Inside Sensory Technologies’ Secrets to Mid-Market Success

Sensory Technologies’ unique growth strategy is made possible by its industry-atypical command of managed services, KPIs and top-down management.

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Inside Sensory Technologies’ Secrets to Mid-Market Success

From left: Principal Anne Sellers, principal Derek Paquin, director of marketing and client experience Marc Santoro, embrace strategist Stephanie Stilson and principal Andrew Sellers.

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When Sensory Technologies acquired AV Solutions, a division of Toshiba America Business Solutions, on March 1, 2016, Commercial Integrator posted one article about it.

Conversely, when Diversified acquired Technical Innovations to become ostensibly the industry’s second largest firm, and when AVI-SPL — the industry’s largest firm — was purchased by a private equity firm and subsequently acquired Anderson AV, we posted articles upon articles exploring the reasons and repercussions from every conceivable angle.

Our disproportionate focus is reflective of the integration industry in 2017. It’s a market that seems to be driven by the few $100-million-plus revenue firms at the top, inspired by the smaller, niche firms at the bottom … and then there are also firms in the middle.

Despite market challenges, there are discernible paths to success for large, resource-heavy firms and for “mom-and-pop”-sized companies “focus[ed] on a single market or single technology,” said NSCA executive director Chuck Wilson in CI’s 2017 State of the Industry Report.

The paths to success for mid-sized integration firms with 50 to 200 employees, however, are less obvious. “How many of them are going to be left?” wondered Wilson.

Indianapolis-based Sensory Technologies, with 128 employees and $37.5 million in 2016 revenue, is an example of a mid-sized firm that is blazing its own path to success.

Sensory Technologies dataThe acquisition of AV Solutions, in itself, offers a window into a growth strategy that suits well-equipped mid-sized firms. It’s one that’s fueled by Sensory’s unique capabilities and characteristics — each of which would be competitive advantages regardless of the size of the firm.

Consider these factors:

Uncommon Management Structure — It starts at the top and trickles down for Sensory, which has three principals each with different areas of expertise and focuses. It breaks down pretty simply, explains director of marketing and client experience Marc Santoro.

Anne Sellers “tends to focus more on the financial side of the company,” he says. “Derek Paquin “handles sales and marketing and part of client services as well.” Meanwhile, Andrew (Andy) Sellers “tends to focus more on the operations, so the engineering team, project management, implementation side.”

Each principal overseeing different areas of the company leads to better oversight and more consistent management throughout the chain, according to Anne. “When I look at other owners of other companies, I see tired men. The fact that there’s three of us here and we can divide and conquer has been a true blessing.”

Total Commitment to Managed Services

While many in the industry struggle with the transition to selling managed services and earning service revenue, Sensory’s three principals have not in part because they aren’t industry lifers.

“None of us grew up in this business,” Anne says. “All three of us came from other aspects of the world, and we’re lending our expertise from that aspect.” Based on that expertise that they bring, the need for service revenue has always been a no-brainer.

“It’s been the heritage of this company to sell service contracts for as long as I can remember,” Andy says, harkening back to the Sensory brand being born out of venerable Indiana company Markey’s.

Sellers, who owned a company called Video Images that specialized in emergent technologies like video conferencing and streaming (this was 2006), bought the audio-visual division of Markey’s which still has a rental and staging division.

Markey’s has been in the Indianapolis market since 1959 and is “rooted in support and client service,” Paquin says. “That is with us today.”

As a result, Sensory simply doesn’t sell a project without an associated service contact and hasn’t for nearly a decade.