process, he says.

“People are seeing an uptick in the industry and the economy,” says Godbout. “Now is the time to jump all over it.”

Overall, CCS has 10 partners across the country, plus California.

Godbout expects to re-establish CCS’ California presence and add another Midwest partner by the end of the first quarter. He also has his eyes on establishing a presence in the Carolinas, an area where he knows other large AV integrators are looking, too.

Typically, CCS likes to make small (up to $5 million in revenue) and medium-sized (up to $10 million in revenue) its partners, says Godbout.

“Part of our success is we’re held together by a licensing agreement,” says Godbout, noting the headquarters in Scottsdale provides support and bonding for partners who need it as needed.

“There are a lot of good tech companies that are poor money managers or bad with operations. That’s the type of thing we can offer.”