Chalk It up to Experience

Advent Systems, Inc.

Advent Systems, Inc., Elmhurst, Ill., provides low-voltage services in the areas of security and CCTV management systems, audio/visual, network cabling, and paging/sound masking. It operates out of two locations with a total of about 130 employees.

Michael Walsdorf, company president, attributes the success to a number of competitive advantages. The first is specialization in low-voltage work.

“In fact, all of our work is low-voltage,” Walsdorf said. “While we do all of this type of work, most of our work is focused on security, access control and CCTV,” he said.

The company’s second competitive advantage is the depth of experience of its workers. 

“Most of our employees have years of experience with us and have acquired a lot of specialized training,” Walsdorf said. “In fact, our people have enough experience that we are able to install, maintain and service everything that we sell.”

The company rarely needs to subcontract anything out. 

“The only things we don’t physically perform ourselves is if we are on a job that involves large amounts of conduit,” he said. “If that is part of the scope of our job requirement, we will generally subcontract that out.”

Advent Systems also provides breadth of experience in addition to depth.

In addition, “We have all of the resources in-house to do the things we do,” Walsdorf said. “In addition to our technical people, we employ a lot of people with specialized skills. We can bring subject-matter experts to any problems that occur by utilizing our own staff.” 

One example is software specialists. The company also has its own full-time professional sales force that is responsible for developing new business.

Besides installation, the company has significant expertise and experience in performing service work. It has its own separate service department, staffed by 17 field technicians with specialized training in communications technology.

“We have a large maintenance contract business, and we also sell parts to our customers,” Walsdorf said.

While the service department reports to the vice president of operations, it is considered a separate entity within the company and has its own staff members.

“For example, we have a staff of people to answer phones, coordinate service with customers and schedule our people,” he said. 

Employees at Advent Systems focus a lot of attention on coordinating seamlessly with and among each other.

“We coordinate internally very well,” he said. “We are organized along functional lines. Our vice president of operations has weekly meetings where we coordinate and allocate our manpower, so we are together with our people frequently, talking about projects and project schedules, and making sure that we have the resources in place where they are needed and when they are needed to meet customer schedules.”

Management further ensures this coordination by engaging in the proven strategy of management by walking around. 

“We have a lot of face time with our people,” Walsdorf said.

Finally, Advent Systems prides itself on its ability to work well with others on projects. Whether it is engaged in new construction, expansion projects on existing buildings or retrofit projects, everyone in the company gets along well with the general contractors they work with, as well as with people from the other trades.

“We know how to schedule and plan, and this ensures that things move smoothly,” Walsdorf said.

While Advent Systems works in virtually all industries, its six primary focus areas are healthcare, commercial/office, educational, industrial, municipal and retail.

“We do a tremendous amount of healthcare work, including new construction, maintenance and service,” Walsdorf said. “We also do a lot of work in commercial real estate/office. For example, we have a lot of customers with new suburban campuses that we have built and that we continue to maintain for them over the years.”

One of the company’s many noteworthy projects was working on the recently completed McDonald’s headquarters facility on the west side of Chicago. Success was due in large part to the company’s competitive advantages all coming together.

“This was a large, high-profile project, with the tightest of all possible time frames, which got further compressed as the job went along,” Walsdorf said. “As such, our ability to have all of our own labor and to coordinate well with the GC were critical to success.”

“A project like this had large systems that had to be installed and integrated in a short period of time,” he said. “If we didn’t have trained people, and if we were not able to coordinate, it would [have been] more difficult than it was.”

In fact, Walsdorf believes that one of the reasons Advent Systems was hired by the GC for the McDonald’s project was because the GC knew the company’s reputation for being able to be responsive and to perform a difficult job like this.

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