Nimble and Quick
The Audio Visual Group’s size allows for enhanced customer service
Shayne Ettienne, CEO of The Audio Visual Group, knows how to adapt and overcome. A native of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, he moved to South Florida in 1989 after his island home was essentially devastated by Hurricane Hugo.
He entered the information technology business in the 1990s, transitioning to audiovisual (AV) work in 2002, where he made his living installing and automating equipment in high-end homes. Then in 2007, he says, “The market crashed, and there was very little work in homes.”
Rather than give up, Ettienne rebranded himself and entered the commercial market, working for whom he calls “the big guys,” the larger firms in the audiovisual installation business. Today, with its team of 20 employees in the corporate office and 12 others in satellite offices, The Audio Visual Group is the big guys’ competition. Established in 2008 and headquartered in Sunrise, Florida, the company serves the entire state of Florida and clients nationwide, with many in Georgia, California, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona and Minnesota. In addition to corporate clients, The Audio Visual Group does municipal work, such as installations for Miami International Airport and the city of Sunrise.
Commercial AV Integrators
Ettienne refers to his team as “commercial AV integrators,” specializing in audiovisual systems for boardrooms, conference rooms, huddle spaces and training rooms. The company handles everything from project design and engineering, video and audio conferencing, sound masking, systems integration and automation and digital signage, to sound system and projector/display installation.
The Audio Visual Group also services what it sells and installs. The company keeps six trucks and vans available for short-notice deployment in order to respond quickly to unforeseen customer challenges.
While the company works with both new construction and retrofits, Ettienne says he prefers new construction AV build-outs because that is where his company truly shines. He says, “We excel at those projects because they allow us to be fully engaged from the start. If we could do 70 percent to 80 percent new construction, that would be ideal. We’re just so good at it.”
He adds, “We can do everything, but new construction is just fun because we get to design a system exactly to meet the customer’s needs instead of working with existing infrastructure.”
The Audio Visual Group also supports the local Florida community, donating AV equipment and installation to local schools. Thus far, the company has donated equipment and services to five schools within Pembroke Pines Charter Schools community, supplying upgraded multimedia and PA systems to each.
Ettienne is especially proud of his company’s new build-out for the JM Family Enterprises, Inc. corporate headquarters in Deerfield Beach, Florida. His team completed the AV design and installation for the multimillion-dollar construction project on time, within budget and, as Ettienne notes, “with minimal hiccups.” He says, “This job involved two brand-new buildings with 140 rooms equipped with audiovisual equipment. We just kept things moving, working with the construction team to assure that the AV system was exactly as the client wanted.”
The company has worked for other well-known clients such as Google, Philips, Loews Hotels, American Express, E-Trade, Ultimate Software, Whole Foods Market, United Way and Toyota.
Ettienne admits that some projects are fraught with unexpected challenges. Last year, the company was working on a new build-out for Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company in Fort Lauderdale. The project began in early 2020, just as the United States was beginning to experience the effects of COVID-19. The Audio Visual Group was no exception. Ettienne says, “Hardware was an issue; manpower for installation was an issue.”
He explains that much of the equipment his company uses has parts that are made in China, or assembled in U.S. locations that were shut down. As a result, many types of equipment were backordered. Ettienne had to redesign the Universal Property space using whatever AV products were readily available. For instance, instead of using in-ceiling microphones per the original plan, microphones were installed in conference room tables. In the end, however, the project was a success. “We just keep moving,” he says. “It was stress-free for the client. But maybe not for us,” he laughs.
Small Ships are Nimble
Most of The Audio Visual Group’s employees have been working together for at least nine years, some for as many as 15. Ettienne attributes his strong employee retention to the positive company culture he has worked hard to build. He says, “We take care of our people. We try to make our employees’ lives better—in pay, in benefits and in providing vehicles for jobs so they don’t have to use their own.”
The team’s longevity and the ease with which members work together help projects move seamlessly, which in turn results in high marks in client satisfaction. He says, “We know how to work together, and making the client happy is our goal.”
Ettienne says that the bar is set high for his team’s performance. He explains that, for example, in the company’s Los Angeles office, the staff has to work harder to earn business, as the competition is fierce in that part of the country. “We use Los Angeles as our benchmark,” he says. “Regardless of the site or size of the project, the expectations are the same. We go above and beyond in our response time and attention to detail. Every day I preach the importance of being on time and considerate in communications with clients.”
According to Ettienne, his team is as professional, knowledgeable and savvy as its biggest competitor. The difference, he says, is that The Audio Visual Group is more nimble. He explains that all of his teams—engineering, design and installation—are in-house, while many bigger companies must outsource work to keep their costs down, making scheduling and deployment more difficult. Also, his smaller company has less overhead, and he can share that cost savings with clients.
He says, “Bigger ships are harder to turn. We are smaller but we can be more flexible, and we know what it takes to move jobs.”
The Next Level
In the coming years, Ettienne says he’ll strive to continue adding clients to his firm’s customer base. He says, “What I’m trying to do is take us to another level by increasing clientele and systematically growing the business.”
Above all, Ettienne would like potential customers to understand the importance of doing research to ensure they select the right company for their job. He says, “A client usually doesn’t realize a job isn’t being done right until the damage is done. We are often called in to fix bad jobs. And at that point, it’s too late and the client has already exhausted its capital with the previous contractor.”
Instead, The Audio Visual Group is committed to helping customers make educated, informed decisions about their audiovisual technology needs, working to meet their expectations from the beginning. Ettienne says, “We are different from our competitors because we pay attention to clients’ real needs and not just what we can sell them.”