Among the many business lessons Shawn Quinlan has learned over the years, one of the most important is how vital it is to adapt to changing markets and technologies and to do so quickly. And while this is true of many industries, it is especially important when it comes to electronics.
As president of Nationwide Audio Visual (operating as a division of Nationwide Electronics Ltd.) for the past twenty-seven years, Quinlan has overseen much of the company’s growth.
Nationwide Audio Visual goes back to the beginnings of the electronics industry in Canada, when it was founded by Frank Zelger and Ted Nishi Sr. in 1962. Zelger previously worked for Seabreeze Electronics as an audio engineer, while Nishi brought his experience in finance and sales to the new company. Nishi was influential in bringing in lines manufactured by Japan-based electronic giants Panasonic and Sharp, a bold move then as these lines weren’t in Canada at the time. As a distributor for Panasonic and Sharp, Nationwide sold the lines to over 150 dealers, until 1973, when Sharp and Panasonic came directly to Canada.
One of the company’s best sellers then was a shoebox-style cassette recorder, which were sold to over 7,000 schools. Quinlan soon realized that to remain competitive, Nationwide would need to evolve its focus to an integrated company. “There were a few companies like us back in the sixties that didn’t see that, and they’re not around anymore because they didn’t adapt and evolve,” states Quinlan.
Before joining the company, Quinlan attended the University of Waterloo, University of Western Ontario and the University of Guelph studying engineering and business. He owned several companies, discovering the importance of quickly responding to changes in the marketplace.
One of Nationwide’s strengths is the ability to “think outside of the box”, most recently shown on a project for Rogers. Nationwide was recommended by a long-time client and was responsible for the audiovisual (AV) integration as well as lighting, drywall, carpeting, furniture and more. The final result was a state-of-the-art room resembling an ultra-high-end home theatre, with elevated seats and tiered stepping. Nationwide took care of all front and back-end work, including cabling, infrastructure, racking and displays. The space is used as a showcase by Rogers to its suppliers.
“We were the one-stop shop for this project, not only for audiovisual but for everything right down to painting and bringing designers in, in terms of what color coordination they wanted in the room and the lighting under the steps,” states Quinlan. “That’s just one example of us going the extra mile, and I don’t think there’s any integration company in Toronto that would ever want to do that.” It is not unusual for Nationwide to work with designers, end users, and architects to ensure rooms for video conferencing are functional as well as visually appealing.
Across Canada, there are currently billions being spent on healthcare. The Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital (MVH) is budgeted at $1.7 billion and is expected to be completed by 2020. MVH will have 342 beds, 1,800 full-time staff and the distinction of being the first ‘smart’ hospital in Canada. These fully integrated ‘smart’ systems will enable medical devices and other hospital systems to share information in the 1.7-million-square-foot facility. “It’s the largest, most expensive hospital in Canada to date, and the audiovisual alone is significant,” says Quinlan.
Nationwide has been part of the project from the beginning and was brought onboard by an IT integration business that knew it could not handle the complicated AV scope. In fact, Nationwide has been involved in twelve of the last sixteen hospitals constructed in the province. “We are pretty much known as a healthcare integration company.”
Among the many technological features of MVH are its fifteen smart workflows, which are being developed to improve the way staff work, ultimately allowing caregivers to spend more time with patients. Nationwide Audio Visual assists in developing these specialized workflows via coordinating, developing and programming. Nationwide has the certified programmers vital for workflow programming to be successful.
Nationwide Audio Visual has a large base of loyal, long-term clients and over 350 partnerships with many of the world’s best-known technology companies, suppliers and contractors. Along with a highly experienced, certified staff, the company has access to hundreds of thousands of products and works with customers to create total solutions. These factors have resulted in repeat business, with the majority of sales coming from referrals via consultants, architects, construction companies, electrical businesses and existing clients.
Recently, the company hired additional staff and now has forty-one full-time employees. Gold Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) Certification means Nationwide meets the highest possible industry standards. The company holds numerous other certifications and gold partnerships and works with approximately thirty-five to forty trusted subcontractors for its installations.
Nationwide provides the best quality and most complete technological solutions available. Though it typically takes on projects from one million to 10 million dollars, the company will work on smaller jobs – such as a boardroom, for example – which often results in much larger works in the future. All projects, from mounting a few displays to tackling large-scale interactive projects in hospitals and universities, are handled with the same dedication to quality and complete client satisfaction.
Nationwide’s experienced staff members are the company’s greatest asset. Much of Nationwide’s work is performed in Ontario, although Quinlan says the company will travel out of province for some clients. Its size is another advantage; housed in the company’s large facility in Mississauga is a high-technology showroom. All systems are built and tested and clients are brought in for any changes. Once signed off on, the system can be loaded and transported to site. The quality control is exceptional.
Nationwide works for Fortune 500 companies, law firms, hospitals, universities, and government agencies and is presently busy with eight projects at the University of Toronto and is installing multi-million-dollar projector systems at Centennial College.
Quinlan says Nationwide considers itself less of an AV integration company and more of an IT integration company because that’s how the industry has evolved. “You have to run with the changes and accept it; otherwise you won’t be here tomorrow. We get the picture long-term and are in this for the long haul. We are more interested in building lasting client relationships, not just completing one job.”