Adapting to Company Change: Opportunities for personal and collective growth

Written by Exertis Almo BDM's Darren Altman, CTS, DSCE & Andrew Giacobbe.

Three AV industry experts, Darren Altman, BDM II – Technical Specialist (Sharp/NEC – East Coast), Andrew Giacobbe, BDM – Brand Specialist (Sharp/NEC – West Coast), and Rob Ziv, Senior VP of Business Development at Exertis Almo, recently hosted a meaningful discussion on navigating company-wide change, detailing the endless opportunities for personal and collective growth within transitional times.

Here’s what they had to say.

Adapting to Company Change

Drawing from his own experience navigating company-wide changes, Andrew details the differences between two key acquisitions.

“I started off in the industry right out of college, working at Stampede, and about three to four months into working, we were acquired by DCC. I wasn’t too familiar with the [DCC] comradery, but not too many changes were made after we were acquired.”

“I saw a bigger change when [Exertis] merged with Almo – it was a [more significant] change because we combined Business Development Managers, Sales Teams, etc. The key factors everyone considers are: What makes sense for both companies? What is our end goal? Where do we see ourselves in 10 years?

Darren AltmanWe all had similar thoughts. And now, the role of BDM has an even bigger meaning.”

Along with the changes dealt with by a newly combined business development team, Darren questions the differences between management and non-management roles following such a significant company change – posing an important question to Senior VP of Business Development, Rob Ziv.

“What were your initial thoughts on the transition from a family-owned to family-operated company, especially following the 75th anniversary celebration?” Darren asked.

Rob Ziv“My perspective is extremely positive,” Rob said. “Typically, when two organizations come together, there are duplicate roles, and fear of [job loss]. The culture here is so different from that mentality, that the conversations that were happening behind closed doors were, ‘We’re bringing everybody over.’”

“Within the BDM group, there were some people that left, but no jobs were eliminated due to duplication,” he elaborated. “Perhaps, other roles were available within the organization that [team members] chose to take. By our first combined Pro AV National Sales Meeting, we were family.”

Darren concurred with Rob’s positive experience.

“Throughout all my years here, there is always welcomeness, and if there is an issue that I can’t figure out, I can find someone who can,” Darren said. “We’re all individuals, we’re all humans working for the same company and purpose – comradery carries you, and it comes with the culture. Let’s take care of our customers and provide a service that fills our needs and the company’s needs. And you meet great people along the way.”

Andrew elaborated, “Before, we only had one Sharp/NEC BDM for the United States. Now, I’m the West and Darren is the East, which allows us to bounce ideas and hit the ground running, right off the bat.”

The increased opportunity for teamwork allows both Darren and Andrew to benefit from each other’s ideas, while also strengthening their vendor relationship with Sharp NEC Display Solutions.

Company Change as an Opportunity for Growth and Development

Despite the challenges associated with company change, Rob details the various opportunities for growth and development within an evolving organization – both business and technical.

“One of the things becoming apparent to me in our new organization is the additional opportunities for everybody,” he said. “While change brings uncertainty, it brings opportunity. The best thing that someone can do [in these situations] is lean in and keep their eyes open for additional ways to learn and grow. And we’ve seen that happen here.”

In reference to new opportunities, Darren acknowledges the importance of building relationships (and maintaining existing ones) with customers.

“With the diversity of our company portfolio, it’s hard to find something that we can’t help our [customers] with, even if it’s something we don’t carry. ‘Let me introduce you to my colleague that can help you through the process,’” he explained.

“We care about the customer, and relationships speak more than just sending texts and emails. I had a phone call with a customer the other day, just to talk. Showing that [interest in our customer] as a group holds a good amount of value beyond the knowledge of product.”

Overall, the three experts acknowledge the importance of providing consistent, quality products and services to Exertis Almo customers.

“We have the right connections,” Andrew explained. “Whether it be with our vendor or an [Exertis Almo team member], we can answer any questions [our customers] have.”

“There’s a comfort level in our customers knowing that they’re in good hands,” said Darren.

Darren and Andrew both acknowledge the importance of building and maintaining relationships with customers, allowing them to collaborate on Sharp/NEC product and service knowledge. Relationship building continues to evolve and grow since the Exertis Almo merger, providing considerable opportunities for personal and company-wide growth.

Darren Altman

Darren Altman | CTS, DSCE

BDM II – Technical Specialist

Supported Manufacturers: Sharp/NEC (NE, SE, MW)

Andrew Giacobbe

Andrew Giacobbe

BDM – Brand Specialist

Supported Manufacturers: Sharp/NEC (SW, W, NW)

Navigating Changes During Business Consolidation

Navigating Change During Business Consolidation

One year following a prominent merger in the Pro AV industry, three industry veterans, Darren Altman, Business Development Manager at Exertis Almo, and Sharp/NEC‘s David Lacoff and Mark Weniger, discuss the changes and opportunities that arise when navigating business consolidation.

Maintaining Patience

While significant business changes often bring stress and nervousness among team members, Darren, Dave and Mark examine the role of patience in new situations, especially during a company merger.

“Thankfully, patience is a virtue,” said Darren. “I’ve never been on [the acquiree] side of an acquisition before – we were always the acquiring partner and being that [the news] was so new, I said, ‘Let’s just see what happens.’ It was interesting to see how management was staying and learning about the buying partner, and how they acquire companies that do things correctly, keep their personnel, invest in [the company] and keep it running smoothly.”

Dave details the busy months following the merger of the two prominent companies.

“I’ve been through this once before at a prior company, and we acquired another company and let them run the ship,” he explained. “From a personal perspective, here we are – as a vendor – going through a merger, trying to figure things out, and now two of our largest customers are doing the same – it’s gone by really quickly.”

The Value of Relationships

After the acquisition was announced publicly, Mark acknowledges the value and importance of each company’s business relationships, and the challenges that arise when two influential industry players merge their teams.

“It was really just business as usual, as the core leadership [mentality] was always to stay away from rumors,” explained Darren. “The last thing you want to do, regardless of the outcome of any joint venture or acquisition, is burn a bridge.”

While the acquisition marked the start of a new era for the newly combined groups, both teams ensured that all business relationships were properly maintained as changes occurred on each side.

“The relationships that our sales teams have made are more important than just having equipment in stock,” said Darren. While knowledge about product lines is imperative for business, Darren finds that the established relationships with customers, vendors, and manufacturers truly shine through, especially in the event of a large business change.

Identifying Expanded Opportunities, Increased Capabilities, and Room for Growth

Despite the challenges of two successful (and rival) companies merging, there are numerous opportunities for expansion and growth with an impact on the industry across the world.

“2023 will be the year that we’re all rowing in the same direction,” explained Darren. For decades, [our companies] have viewed each other as competitors in the distribution industry. With the combined financial resources and impressive supply-chain logistics on one side and a family-owned history and nationwide warehousing space on the other side, the acquisition paves the way for extraordinary accomplishments as one team.

Additionally, Mark explains the new possibilities regarding the combined product lines.

“You constantly get caught in a cycle of refresh after refresh, and you reach a point in the industry when there’s nothing really new – just updates,” he explained. “Having access to different projector lines, video wall SKUs, cost-effective collaborations – it’s a different area to pull product and knowledge from. I was excited because, as we’ve come to learn and have seen progress, the product lines made sense.”

Staying Thankful

While business acquisitions are admittedly high-stress processes, Darren discuss the importance of remaining thankful for the new business opportunities to come.

“Regardless of the role that you’re in, when acquisitions happen, there are always going to be bumps in the road,” explained Darren. “These changes take time, but once everything is ironed out, I don’t see why we can’t be one of the industry’s leaders, from the feet on the street to people behind their desks, in the manufacturing world and distributing world.”

By putting their trust in the newly combined leadership, Dave found that the merger resulted in new opportunities and increased with growth combined product lines, while maintaining the same, personal approach to everyday business.

“2023 should be a big year for all of us,” said Dave. We have an amazing opportunity in the market with our full product lines and team we have in place to really do well – I’m excited for the opportunity to continue to be a market leader and really affect the business in a positive way.”

Darren Altman
About the Author

Darren Altman | CTS, DSCE

Business Development Manager

Supported Manufacturers: Sharp/NEC (NE, SE, MW)

Sharp’s Windows Collaboration Display: The Gateway to AVaaS for AV and IT

Sharp thinks AV/IT integrators can offer data & analytics to improve meeting rooms using its Windows Collaboration Display and IoT sensors. Find out how.

The impact of COVID-19 on the ProAV industry has gleaned mixed results: Rental and staging markets have been hard-hit, but collaboration and UCC verticals are booming. While continuing to support its partners in entertainment and live events, Almo Pro A/V has doubled down on supplying solutions in UCC — answering partners’ much-needed demand this year.

A collaboration solution delivering on this demand is the 70-inch Windows Collaboration Display (WCD) from Sharp. Almo is no stranger to the Sharp product line — the two have partnered for years. But Sharp’s WCD is a next big step for all of us in AV. Sharp’s not-so-secret sauce — an IoT sensor hub that provides data and analytics — is what sets this specific WCD apart from other WCDs and interactive flat panels.

The mindset of adding data and analytics is still fairly new in ProAV. To dig into this and learn more about the Sharp WCD, I talked to Mehryn Corrigan, associate director of alliance partner marketing at Sharp. The conversation winds from BYOD to IoT to AV-as-a-Service. And then some. Read on!

Note: This is the start of an interview between Almo’s Darren Altman and Sharp’s Mehryn Corrigan. It has been edited for grammar and clarity.

Darren Altman: Mehryn, it’s great to talk to you today. Like many, I’m excited about a collaboration product that’s gotten a lot of attention — the Sharp Windows Collaboration Display. I’ve heard about some of the features that make it such a forward-looking UCC solution. Aside from the 70-inch ideal size that’s gotten so much positive feedback, I’d love to hear more about how the product was designed: How does the Sharp Windows Collaboration Display handle and address the needs for multiple operating systems and collaboration platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams?

How does the Sharp WCD handle and address the needs for multiple operating systems and collaboration platforms?

Mehryn Corrigan: It made sense to create a collaboration device that was built on an open platform and could evolve with the changes. For instance, my own laptop has all different kinds of software on it. With the Sharp WCD, it’s so nice to be able to bring all the things I know and love (the programs and applications on my computer, for instance) with me. Through the BYOD (bring your own device) style of collaboration that the Windows Collaboration Display offers, my device can drive my meeting — instead of the other way around.

Darren Altman: I definitely agree that the office, no matter where your “office” is today, should cater to people’s preferences as far as what they use and how they want to connect. Speaking of connecting, and before we get into the big differentiator regarding the Sharp Windows Collaboration Display, the IoT sensor hub, tell me about the integrated hardware.

What hardware is included in the Sharp WCD?

Mehryn Corrigan: You’ve got it all in one product, so the complexity of pairing the best microphone with the best camera — that all goes away. It’s just one device. Sharp’s WCD includes not just the multi-touch screen but also the 4K camera and the audio system. Even the built-in microphone arrays are all integrated. There’s also your more traditional interactive flat panel feature — multi-touch ink — for digital annotation. And the display is certified as Crestron Connected. Ultimately, all this benefits the end user — and even those you wouldn’t initially consider, like facilities and building managers — in a great way. That’s in addition to benefiting the people in the actual room who just want things to work the way they expect them too.

Darren Altman: We’ve all experienced that struggle with multiple devices. Back in the day, when I was traveling, I used to keep a work bag filled with tons of adapters, or all sorts of connectors, to, hopefully, make meetings go off without a hitch. I remember all the struggles with connectivity between laptop and display resulted in meetings just being delayed. How does the Windows Collaboration Display address these common connectivity issues and save us all valuable time?

How does the Sharp WCD address common connectivity issues?

Mehryn Corrigan: This is so relatable. But, you know, realistically, not everybody’s an AV guru like you and me. For the average user, it takes around 10 to 12 minutes* to start a meeting — that’s significant. There are a multitude of things that lead to this delay, and a lot of times it’s because you’re trying to connect to a meeting that’s hosted on a different platform than the one your room is built for. Sharp worked with Microsoft to make our version of the Windows Collaboration Display incredibly simple to connect for BYOD environments. We standardized it around a USB-C input. What’s so great about USB-C is that it has audio, video, power, touch. Previously, you had HDMI, the touch panel, power for the laptop — that’s three cables right there. Or you’re maybe running back to your desk to get your power cable because you forgot it. We also have HDMI and wireless connectivity built-in so you have multiple options.

Darren Altman: From a generational standpoint, there are five generations in the workplace right now. We know some people prefer wireless over wired. Others will take wired any day. How does the Sharp WCD touch on this?

Mehryn Corrigan: There’s no need to download anything. No drivers, no dongles. Connectivity is so simple: a right click on the corner of the PC and it automatically converts your audio and video to room scale on the device. In a room-based meeting space, you typically have to look for these settings (like audio and video) on your laptop to be able to sync them to the front-of-room display. With our WCD, that happens automatically. The whole premise of the Sharp WCD is to keep it simple.

Darren Altman: Right, like the laptop I’m working on has USB-C and DisplayPort — that’s just another connector for me to shove into my work bag. So there’s a ton of excitement around the Sharp Windows Collaboration Display, and one thing that’s quite unique and significant is the IoT sensor hub. What was Sharp’s thought-process behind adding it?

What was Sharp’s thought-process behind adding the IoT sensor hub?

Mehryn Corrigan: Microsoft has put a lot of emphasis into Azure — it’s a whole digital transformation with everything moving to the cloud. Microsoft Azure Digital Twins is an IoT platform where data from multiple IoT sensors is stored in a secure cloud database. Then the data can be analyzed, for example, by a smart building dashboard solution to help optimize the management of office space. This is significant in the AV world, and specifically for AV/IT integrators, where AV-over-IP is growing and systems are more connected. In the next year or two, the collaboration space will change dramatically.

Darren Altman: Can you give me an example of what that change looks like?

Mehryn Corrigan: Picture us all going back to the office; what we’ll start to see, if you’re not already seeing it, is a lot of meeting spaces converting — maybe your huddle spaces become one-person offices. Maybe your large conference rooms that used to seat eight now only seat two or three. At first, a lot of these meeting rooms were (or are) not equipped for video, so integrators are now getting that set up. But there’s another opportunity here — while you’re adding collaboration capabilities like interactive displays and videoconferencing devices, why not add IoT capabilities at the same time?

Darren Altman: What are the benefits of adding IoT — as opposed to just adding in an interactive flat panel or creating a Zoom Room?

For AV/IT specifically, what are the benefits of the IoT sensor?

Mehryn Corrigan: Adding IoT has three major touchpoints notable for the AV/IT manager.

  • With IoT, you’re able to get data on how the spaces are being used — and with this data you can improve functions and processes in that room. This is an opportunity for the AV integrator to create a new revenue stream, one that’s recurring.
  • Two, there’s the element of measuring productivity in the physical space — the IoT sensor hub measures specific elements, enabling integrators to connect their clients to powerful data that can improve the overall meeting experience. Take various elements of the physical room — at what temperature is the room set? What is the oxygen level in the room? Does air quality fluctuate throughout the day? And what about cooling down buildings when no one is even there? The sensor measures these elements to improve efficiency.
  • The third touchpoint is around room utilization. How many times have we had to say there are not enough meeting spaces available? An IoT sensor hub gives integrators the tools to help customers optimize the space by measuring room occupancy and motion. For instance, that could mean measuring the amount of people who were in the room that day so we can provide proper cleaning and sanitation between meetings.

Darren Altman: Right. In short, connecting data to these spaces is an amazing way for the AV community to service them beyond just the initial install. In AV, we’re already managing the devices in the room, so why not make sure the room is optimized through data, as well?

Mehryn Corrigan: There is a lot of opportunity for integrators with the IoT element of the Sharp Windows Collaboration Display. We’re still at the very beginning stages of the technology, but the possibilities are exciting.

Darren Altman: So do you think IoT data can now be part of an AV organization’s managed services platform?

Could IoT data be part of an AV organization’s managed services platform? Does IoT as a category have the potential to really impact the AV industry?

Mehryn Corrigan: We’ve definitely started to see it — especially as we get further into the network where we’re managing uptime. AV integrators are already asked to design the conference rooms. I’m very hopeful that AV integrators will consider adding data and analytics on top of all the new conference-room integrations (like video) in the pipeline. I recently learned that around 80% of companies wished to have an IoT strategy but less than 50% actually have one. Everyone is already thinking about adding data, but we’re not really sure how to manage it yet. The Sharp WCD opens the door to get AV and IT started.

Darren Altman: Doesn’t it also grow with you over time? Regarding the evolution of the sensor hub and updates over the air?

Mehryn Corrigan: Yes, take the AI camera that’s built in. Over time, with more developments in the Azure platform and cloud firmware updates, you can enable more feature sets that help the device measure room analytics. The Sharp WCD is a simple door opener with the possibility of much more long-term.

Takeaway: AV/IT Should Invest in the Sharp WCD — Here’s Why

My interview with Mehryn shed light on a lot of great features of the Sharp Windows Collaboration Display that I hadn’t considered. It also reminded me how important it is to specify a product that grows with you over time and doesn’t force end users to use it one way or the other.

For instance, along with being Skype-for-Business-certified, Sharp’s WCD comes as a Microsoft Office 365–ready product. What’s great, though, is you’re not just limited to Microsoft; via USB-C, a connector used with both the latest Windows and Apple Mac products, the Sharp WCD allows you to operate in any “world.” In other words, you’re not limited to one operating system even though it comes Windows-ready. All you have to do is connect your own device and the display’s cameras, microphones and speakers automatically appear on the front-of-room device. The benefit? Users can get the same collaboration experience on the room device as they would on their own devices.

After talking to Mehryn, here’s what I realized makes this product different: Times have changed, and collaboration boards are no longer just interactive displays with a nice touch interface. End users are demanding all-in-one collaboration solutions that can literally “read the room,” providing data to the customers. AV integrators are finding that they are the ideal people to help customers attain this data through the collaboration technology itself.

Notably, this is something integrators have been catching onto as the news makes the rounds. If given the capability to manage that data (to keep servicing the Sharp WCD product as it grows over time), integrators could have a brand new managed-services offering on their hands. In our minds, AV/IT postures should definitely be straightening at the idea of this, because this isn’t just an idea or dream anymore; it’s actually a reality.

On Aug. 26, Commercial Integrator held a great webinar, “How Analytics are Driving Digital Transformation in Today’s Modern Office,” featuring Almo and Sharp. It was a great follow-up to the discussion we had here. Register and view the webinar here.

Learn more at, and get in touch with Darren Altman, Almo business development manager, for more information on the Sharp Windows Collaboration Display.

8K Displays… So What’s the Buzz?

You’ve heard the buzz about 8K display technology. But what is it about these displays that make them ideal for commercial settings?

According to research firm, IHS Markit, as the demand for super-large TV displays grow, the need for higher resolution is set to increase, with 8K displays expected to make up about nine percent of the 60-inch and larger display market by 2020.

So what’s the hype about 8K Ultra HD technology? If you stand close to a Full HD monitor, you can distinguish individual pixels. By comparison, the pixels on an 8K Ultra HD screen are not visible to the naked eye. 8K technology results in images that are so realistic and with such a sense of depth that it feels as if objects aren’t just on the screen but are actually real!

8K technology vividly reproduces every last detail beyond the perception of the human eye. In academic fields, it allows for the enlargement of fine art images, artifacts or architectural structures. In other words, viewers are able to see details that would normally be invisible.

Here are the top three benefits of 8K Ultra HD Technology in commercial environments:

  • Higher resolution. The 33 million pixels packed into the 7,680 x 4,320-resolution panel result in screen resolution that is 16 times higher than full HD. This allows you to actually feel the presence of stunningly realistic on-screen images.
  • Images come to life in vivid color. The color-processing technologies support a wide range of color expression along with faithful color mapping on the display. The rich color palette of an 8K monitor adds depth to the content and brings the entire screen to life.
  • Superb image quality via 8K upscaling. Using on-board processing technology allows both 4K Ultra HD and Full HD content to be upscaled to 8K resolution. This means slideshows, videos, images and text can now be rendered with a new level of detail and realism.

Professional AV uses for 8K displays are broad, however, here are some of the most ideal applications:

  • Government: Homeland security and other surveillance videos can be viewed in much greater detail due to the amount of color and pixels in an 8K image.
  • Retail: The amount of detail that can be shown on a particular item – be it the finest details of a diamond ring or the threading on that beautiful sweater – makes it easier for the consumer to get a clear view of their potential purchase. It also allows the retailer to promote the quality of a particular item.
  • Broadcast: Because 8K has such a high resolution, a football game or other sporting event can be shot with a wide-angle view in 8K, then the broadcaster can zoom into quadrants with each one in 4K.
  • Healthcare: Medical diagnostic imaging and endoscopic surgical procedures, for example, can now be viewed more clearly and in greater detail, which helps advance medical care and improve patient outcome.

The newest 8K display to hit the market is the Sharp 8K Ultra HD 70-inch LCD monitor, the 8M-B70AU, which is NOW AVAILABLE through Almo Professional A/V! Ask your Almo rep about a $200 reseller spiff on this display and visit for more information on Sharp solutions.

Springing Forward on the 2017 Spring E4 AV Tour

A Behind-the-Scenes Interview with Gary Bailer, Director of Product Management, Sharp

Ahh, spring is definitely in the air! The snow is melting, the birds are singing, we’ve changed the clocks and have more afternoon daylight…oh, and the Almo E4 AV Tour is on the road!

Each year, the tour visits two cities in the spring and two cities in the fall. In March, we stopped to spend the day with a record number – MORE than 500! — of attendees in Chicago.

The tour moves on to San Jose April 19.


Post your experience in the comments section of this post and earn a $5 Starbucks Gift Card!

Months and months and MONTHS of planning goes into preparing for an E4! And it’s not just Almo working around the clock to make it happen. Our manufacturing partners take an ENORMOUS amount of time planning which products they will showcase in their booths and what they’d like to discuss with attendees on the exhibit floor. For the spring E4s in particular, our exhibitors oftentimes show products that were previewed at ISE and DSE or “sneak peek” those that are launching at InfoComm in June!

Did you know that SHARP has been on EVERY stop of the E4 AV Tour since it began in 2009! So this will be the 30th time that Sharp has gone through this process with Almo Pro A/V!

Recently, I put on my “investigative reporting” hat and had a chat with Gary Bailer, Director of Product Management for Sharp:



What do you like best about Almo’s E4 AV Tour?

Hands down, E4 is the BEST networking event for the commercial AV community. It has all the benefits of a full-fledged tradeshow but in an environment that lends itself to more in-depth discussions and relationship-building. Almo puts on a first-class event — each one has been better than the one before!



Is Sharp showing any new products?

Yes! We are showing the brand NEW PN-C705B AQUOS BOARD interactive display with Direct Bonding technology. This product is currently available and shipping! It is a 70- or 80-inch value-priced display that is made for schools and businesses. E4 attendees absolutely have to come by to take a look at it. We introduced this product in January.



Any new initiatives from Sharp that we should know about?

Our NEW PN-L401C Capacitive Touch Huddle Display with Mini OPS Expandability (cards that allow the panel to be more versatile) will be shown in San Jose. This product is 100 percent AQUOS BOARD in that it’s an interactive display — it can be used in either landscape, portrait or face-up orientation — and allows for wireless collaboration, annotation, screen sharing (wirelessly) and whiteboarding.



Will you have any booth contests or prizes?

Yes!  We’ve invited a local artist to use the Sharp PN-C705B AQUOS BOARD® Interactive Display to draw caricatures of visitors to the booth.




What’s your advice for those attending an E4 event?

Absolutely make time for this one-day event! The contacts you will make, the technology you will have exposure to, and the courses and workshops you will take are going to be invaluable to your business.

We are taking a lot of photos and videos from the Sharp booth during the spring E4 tour.  My next post will reveal some of these moments. We look forward to seeing you in San Jose!

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