Learning Curve | AV Designers pull out all the stops

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Managing director at AV Designers in Port Elizabeth, Chris Davidge said his team’s drive to be extraordinarily creative and go the extra mile for customers, has largely contributed to the business’s success.
The company, which started about 20 years ago, focuses on audio, lighting, stage design, video production and event management.
Davidge said the other key factors ensuring his company’s success were maintaining professionalism, excellent customer service and competitive pricing.
“It is the above factors that have kept our loyal clients coming back to us year after year for the last two decades,” he said. Can you give me some background on yourself and how and when you started the business? I started in the audio visual and event management industry in December 1994. I started working for a company called ABN Productions and eventually bought the company and AV Designers was born in 1999. It’s been a very long but extremely interesting road.
Where was the business idea born?
There was a small staging division at ABN that I was managing and I loved the industry and grew it from owning two old projectors, two screens and four speakers to what AV Designers is today.
What do you think makes your business unique?
We absolutely love what we do. We take so much pride in being very creative. We strive to keep our customers happy and to keep them coming back.
Whether you are planning an intimate meeting for 10 delegates or a large conference for over 1000 delegates, AV Designers can assist you in the smooth-running of your event.
There is no event too small or too large for us to handle.
From venue-finding, conceptualising your show, full technical support throughout, to the post production postmortem, we have you covered.
If someone wanted to take one key lesson from your business model, what would it be?
You need to value and understand the importance of maintaining good relationships [with customers]. The best thing you can do is keep things personal as this industry is all about trust and good relationships.
What were some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before even getting off the ground?
In the beginning, our main challenge related to finding and training the right people who had the level of passion and creativity this business required.
What are some of the biggest challenges in your day-to-day business operations and in your industry?
The whole country is feeling the economic pinch, and we are no different. We know that budgets are becoming a lot tighter.
For us, equipment and running costs are becoming more and more expensive.
Our real challenge is having to do events that are up to standard and that we are proud of, within the allocated budget.
What is the best advice anyone gave you about achieving success?
This is a difficult one. I always try my best to listen and take note of what people tell me.
But in the end, I tend to go with my gut feeling and end up doing what I feel is best for both the company and myself.
How do you measure or define success in your business?
Our success is based on us having happy clients as well as happy staff. We enjoy making sure that this happens on a continuous basis.
What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?
We always strive to keep up the relationship with all of our customers.
We also continuously try to do things more creatively than the time before so that we keep impressing or clients.
What kind of advertising do you do?
We use social media advertising quite a bit.
We also use radio and newspaper platforms to advertise our business and brand.
What are some of your highlights in running your business?
A key highlight for me is just seeing how the business and the staff have grown over the years.
How many people do you employ? We currently employ 12 people.
How do you motivate staff? The AV Designers team is creative, innovative, imaginative, and takes pride in every event that they are involved in.
We motivate the staff with praise when they do well and training when they need to grow.
How did you acquire funding for the business?
With the property boom between 2001 – 2006.
Once you had funding, what was the first step in actually launching the business?
AV Designers was up and running and we already had our clients. However, I needed to buy out the partners and invest in equipment.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your business journey so far?
It is all about hard work. You have to put in the work to see success.
What have been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like PE?
We have a number of clients who are from outside this city and that has really helped business growth.
But Port Elizabeth is the friendly city and we enjoy being based here.
What do you think are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?
Any successful entrepreneur has to have passion, vision and drive.

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