E4 Experience Blog #2: Expansive Services Offering

This blog is reposted with permission from Commercial Integrator.   Author: Dan Ferrisi

Rob Voorhees explores Exertis Almo services and how they benefit integrators, as well as his passion for diversity, equity and inclusion.

During this month’s E4 Experience, Commercial Integrator had a chance to learn more about Exertis Almo’s services offering. We could have no better guide than Rob Voorhees, CTS, CTP, CTNS, DSCE, business development manager with Exertis Almo. After all, apart from overseeing the HARMAN vendor relationship, Voorhees manages the connectivity portion of Exertis Almo’s audiovisual services. During an expansive half-hour discussion with CI, Voorhees touches on Exertis Almo’s recent acquisition of Caddrillion Engineering & Drafting, LLC, as well as how the market-enablement company commits itself to lowering integrators’ barrier to entry for moving into services.

Entry into Exertis Almo Services

Voorhees starts the conversation with reflections on his arrival at Almo more than six years ago. Services were, in fact, his entry point into the organization, and he describes his initial impressions as pleasantly surprising. “At a lot of distributors and integrators, the term ‘one-stop shop’ gets thrown around very, very loosely,” Voorhees acknowledges. “One of the comments I made very early on in my career here,” he recalls, “was this: ‘This worldwide distributor really talks the talk and walks the walk.’”

In particular, Almo’s service mission — Voorhees summarized it as expanding integrators’ reach without increasing their overhead — impressed him. “It’s all about you knowing that you can fulfill a project or customer need without having to hire somebody new…without having to train somebody and dedicate those resources,” he adds.

When industry observers look at today’s Exertis Almo, they see a market-enablement company whose services portfolio is remarkably broad. Indeed, the organization’s offerings range from design and blueprinting all the way to DSP programming.

Voorhees, however, calls back to the foundational three Exertis Almo service offerings: labor, content creation and connectivity. Over time, the company presciently expanded on that foundation, with Exertis Almo responding, in real time, to emerging customer needs and partners’ desire to fulfill them.

Stepping into the Connectivity Arena

Right now, for example, the organization is leaning into its already-available cybersecurity services. As it is, Voorhees observes, some integrators are reluctant even to step into the connectivity arena because they are unfamiliar with the intricacies of bandwidth, streaming, etc. “Cybersecurity takes that to a multiplier of 10,” he notes. “It’s an even more difficult conversation.” But that’s precisely why integrators would want Exertis Almo as a service partner and consultative advisor.

As noted, Voorhees leads the connectivity portion of Exertis Almo services, and he shares some insights into it. “Our connectivity services allow us to partner and provide services from all the major ISPs in the country,” he explains. Indeed, Voorhees cites Comcast and AT&T as just two examples. Laying out an opportunity for recurring commission, he continues, “We allow our partners to provide those services to customers.”

One might think that dealing with ISPs falls outside integration businesses’ scope, but that would be wrong. After all, having sufficient network bandwidth is the single biggest key to a successful AV-over-IP deployment. “That’s why Exertis Almo got involved in something like connectivity services,” Voorhees states. “Because we saw where the industry was going.”

Caddrillion Acquisition Boosts Exertis Almo Services

In response to CI inquiring about Exertis Almo’s acquisition of Caddrillion, Voorhees explains that the organizations, in fact, had partnered for a couple years. Specifically, Caddrillion was a trusted resource for Exertis Almo with respect to systems design and engineering services. With expertise spanning systems design, systems engineering, project blueprinting, systems programming (e.g., AMX, BSS, Crestron, Extron) and remote programming, Caddrillion quickly proved a valuable partner for the market-enablement company.

“Over the time of building the partnership with them, [we determined] it might make sense for both parties to bring this in house,” Voorhees relates. The acquisition went into effect this past January 1.

It was a smart move for Exertis Almo, as it bolstered its services offering in the most impactful way. “AV design services have been a huge need just over the last year alone,” Voorhees declares. “That’s why [we’ve filled] that void in house now.” Moreover, he heaps praise on Caddrillion CEO Justin Gregory and his team, underlining once again their strength in engineering, drafting and programming. “They have just done a phenomenal job for our customers,” Voorhees enthuses.

Filling the Gaps

It’s clear that, in building its services offering, Exertis Almo is committed to filling the gaps in AV projects. Equally, however, the organization seeks to lower integrators’ barrier to entry so they can seize on service-oriented business opportunities. Voorhees remarks that today’s commercial AV industry is all about selling an experience. “And I consider [selling] services a big piece of that,” he declares.

But Voorhees remains mindful that not everyone natively “speaks the language” of services, nor are services everyone’s core competency. “[That’s why] any call or one-on-one meeting that I have with a partner to discuss ISP services — or anything else, for that matter — it’s all about going in to make it not as attractive as possible, but, instead, as simple as possible,” he stresses.

And Exertis Almo’s guidance frequently produces revelatory moments for partners. For example, Voorhees cites integrator conversations pertaining to his role with Exertis Almo’s connectivity services. He recalls integrators attesting that they frequently recommended internet-service suppliers but otherwise were uninvolved. However, when integrators learn about facilitating connectivity services through Exertis Almo and earning a commission, he says, “It’s like you’re reintroducing the wheel to them.”

This education about available opportunities frequently takes place during what Voorhees refers to as “discovery calls.” These conversations with integrator partners — as well as, sometimes, with end users — are incredibly useful for teasing out customer needs and elucidating the reasoning behind recommendations. “[It’s] not just about signing somebody up for something,” he declares, expressing a business integrity that is refreshing.

Embracing DEI

As passionate as Voorhees is about Exertis Almo services and serving partners well, he has equal passion for DEI. Part of it stems from having a teenage daughter on the autism spectrum. He states firmly that he wants to ensure his daughter never faces any barriers to entry as she pursues her dreams.

“Awareness and education are key,” Voorhees opines, crediting Exertis Almo as an organization that’s truly enlightened on diversity issues. “Getting to work for a company that addresses not just neurodiversity but also diversity and inclusion of all kinds is very comforting not only as an employee of that company but also as a parent,” he says. Although too modest to describe himself as a leader, Voorhees is an expositor of the message; he’s an active member of the AVIXA Diversity Council.

“It’s very, very powerful to feel comfortable and be happy as yourself,” Voorhees declares. Thus, it’s incumbent on AV industry organizations to proactively discuss and address these issues — not sweep them under the rug — and recognize that even small accommodations (e.g., noise-canceling headphones) can be transformative in empowering team members to deliver their very best. “More attention to little details is the key,” he advises.

Clearly, Exertis Almo pays attention to all the details of both its services and its inclusive company culture. And with powerful voices like Voorhees’ helping show the way, the market-enablement company’s future looks brighter than ever.

Connect with Commercial Integrator and Exertis Almo on LinkedIn.

E4 Experience Blog #1: Leadership Transition

This blog is reposted with permission from Commercial Integrator.   Author: Dan Ferrisi

During the Exertis Almo E4 Experience, CI learned about the meticulously planned leadership transition from Sam Taylor to Dan Smith.

Dan Smith, Dan Ferrisi, and Sam TaylorRecently, CI chatted with Sam Taylor and Dan Smith about market-enablement company Exertis Almo’s meticulously planned leadership transition. Smith is succeeding outgoing executive vice president and COO Taylor, who is retiring following a remarkably successful 14-year tenure. Both leaders attended the Exertis Almo E4 Experience on March 7 in Dallas, an event that drew hundreds. As always, the E4 Experience delivered informative education sessions, invaluable peer networking and an exhibit floor populated with top vendors across product categories. For CI, however, the highlight was chatting with these two leaders about Exertis Almo’s culture, growth and exciting future.

The Decision to Retire

Any conversation with Taylor makes his passion for Exertis Almo abundantly evident. Indeed, during our talk, he reflects, “I started Almo Pro AV in partnership with Warren and Gene Chaiken and 22 dedicated professionals who came over from our former employer. When we started, we had no customers, no inventory and no vendors. Flash forward to today, where we now have 240 people in our division dedicated to pro AV and revenues of approximately $1 billion. After 14 years, I still feel like this is my baby.”

So, then, what motivated Taylor’s decision to retire? He explains that, two years ago, he realized that he’d achieved all his personal, professional and financial goals. That realization inspired Taylor to coordinate a planned departure, with a one-year transition plan to find a suitable successor. The timing changed, however, when DCC Technology, which trades as Exertis, acquired Almo Corp. in North America. “[The Board] asked me to stay on an extra year to help oversee the integration of the sales and marketing teams into Almo,” Taylor explains.

The transition plan included recruiting a top executive search firm, which produced something like 30 candidates. However, Taylor himself suggested adding Smith, then at LG Electronics and not seeking to change jobs, to the mix. He underscores that the entire Exertis Almo decision-making team — from president and CEO Warren Chaiken, to chairman Gene Chaiken, to Taylor — concluded that Smith had separated himself from the candidate field. “I felt really comfortable that Dan was not only going to continue what we’ve done [but also] going to grow it in different ways,” Taylor declares. Handing the reins of Exertis Almo to someone who’s going to carry it forward gives Taylor peace of mind as he nears retirement in June.

The Attraction of Exertis Almo

For Smith, Exertis Almo was particularly appealing because of its transition from distribution to true market enablement. “I think there’s a very fast-growing need for a market-enablement company,” he opines. Indeed, Smith believes that, with so many vendors and technologies, there is an ever-increasing need for training and support. “And therein lies Exertis Almo’s true value proposition: a well-thought-out vendor selection, enviable education offerings and a wide portfolio of services,” he summarizes. Seeing those increasingly pressing industry needs, Smith enthusiastically embraced this opportunity to oversee and lead true market enablement.

Another core characteristic of Exertis Almo that impressed Smith is its customer responsiveness and willingness to change approaches. He remembers thinking, “If they find out they need a new product, they bring the product onboard. If they find out they need additional training, they build the training to satisfy that.” It’s the antithesis of the stagnancy that sometimes can plague larger organizations that have tasted success and wed themselves to a formula. Exertis Almo is almost a billion-dollar business, but it’s still looking to grow, innovate and evolve. “There’s still a tremendous amount of growth potential,” Smith says with a smile. He points, in particular, to emerging opportunities involving collaboration tools, AVoIP, interactive digital boards and DVLED. Moreover, Smith believes the merging of the AV and IT communities will open the door to further market enablement.

Exertis Almo’s Company Culture

Both Taylor and Smith underline Exertis Almo’s company culture, whose roots lie in Almo Corp.’s 77-year history. It’s a family-like environment, Taylor attests, and those bonds inspire employees to refer friends and relatives to the company. Those employees’ enthusiasm radiates outward, thus illuminating another reason that Smith was excited to accept this leadership role. “You know it on the outside,” he says, “but you feel it on the inside.” Smith declares that he immediately felt a personal fit with the company…a cultural congruence of sorts. “One of my goals is to help continue that,” he vows.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are central to Exertis Almo’s company culture today — just as they always have been. In fact, Almo had longstanding diversity training and policies, including active recruitment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). After last year’s acquisition, the merged organization further amplified those initiatives. Taylor emphasizes that some of the fruits of those efforts are apparent; for example, Exertis Almo has a wealth of female team members, including in key leadership roles. Smith adds that, although DEI remains a foundational value, the organization even more broadly emphasizes respect for and trust in individuals. Pointing to a recently completed annual employee survey, he remarks, “I was astounded, as an outsider, how high [the marks] were. But, on the inside, it was easy to believe.”

Leveraging Organizational Resources

Smith praises parent company DCC for empowering Exertis Almo to serve its customers while, simultaneously, respecting leadership’s independence. Smith summarizes the arrangement by saying, “We’re going to be the finance people, and you’re going to run your business.” Thus, Exertis Almo remains free to maintain its culture and pursue its mission, which Smith describes with refreshing clarity. “Throughout our whole route to market, we service that end user,” he declares. “What enhances the business? What enhances the education? And what enhances communication? How do [our customers] do what they’re doing better?” Leadership, at the same time, however, leverages all the benefits of scale of multiple businesses combined. Smith points to 2.7 million square feet of warehouse space in the U.S., with 11 active warehouses, as examples.

A New Challenge

Meanwhile, as Taylor readies himself for retirement in June, he plans to wrap his arms around a new challenge. An avid swimmer all his life — in fact, he swam in high school and college and also served as a coach — Taylor will channel his passion into helping underserved youths. Kentucky State University, an HBCU, had a catastrophic failure at its pool a few years ago. However, the institution doesn’t have the money to fix it. That is where Taylor comes in.

“I’m chairing a fund,” he announces, “and our goal is to raise a million dollars to fix the pool.” What’s more, he’s seeking to raise operating capital to keep the pool well maintained and functional for good. Taylor adds that not only will Kentucky State students use the pool but, in addition, those needing swimming lessons and seniors will have access. It’s a perfect next chapter for someone whose passion for market enablement and building businesses is only equaled by his love for swimming.

It seems clear that, as Taylor eyes retirement, his team and he have chosen well in selecting Smith as successor. The future of Exertis Almo remains bright, and, as a result, so, too, does the future of its customers.

Connect with Commercial Integrator and Exertis Almo on LinkedIn.

Almo’s Acquisition of IAVI from an EX IAVI Senior Manager’s Perspective

Bill at desk

There has obviously been a TON of information published, interviews conducted, Web X Meetings, etc, from both inside and outside the channel in regards to the acquisition of IAVI by Almo Pro AV. Now that the dust has settled, and as a 10 year employee and Senior Manager at IAVI before the acquisition, here is a look at the acquisition from (perhaps) a little DIFFERENT perspective.



  • “OMG we’ve been bought out by a competitor in the industry”
  • “OMG do I have a job?”
  • “Oh no, what ARE we going to do?”

Rewind 3 months to April 13th

IAVI was a 19 year old Commercial – Pro A/V Distributor; a veteran so to speak in the channel with HUGE growth percentages year after year since the mid 2000’s.  Almo Pro AV, the company that acquired IAVI, was for the last 7 years one of our chief competitors, certainly our rival in the channel and now; they’ve both taken us out of the game and literally taken over in general. The world as WE knew is now totally upside down and “we” have seemingly LOST the battle.

Fast forward… (it’s now the end of September!)

Where are we today?

“We” as the new combined Almo Pro AV have participated in the third of our E4 AV Tour of the year in Boston, exhibited at InfoComm in June, conducted our annual National Sales Meeting in July, and have one more E4 AV Tour shows coming up soon:  Dallas on October 18th (SAVE THE DATE!)

Virtually ALL of Almo Corporation and Almo Pro AV Senior Management have visited the new Almo Florida office and have provided the EX IAVI team with their motives for acquiring the company, and their vision for the future. They’ve shared opinions and insights with us in regards to the “best practices” that had been identified early on between the two companies and we’ve watched as they’ve specifically implemented some of the IAVI practices quickly into the NEW combined Almo Pro AV.

The results of the due diligences investigations that took place prior to the acquisition have been shared and many of us have been proud to see our NEW company adopt and implement many IAVI practices into the new combined Almo Pro AV almost immediately.

Those of us that were offered positions at Almo have been extremely impressed with the ongoing thought process of Almo Corporation owners and the executive team in the Pro AV Division digging deep into all of the business practices of the acquired company to make the new combined company even BETTER than the previous two individual organizations.

My hats off to Gene, Roz, and Warren Chaiken,  Sam Taylor and the rest of the Almo Pro AV Senior Management team for the care and dedication they demonstrated in trying to FIND ways to retain members of the IAVI Team throughout the entire organization in lieu of finding reasons to let them go.Bill at work

Many people have told me over the years and especially right after the IAVI acquisition, that Almo is a PEOPLE first company and that they recognize their greatest assets as their employees. As a NEW employee of Almo Pro AV it’s my pleasure to testify to the truth of their words and it’s my pleasure to be a part of such a warm and caring organization. I for one am very PROUD to be a part of this incredible new Almo Pro AV TEAM!

3 Important Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right LED Sign

Toddy Todd Pic

There are many factors that go into choosing the correct LED sign, but a few important attributes are commonly ignored. Below are three commonly overlooked factors that should be considered when deciding on a sign manufacturer.

1) Operating Cost

Capital expenditure, or initial investment cost, is typically the first and the most influential factor that most decision makers consider. What many overlook or only give a passing consideration is the ongoing expense of the sign. The larger the sign, the more important this factor becomes over the life of the sign. Knowing that you’re installing an energy efficient sign can save you tens of thousands in operating expenses down the road.

2) Ease of Use / Management

Signs that require proprietary software, or require the purchase of third-party software can add frustration for the end user, a large learning curve, as well as push up the total cost of the project. ADTI offers the flexibility of using their included content management system, SkyShow, or any signage solution that can utilize their standard HDMI input on the SkyPanel system.

3) Ease of Installation

This is a factor that is commonly skipped over, and almost never is considered by the end user. Since it ultimately affects the bottom line, as well as the timeline of the project, I think it’s an attribute that deserves consideration. If the installation requires special structural changes because of the weight, fabrication to enclose the sign for weatherproofing, or modification to allow for extra depth, the money you saved on the lower cost hardware shrinks considerably, or is completely wiped out.


The difficulty of measuring the increase in quality in comparison to the increase in cost, can cause endless hours of agonizing research, and can freeze the final decision. Many are drawn in by the low cost LED panels they’ve seen coming out of China, and end user’s tend to lean towards the frugal choice for the initial capital expenditure and ignore the ongoing operating expense of running an LED sign; which can be an expensive mistake. With ADTI, you don’t have to make that compromise. The combination of affordable initial cost, American made quality, IP67 weatherproofing, and incredibly low power consumption, makes for a visually stunning, “no compromise” solution.







Large Format Displays as Window Signage – Is There a Difference?

NEC LCD High Brightness Displays

A couple of months ago, I spoke with one of our Arizona integrators about a window digital signage project for a large retail jewelry store. As we discussed the project, I asked for specifics as to display size dimensions and quickly moved to content, media player, and signal distribution scheme.  The spec seemed relatively straightforward and a bill of materials would be easy to create.

But as I reviewed drawings and artist renderings, I quickly asked myself:

  • What direction do the windows face? Southwest exposure?
  • Coverings shading the windows?
  • Portrait or landscape orientation?
  • City ordinances on night time brightness?

The answers to the above questions quickly convinced me that I was actually dealing with a high ambient light specification than that of a typical within-the-building digital signage project. Additionally, this window project calls for commercial grade, 24/7 displays (for use well into the night after closing hours) that must have the following design attributes:

  • Higher brightness rating than that of a typical indoor display to ensure crystal clear visibility during the daytime
  • Resistant to the effects of high temperatures and direct sunlight that cause an isotropic blackening effect on liquid crystal
  • Advanced heat management to provide proper cooling given high temperatures and extensive operational hours
  • Polarizing film on the displays so as to be seen by polarized sunglasses in either portrait or landscape orientation
  • Ambient light sensors to dim displays in low sunlight or nighttime


So, as you can easily surmise, we’re now talking about specially designed displays for this project. NEC, for example, manufactures 47”, 55”, and 75” high brightness displays designed for front-facing window display applications.  The XHB Series of displays addresses the above needs with:

  • High brightness (2000-2700 nits) for high ambient light conditions
  • High resistance to isotropic effects from direct sunlight
  • Quarter Lambda Polarizing film so content can be easily seen regardless of orientation or polarized sunglasses
  • Internal heat management and self-diagnostics to insure reliable 24/7 operation
  • Ambient light sensors to dim the panel for lower light and nighttime conditions


Bottom line—front-facing window signage demands are different from indoor or outdoor models. Be sure to know the application when an end user mentions windows in a digital signage application.  Yes, these panels are an investment, but if you can’t see the displays, why have the signage?

My Visit to LG’s Business Innovation Center

Recently, I was fortunate enough to visit the LG Business Innovation Center (BIC) outside of Chicago at LG’s corporate headquarters. It was quite an experience where all of LG’s newest innovations and product verticals are on display to see and feel.  You really get a chance to experience everything that LG has on their commercial display product roadmap, and it’s there specifically for customers and end users to absorb and engage in the future of their technologies.


For every vertical market there was an LG display suited perfectly for it. Whatever the application, the LG BIC has the full array of products for Hospitality, Healthcare, QSR (Quick Serve Restaurants), Transportation scheduling, Museums/Art Galleries, Indoor/Outdoor Digital Signage, Video Walls, Open-frame OLED technology, LED lighting…it’s all here for the taking.  They’ve even created a new market for “digital décor” which stems from their uniquely designed 86-inch Ultra-Stretch 4K model that is ideal for art galleries, museums and the high-end digital signage projects.




Most notable was the new OLED display technology that LG recently unveiled. They showcase a cutting-edge 55-inch OLED 4K UHD Wallpaper display that is absolutely unreal! (see Front View) Everyone at the meeting was completely blown away.  No one could believe their eyes when they saw how thin this unit actually is.  This amazing display is literally thinner than a credit card (see side view).  And, not only was it a gorgeous image, but at less than 4 pounds, this stunning display was installed using Velcro (you can also use magnets)!

LG’s 55-inch OLED 4K UHD Wallpaper Display (Front View):


Yes, I said Velcro! That was not a typo.

You also may notice a black plastic frame behind the actual display (see side view image), but this is not part of the actual OLED display portion and is required for structural stability due to the extremely thin, flexible OLED layer in front of it. This model is truly going to be a game-changer for the industry.  Get ready for a groundbreaking 2016 with LG’s sights set on the future of OLED technology, and the technical developments and advancements that result from those efforts.

LG’s 55-inch OLED 4K UHD Display (side view):


So next time you are in the Chicago (or Atlanta) area and looking to see the latest and greatest that LG Electronics offers, make the trip to their Business Innovation Center. It will be well worth it, I promise!

For more information on LG’s latest products, please do not hesitate to contact me, Eric Olson, via phone at (888) 420-2566 ext. 4082 or via email at [email protected].

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