I left Vaddio to work at Eden Prairie, MN-based AVI Systems, one of the nation’s largest integrators, with offices in 16 cities across America. Like Vaddio, AVI did not have a marketer on staff. That was a curious lapse in an otherwise fantastic company – entirely employee owned, super-smart, and very ambitious. In fact, when I arrived, AVI was in full growth mode (primarily through acquisition). Growth, however, brought new challenges: How to onboard our burgeoning employee-owner population; how to integrate our various business units; how to introduce ourselves to new markets; and how to get everyone on the same page regarding who  we were, what we stood for, and what AVI could do for its customers.

Brand came first. Immediately, I did a deep dive into AVI’s identity as a company and discovered that my initial inability to wrap my mind around who we were was mirrored by others in the organization, especially new team members.

Look, I love the AV industry. It has the best people, the best culture, and some of the coolest technology in the world. But this sector isn’t on the cutting edge of branding. This was our opportunity to make a real difference in that regard, and to reap the benefits of it. In short order, we developed a powerful brand backed by a simple, but compelling idea: that AVI was the deliverer of communication liberation. We were the company that removed the communication technology barriers our clients faced, and in so doing gave them the freedom to do and be more than ever before. We applied this positioning to everything we did – from our innovative technology road shows to our out-of-the-box annual meetings. I also spearheaded an ambitious internal branding program that brought company leadership to every location not just to introduce themselves, but to learn from employees how to make the company better. This exercise was also an exploration of what we had in common, and we leveraged what we learned to lay the foundation for a powerful culture.

Cohesion in messaging smoothed the way for a wide range of other endeavors, including the creation of a rich yet easily navigable website, the adoption of a new digital marketing lead gen process, PR strategy development, and revamped onboarding. I also established key relationships with agency and other marketing partners and built a powerful robust department to tell the story of one of our industry’s truly great companies.