Looking back at the explosive growth trajectory that Precise Corporate Staging has enjoyed since its inception in 2000, owner David Stern says their plan was to have “sideways” growth. Stern always believed that his company needed to keep expanding into more markets rather than rely on just one. He shares his thoughts and best practices on “growing sideways” with AZNow.biz readers.
“I find that people who take the risk and start a business have a vision of what they want their business to be and the market they are targeting. However, as the business grows, most entrepreneurs are so busy trying to build their business with only the original ideas and the market they wanted to address in the first place. This type of thinking is like tunnel vision because they forget to look at other opportunities and strategic advantages that present themselves,” said Stern. “I believe that you do not need to focus so closely on the path you are on all time. One needs to simply step back and look for new ways to market yourself. It is important to ask yourself, what other market or service can I supply to people that I am not seeing? Who else can use my product or service?”
David Stern explains these ideas from his personal experience.
Precise Corporate Staging started as a corporate meeting company supplying sound, video and lighting along with the technicians to operate the equipment. Early on, Stern’s business model included a national presence and marketed his services through meeting planners and corporations. But as time went on, David soon realized that the sales pipeline was not working and personally got on the phones by himself, working to book out their services. Only to realize that the up and down cycle started to depend on him completely.
“Once I went to a show site the sales calls stopped because I was busy servicing the client. I needed to find another avenue to move the equipment to rent in our down time,” he said.
This is when strategic partnerships came into place. David started speaking with other companies in his industry and discovered that they were looking for a vendor to rent equipment from when they ran out of gear. He quickly saw the opportunity. He was building a great reputation for the quality of equipment in town and the custom packaging they housed the equipment in. This was a great way to maximize the equipment and build up ROI on the equipment. “We started to expand into the rental business by keeping the equipment busy. By keeping our equipment moving, we had more revenue to purchase more equipment,” says Stern.
The rental side of the business would not have been possible without support of “the bigger guys”. By partnering with larger live event companies who kept feeding them moving lights, PCS was able to supply mega tours with equipment. Along the way, there have been plenty of one-offs, special events, and more recently, prestigious festivals.
“You don’t have to view everyone in your industry as competition,” says Stern. In fact, some of the biggest players can become your greatest allies. Build your alliances and you will build your business.
To say the least, PCS is always busy. In addition to these big events, “Now we’re also doing hardware sales through our network of eighty-five dealers”, said Stern.
Today they are focused on expanding into the entertainment segment, and they are doing it as they have done everything else: carefully and thoughtfully.
Stern shares his “lessons learned” with other business owners. “Companies that move too fast can be knocked out by one misstep,” observes Stern. “And because you’re buying into new gear, you really can’t make a mistake. The bar is higher and you have to perform. It’s a matter of patience and timing – not just in our industry but across the marketplace.”
Stern’s advice to other business owners is: Regardless of your growth strategy, stick to your core values. “Our philosophy is we partner with our clients,” Stern says. “We help them invest in their business. When their business grows, our business grows.” They work show-to-show but also year-to-year. “We want to create events and relationships where we both win.”