Custom AV Distribution was the result of an opportunity that presented itself. I’d worked in the Custom Install sector for 10 years and I loved the industry, having previously worked in commercial AV where it was a bit more ‘suit & tie’. The residential market was innovative, people focused and a lot more fun. When my time at Genesis came to an end, I didn’t want to waste the relationships I’d made with both the manufacturers and the integrators I had been working with for the previous 6 years. It wasn’t my intention to start a new company but when a couple of manufacturers asked if they could come with me to my next role, I had a light bulb moment! I was fortunate enough to have had a few good job offers, but most of the brands would have clashed with other distributors portfolios. It was actually one of the owners of the other distributors that said “Jamie, if you have an itch to start your own company with those brands, you should go for it!” So, with some butterflies in my belly, but also with a clear idea of what I wanted my company to represent, I formed CAVD.
The name “Custom AV Distribution”, came out of a discussion I had with my wife whilst in the car. I wanted it to be very clear we were a trade only distributor, selling exclusively to the dealers through the dedicate CI channel. I wanted the company to focus on custom made AV, specifically brands that offered the look and performance that would blow people away and also tick the boxes for aesthetics. We had a ‘Ronseal moment’ and the name Custom AV Distribution was born. For the few that are unsure, the Ronseal slogan was “Does exactly what is says on the tin.”
It sounds like a cliché, but I have always been very passionate about customers and their experience. When I started my own company, that felt even more important to me as my word and reputation were on the line. I wanted CAVD to be honest, transparent and a partner to both our suppliers and customers.
I started out with a couple of brands and some investment, but it was my relationships with a few key integrators that gave me the support I needed to get the business off the ground. I am eternally grateful to both the manufacturers and customers who put their trust in me, especially in those early days. I am grateful not only for their business, but also for their support and guidance on how to grow my business, having been through it themselves. It’s a constant learning curve and I’m so pleased to be an industry that shares knowledge, both technically and commercially.
When I first launched the company, I remember walking the halls at ISE and CEDIA with a sense of foreboding being on my own. That quickly went away when I bumped into industry colleagues who slapped me on my back and said how well they thought I’d do. They helped gave me the confidence that I’d made the right decision. If you’ve ever started a business yourself and not had the odd doubt along the way, you’re a more confident person than me but the feelings of doubt have certainly dwindled now as we enter our 5th year.
In the early days my overheads were quite low, but I didn’t want to sit still and I was being pushed (quite rightly) by the brands I was representing to hit bigger numbers. In order to do this, I took on several complimentary brands giving me a complete system offering in terms of cinema and media room. That quickly grew into multi-room with the addition of AGATH and Nakymatone invisible speakers and we’ve recently taken that to another level again with the addition of Dynaudio.
CAVD is growing all the time but I’ve tried to keep it a manageable stretch. We’ve never over committed on a new brand that would forsake the sales of a trusted exiting manufacturer. I’ve generally found that a new addition has helped the other brands I’m already working with. That remains my intention and whilst I am approached a lot more now by manufacturers looking for specialist distribution, I would only take something on that I feel I can add value to.
The company has really started to grow and blossom in the last two years where it’s seen the most significant growth. After establishing a solid business in the those first two years, both customers and suppliers were realising I was in this for the long haul and they learned to trust CAVD more. CAVD is a small but very strong team I’m incredibly proud of. Claire is a superstar and has incredible organisation skills to handle our back end and also help me with sales. Wayne joined us at the beginning of 2017 and his technical expertise, dedication and professionalism is second to none. We work hard but we all get on incredibly well and are looking to expand again with the right person or people. What does the future hold for CAVD? Well, I have my own ideas but I’m also open to whatever opportunities present themselves too. Our reputation is very strong and more people are taking notice of what we’re doing. I am going to offer more value to our customers through design and support which goes in hand with our medium to high end offering. I don’t see us going broadline and trying to be everything to everyone as I’d rather be looking to offer the very best money can buy rather than ticking a box. What I can guarantee though is that I will stay true to my roots in top service and support with the right partners.