Malvern, Pennsylvania-headquartered Cenero LLC is approaching twenty successful years of leading the way in integrating audiovisual (AV) and other business communications. The company provides clients with total audiovisual solutions from design and installation to service.
Chris Henry is unafraid of business challenges. He is an aerospace engineer with a master’s degree in physics who previously worked for a venture group within a large publicly-traded company, which started with fewer than ten people and soon grew to over a thousand.
“It was a very interesting way to grow up in the entrepreneurial world,” says Henry, the company’s chief executive officer. He co-founded Cenero in 1999, and the challenge was finding a name to fit the company and its vision. The cofounders found Cenero, which means ‘link’ in Esperanto, the universal language. “We were looking for a name that would reflect what we were trying to do, and that came up. We were fortunate to find it.”
Cenero started with just two members and has grown significantly in size, number of locations, revenue, and staff levels, adding fifteen to twenty percent more employees per year. The company has 220 people today, including technical focus workers, salespeople, development specialists, marketers, programmers, engineers, CAD specialists, installation engineers for audio and visual and related systems, and call center staff – who are also trained engineers and able to respond expertly to customer questions or concerns.
“We’ve averaged just a little over thirty percent year-on-year revenue growth since our inception,” says Henry. “It’s a little more difficult to do as you grow, but we been fortunate to be able to keep that trend alive.”
The company knows its market and targets well-known Fortune 5000 companies. Cenero has a strong focus on providing service and solutions for its clients, allowing it to have grown organically over the years as it sought potential partnerships which suited the company.
It was aware of Avectus, a well-known audiovisual systems integration business, and acquired it in June of this year. Avectus is ideally located in Lebanon in upstate New Jersey, near a potential client base, making it well-suited for growth.
“We are excited to partner with the great team at Avectus as we merge our capabilities to offer superior collaborative solutions to an expanded client base,” said Henry at the time in a media release, adding, “Combining our companies creates a world-class, service-focused AV and managed-services provider offering higher-value services for clients and more opportunities for employees.”
Avectus was in a similar market and had a strong client base but lacked much of the infrastructure and tools available to Cenero. Cenero believed that Avectus would provide a tremendous conduit to sell and offer more value to clients, so the decision was made to acquire the company and provide existing and new customers with exceptional, custom-tailored services and software solutions.
“We can bring a lot of value to clients in that area, and lot of things they haven’t seen before,” says Henry. “I think there are a lot of positives.”
Cenero was also a solid fit with the Avectus management team. The company has been operating as Avectus, a Cenero company, but the name will be transitioned solely to Cenero as of January 1, 2019.
Cenero believes the new location will become its largest in the coming three to four years. It has maintained all staff, and Henry says more will be added in the coming months to meet the needs of clients.
Along with its Malvern headquarters and new Avectus location in New Jersey, Cenero has additional offices in Baltimore, Maryland; Charlotte, North Carolina; and it is set to open a new location in Texas outside of Dallas in the first quarter of 2019. “A number of customers have asked us to go there,” states Henry. “It’s a good reason to set up, and it’s a good deal.” At least one current employee will relocate to the Texas site, and Henry notes that the company will also hire additional staff in Texas.
Cenero has two divisions within the company. The first is design-build integration solutions, where the company’s experts design, install, service, program, and configure audiovisual solutions such as training rooms, conference rooms, boardrooms, video conferencing systems, and signs. This covers video conferencing, Skype for business, three-dimensional (3D) renderings and more.
Additionally, Cenero has a complementary relationship with its second division that provides managed services for a range of systems vehicles. Managed services include a call center, software to ensure things work as they are supposed to when they are supposed to, and monitoring. At the press of a button, clients have the ability to reach the service operations center to ensure functionality.
“This allows folks to easily reach engineers when they need them, either if there is a user error or question or something is not working like it should – we should be able to resolve most of those issues remotely,” says Henry. Data collected with the service has resulted in the world’s largest database of functional information on these types of systems.
There are many key points of difference between Cenero and the competition, including respect for the customer. When other companies design and implement audiovisual systems, they often put in technology for technology’s sake, essentially selling the client something they simply did not need. Instead, Cenero puts in the least complex solution and still meets customer needs.
“It certainly is not all about throwing stuff in there,” states Henry. “That’s intelligent integration, designing solutions that are tailored for specific client need. We’d rather upsell service.” This straightforward professional attitude and commitment to customers has resulted in significant repeat business for Cenero over the past twenty-three years.
The staff at Cenero refuse to be complacent and are continually looking for new avenues for the company to explore. One is huddle room solutions, which takes advantage of the growing need for huddle rooms and collaboration spaces, as clients re-evaluate space and technology to boost communication and optimize productivity while remaining on-budget. Often, a huddle space is a small area with an interactive display – that may include such digital items as presentations or spreadsheets. Through the interactive display, about four to six people in the room can work with other people who are not physically located in that room, but somewhere else. This falls under unified communications, a general term that encompasses bringing together voice, data, and video into one spot to allow users to work seamlessly with others who are using similar tools.
“Huddle space, a simpler type space where people work collaboratively together, will continue to grow,” says Henry. “You will see more and more ease of use of systems that frankly, currently, are just too complicated. They will become more reliable and easier to use. You will see a proliferation of managed services to support them, much like you see with IT, as well as the outsourcing of those systems. And then the general trends that reflect the computer industry: high-resolution, faster, that type of thing with more bells and whistles.”
Cenero has received acclaim for its outstanding work over the years with multiple awards as one of the best places to work. This August, Cenero was included for the fifth time in Inc. magazine’s Top 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in the United States. The ranking acknowledges America’s fastest-growing private companies and the percentage of revenue growth over three years, with Cenero achieving an impressive ninety-one percent revenue growth during that time. Also in August, Cenero was proud to be included in Commercial Integrator magazine’s list of fast-growing AV integration firms two years in a row. And in November of last year, Cenero made the list of Systems Contractor News’ top fifty systems integrators, which focused on top revenue-generating commercial AV installations in 2017.
Much of the company’s ongoing success is the result of its core values, including passion, work ethic, respect for others, emotional intelligence, and motivation. “That’s what makes Cenero and the people here special, and it’s how we relate to each other, how we relate to clients, how we relate to partners. So the most important things about Cenero are these core values and the type of person that we look for to be a teammate.”
The company has an exceptional staff and is always on the lookout for talented employees. It recently added a department within its human resources group focused on strategic alliances and initiatives to keep its talent pipeline open. These include partnering with universities, internal training, seeing how people move up their career path within the company, relationships with technology schools, and potentially working on relationships with government agencies to keep developing talent.
“I think our mission statement is really what we are about,” says Henry. “From our perspective, we look for win, win, wins, and what I mean by that is, if it’s good for our employees, if it’s good for our clients, it’s good for Cenero. So we are always looking for a way where everybody wins. We obviously have to make a reasonable margin to stay in business, but we need to take care of our employees, and we need to take care of our clients, so it’s a three-way balancing act, and that’s very important.”