Back in June, Installation revealed its first ever Pro AV Power 20 list, rounding up the most inspiring and influential figures from across the AV and installation market. To get to know them a little better, we sat down with each of our Pro AV Power 20 inductees for an in-depth chat. Here, we meet Dee Reed, managing director, Carillion Communications…
How did you first get involved in the AV marketplace?
I had worked in international sales for one of the largest film, camera and lighting companies for a number of years and fancied a change. I joined Computacenter and saw an opportunity for the company to evolve AV alongside its traditional IT services, so began what has become a very successful AV practice from the ground up.
What would you say are the most significant changes/ developments to have taken place in the industry during your time?
The industry has gone from being the last thing in the build to a key component with the evolution of UC and the change in products. Not a lot of the products we used to sell when I first entered the industry had network capabilities, now almost everything we specify and install as a business sits on or is managed as part of a wider network or fully integrated system. This has led to more and more traditional IT manufacturers becoming involved in AV such as Microsoft, Fujitsu, Dell and IT distributors and resellers wanting to provide what they see as AV services.
What personal and professional achievements are you most proud of?
The work we did at Computacenter; taking an idea from zero to building a multi-million pound AV business in a very short space of time. Seeing Carillion, once we had bought it, go from strength to strength through training, openness and customer loyalty.
Do you have a philosophy that you live by professionally?
I believe the only fun part of my role is finding individuals who want to learn and grow with the organisation and I enjoy sharing my passion for knowledge. For me learning is a continual programme, ebb and flow does not work and any opportunity must be matched with personal commitment to complete the task. Being ultimately brought into the journey takes the business from strength to strength and these rewards are never just financial.
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As we navigate through our careers there are open and closed gates usually based on skills and relative experience but if we add a positive attitude and a little luck then I believe almost anything is possible. I was told by one of my early managers to always hire candidates who are better than you. Of course, do the skills measures and checks, but go with your gut instinct… a somewhat risky strategy, but one that has paid off in my years of business.
Prior to the outbreak of the global pandemic, what would you say were the biggest areas of technological or operational challenge for the AV industry?
With my background working for one of the largest IT resellers in Europe I would say having a recognisable IT manufacturer with a fundamentally trusted brand for the corporate workplace. When Microsoft launched Surface Hub in 2015 the game changed for the industry and their portfolio continues to challenge the traditional audiovisual manufacturers.
What impact has the pandemic had on you and your business, and what do you think will be the long-term impact of this extraordinary period on our sector?
Today it’s too early to tell, but I would envisage the need for remote collaboration will continue to boom once the pandemic crisis has passed. Teams and Zoom experiences alike will become the norm and we will finally enter a new way of working.
What needs to change in the industry? What do we as a community need to get better at?
Standards are something that always need attention. It would be great to see more manufacturers really working together with guidance and support from some of the great trade associations we have. Often, they have a very focussed individual brand set of ideas on the way forward built around their product roadmap, but this is often poles apart on the interoperability front from what end users and AV integrators need.
The AV community needs to shout about how good we are more. We will never attract new blood from schools, universities and colleges if we are not promoting ourselves in the same ways many IT companies do. This is more important now as UC has driven more IT companies into the AV space than ever; if we do not want to be marginalised, we need to act and promote the industry now.
In your opinion, what will be the biggest driver(s) of change for the AV market in the next five years?
Literally the pandemic. The new working norm will bed-in and the workplace will never be the same.
Finally, what would be your message to those starting out their careers in the AV community?
Don’t always jump straight into a huge corporate environment if you want to progress quickly. Look at the style you have personally and what you want to get out of your work and life. But 100 per cent do it; it is a great industry full of opportunities for every skill set.
Dee Reed is managing director and co-owner of Carillion Communications Ltd. Having honed her leadership skills in the film and TV industry, she has now spent more than 22 years in AV senior management. She established and then managed the hugely successful Computacenter AV practice before being asked to join Carillion Communications as managing director.
In that time, the business has grown dramatically; from one building and 12 staff to four buildings, a sales office in Manchester and a staff of 54.
For the last seven years she has driven standards, quality assurance, diversity and continuation training across the business. Carillion’s sales, installation and service team now all hold CTS certification and every new joiner, regardless of department, completes AV training and certification. In March 2020, this was recognised with the company being awarded the prestigious AVIXA Apex status, the pinnacle of AV skills recognition, making Carillion one of only five other UK companies to do so.
In 2018, Reed founded a conservation trust in South Africa which funds disadvantaged female students through their degree and field internships. At home she also leads the company’s ongoing local charity commitments. This year the business is supporting Maidenhead Foodbank, through a series of monthly fundraising activities with not just financial support but physical assistance from the Carillion team.
In 2019 Carillion Communications completed customer projects in over 21 countries around the world, a trend that looks set to continue this year.
Who’s had the greatest influence on your career?
Jacques Mayol, who’s amazing passion for freediving came from his love for the ocean, his personal philosophy and his desire to explore his own limits. Achievement against all the odds is a lesson we could all draw on today.
Who did/do you look up to as a role model professionally?
No one, I just aim to be the best I can be all the time personally and for all those who work for me.
How do you measure success?
Know your onions, be creative, add diversity, nurture customer advocacy and the numbers will follow.
What’s your biggest professional regret?
My only regret is not finding a business partner earlier in my career.
If you were a teenager today, what profession would you go into?