We didn’t choose Electrosonic as Commercial Integrator‘s 2014 Integrator of the Year because the global firm is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. We chose it for the annual honor because of what it’s done in and for the industry during that half-century.
From its humble beginnings in 1964 to a family-owned company with $111 million in revenues in 2014, Electrosonic has been at the forefront of innovation in the AV systems integration space for a long time — and still sits on that lofty perch today.
“When [Electrosonic] started, there wasn’t really an AV industry,” says president and CEO Jim Bowie, who came to the company in 1987 as an engineer and was named the company leader in 2008. “We helped to shape the direction.”
In the early days of Electrosonic, “you couldn’t go to the store and get boxes” for an AV installation, says Bowie. So, instead of watching the new company fizzle almost as quickly as it began, “we made the equipment ourselves,” he says, noting a trend that continued until a few years ago, when Electrosonic spun its manufacturing arm off to Extron.
“That gave us a unique perspective and a unique role in the industry,” says Bowie.
Integrator of the Year: Electrosonic
PRIMARY LOCATION: Worldwide headquarters in Burbank, Calif.
ADDITIONAL LOCATIONS: EMEA Headquarters – Dartford, U.K.; Offices in the U.S., U.K., Sweden, UAE and China
PRINCIPALS: Jim Bowie, President Electrosonic Group; Scott Meyer, CFO; Sarah Joyce, VP, EMEA; Chris Conte, VP, Entertainment; Todd Miller, VP, Control Rooms
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 50
2014 TOTAL REVENUES: $111 million
2014 COMMERCIAL REVENUE: $81 million
NUMBER OF COMMERCIAL INSTALLS LAST YEAR: 641
TOP 3 MARKETS: Entertainment, Control Rooms, Corporate
TOP 5 BRANDS: Christie, Extron, Crestron, Samsung, NEC
Electrosonic also has “a heritage” thanks to its five decades of essentially unparalleled success in installing AV systems at some of the most high-profile locations around the world, including Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., and the Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum.
That heritage includes Bob Simpson, one of the company’s founders, who’s still on the board of directors. It stretches to the present day, in which Bowie and Electrosonic find new ways to innovate and satisfy customers every day under the watch of Finnish family ownership (the Aminoffs).
“When you hit that 50-year milestone, there’s a bit of a self-sustaining energy that comes along with that,” says Bowie. “Everyone wants to be a part of that.” Bowie recalls when he applied for a job as an engineer at Electrosonic just before the company had hit its 25-year mark, and “I thought that was incredible.”
Bowie views his role as president and CEO as “setting the direction financially and strategically,” in addition to other less tangible aspects. “I’m very interested that Electrosonic is a good place to work,” he says. “We’re constantly changing and updating the way we do things. I try to make sure we’re healthy. Lots of little things play into that.”
Among those, he says, are updating terms of contract scope on a regular basis and the creation of an apprentice program a few years ago.
Chronicling 50 Years of History
Simpson was the obvious choice to write Electrosonic – 50 Years on the Audio-Visual Front Line, a 297-page history of the company. Electrosonic also published a condensed version of Simpson’s tome, The First Fifty Years – Electrosonic Scrapbook.
The scrapbook, which is available in digital form, includes photographs and historical events that cover the company’s first half century.
The books were largely spurred by Bowie’s desire to have some sort of document, an effort he first discussed when elevated to president and CEO in 2008.