My first foray into the events industry was working for the German manufacturer of Overhead projectors 16 years ago. As a naive salesman covering the south of England I eventually moved on to work for various resellers of audio visual equipment before entering the rental marketplace and becoming the sales director for Elite Rentals.
In 2005 I made the decision to start Smart AV, aged 31 and with £20k of savings in the bank. My first employee was Andrew Willer (who still works for me today) and we worked with clients whom I knew from my previous roles, delivering kit in a van that we’d hired. Without the support of those original clients we wouldn’t be where we are now and I am forever grateful for those early days of support.
I’ve always been a big believer in owning your own kit – with AV it is the only way to ensure that it has been looked after. However this does mean that we’ve had a few office moves over the 10 years, from the 1300 sq.ft. warehouse we started out in to the 40,000 sq.ft. premises we purchased earlier this year that now houses our 45-strong fulltime team of staff.
Back in 2005, the technology was relatively simple and mainly “screens on sticks”. Touch screens were in their infancy and all of our work was primarily in the UK.
Now, 40 per cent of our work is across Europe and the Middle East and our major offering is 600 sqm fleet of high-resolution LED, both indoor, outdoor, smart-edge and curved. We have also just upgraded the majority of our fleet of screens to 4K as we’re always looking to future-proof ourselves for what will soon become ‘industry standard’.
The industry that really stands out to me across the industry is aviation and aerospace. We’ve supported Farnborough Airshow since 2010 and have since added Dubai Airshow, Paris Airshow and FIDAE to our portfolio.
At most of the big airshows we can work with anything up to 100 contractors and the demand for the latest, most innovative tech is always high.
This year at Paris Airshow saw us creating large-scale outdoor 5.9mm resolution LED walls either side of an Boeing aircraft across the show concourse. This is a trend we’ve seen across the year, with many installations pushing the boundaries of what audio visual technology can achieve.
I look back now and wish I’d put in a management team below me earlier in the company’s growth. Earlier this year I employed a managing director for Smart AV, which has reduced the amount of time I spend sorting out the problem staff and increased the amount I can spend with the staff who are going above and beyond. It’s also allowed me to get back out and spend time with our core clients as I would have in the early days – I had become too much of a HR/operations/warehouse/person trying to do everything prior to that.
I do believe that in the events industry you are only as good as your last job and this is one of the reasons why I have to remind myself to stop and celebrate our achievements and milestones.
The only constant in technology is change and I hope to always be ahead of the curve, flexible and adaptive to an industry that is forever evolving and growing. Also – service, service, service. It has always been our core offering and really is so important.
For more information, visit ipgroup.co.uk.
Any comments? Email Annie Byrne