AVTECH Software is a small company but with a global footprint. Its well-recognized product, Room Alert, is used by many prominent clients, including the White House. Since its launch in 1988 by Michael Sigourney, the company has seen consistent and continual growth because innovation and creativity are a vital part of its ongoing improvements across all aspects of its business.
Starting and running a business has always been part of the DNA of Michael, Founder and CEO of AVTECH. Prior to launching his company in 1988, he sold advertising in the computer industry, served as a director for marketing at two software companies, and then worked as a marketing consultant to several high-tech companies. He was successful at everything he did. But, instead of being happy about his accomplishments, Michael was becoming frustrated, seeing that he usually worked harder and had greater commitment than the people who owned or ran those businesses. He felt held back and that he could do better.
As a consultant, Michael helped sell a couple of his customer companies to investors. Much of his work was responsible for the interest in and/or eventual sale of those companies. “When the dust settled, the owners walked away with a big check, and I had to find another client,” Michael says. “I quickly decided to put my market knowledge and previous experience into starting my own business and have never looked back since.”
After founding AVTECH, Michael established other businesses as well. AVTECH, however, continues to be his most successful and well-recognized enterprise.
AVTECH manufactures monitors (controllers), sensors, software, and online services for IT and facilities environment monitoring. The company’s complete platform Room Alert supports hundreds of thousands of users worldwide at customer organizations located within 187 of 196 countries.
Room Alert provides important monitoring, alerting, logging and more to help identify changes in the environment, such as temperature, power, humidity, heat index, water leaks, smoke, motion and other critical conditions. “I believe Room Alert saves billions of dollars each year by providing immediate alerts in response to changing conditions so that staff and managers can respond immediately when changing conditions put their people, products, property, or business at risk,” Michael says.
AVTECH also continues to add quality people to its team regularly. In recent years, it has set up a distribution facility in Shannon, Ireland; purchased its contract manufacturer in Pittsburgh; eliminated all debt; received multiple patents; and continues to innovate.
“AVTECH is more than a software company,” Michael says. “Although the software is a core part of our history and in our name, it is more of what sets AVTECH apart than what defines us.”
Room Alert: A Recognized Brand
Not many people may know about AVTECH by name, but Room Alert is highly recognized worldwide within the market for IT and facilities management. Michael points out that there were two points in time when he knew Room Alert had become a recognized brand.
“The first was when APC asked about buying AVTECH, this was long before Schneider Electric acquired them and after management discovered that they had been purchasing large volumes of our monitors through their air conditioning group,” Michael says.
After he said that they were not interested, APC bought a competitor that was struggling and hungry for a lifeline. “We still convert many of their customers to Room Alert each month,” Michael adds.
The second incident is one of Michael’s favorite stories. During a meeting with people from the manufacturer of a key component used in Room Alert monitors, his receptionist stuck her head into the room and said, “Sorry to disturb you Michael, but I think you need to take this call… it’s the White House!”
He did take that call. And, they were shipping Room Alerts to the White House by the end of the week. “I could not have had a more impressive disruption, and it gave us the edge in our meeting once I returned,” Michael says.
Competitors Cannot Compete Against AVTECH’s Product
Room Alert hardware is so advanced, easy to use, reliable, and cost-effective that any competitor who enters the market trying to sell a similar product fails to take off. Michael says that competitors discover that the knowledge, insight, and experience gained over 33 years is not easily understood or duplicated.
Michael also points out that if Room Alert has contributed to the industry in a significant way, it has been to empower IT and facilities managers to become fully informed about critical conditions that influence their business continuity while they are at the office, working remotely, and enjoying personal time.
Over the years, AVTECH and Room Alert have been recognized often for a variety of achievements. “My proudest recognition was when the U.S. government listed AVTECH as ‘Exporter of the Year’ in 2018,” Michael says.
Michael is not someone who likes to boast about his awards or accolades. He, however, says that as a team, they are proud of each recognition. “It is because they are testimony to our team’s work and validation to customers that Room Alert is a solution they can trust and depend on,” Michael adds.
Boy Scout Values
Michael sometimes refers to the company’s core values as “Boy Scout” values. They revolve around trust, loyalty, helpfulness, and respect. “I like to think that I lead by example and that we live what we preach as a management team,” Michael says, adding that it is vitally important that they always respect other people whether they are inside or outside of the organization.
And diversity is at the heart of AVTECH’s progress. Its team members come from different countries and cultures, and they are almost evenly split between men and women. Michael points out that people working at the company have diverse interests and ways, in which, they live their lives. “By allowing people to be proud of who they are, we enable them to feel comfortable contributing in different ways, and somehow it always seems to make things better,” he says.
“Most of our people have worked here for many years. I am very proud of our team and their reach into the various communities they live and work in.”
Offering Employees High Quality of Living
AVTECH offers its employees a high quality of living. One of the reasons is that it is based in Rhode Island. Michael says that the ‘Ocean State’ is a wonderful place in the U.S., known for its natural beauty. It brings a calmness that refreshes the soul while providing many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. And the area also has a highly educated population and has many fine colleges and universities. “It is a great place to raise a family without the disadvantages of being in a large city,” Michael says. Also, Rhode Island is close enough to both Boston and New York, everyone at the company gets to enjoy the unique benefits of a big city within a short drive.
Michael also points out that they have a unique office environment at Cutler Mill. “Our 150-year-old mill is highly recognized as one of the best-restored mills in all of New England,” he adds. “Everyone has a window and plenty of space, 12’ ceilings, cherry floor, and interesting views.” Moreover, AVTECH offers flexible work schedules and a mix of remote and in-office work opportunities.
“Plus, we offer some of the best employee benefits packages available in Rhode Island, with a family-first perspective that our people appreciate,” Michael says. “Our team likes what they do and take pride in working together to provide market-leading products.”
He also says that recognition is nice, although the ability to work together in a positive, diverse, encouraging, and safe work environment, where people build each other up and respect each other, makes it easy to focus on doing good things together.
Challenges Are Required Part of Business Success
Michael considers challenges and occasional failures as a required part of business success. He, however, adds that the key is to grow into each challenge and keep those failures small enough to be overcome and not sink the boat. “It then becomes critical to learn from each experience and share insights with those around you so that the same mistakes are not repeated,” Michael says.
Since the inception of AVTECH in 1988, Michael and his team have experienced many challenges. Michael says that there were times when he did not know if or how the company would make it. These challenges include starting his own company with very little capital; major market transitions; multiple office relocations; cash flow challenges; significant changes in process automation; having an office building catch fire; having another office building flood; changing from outsourced to inhouse development; expanding sales and distribution to other countries; and much more.
“We overcame each of these hurdles like so many other companies before us,” Michael says. “We dug in with both hands, created a plan, and worked as a team to move forward and past the challenge.”
He also says that if a person never fails, it’s hard for him to believe that they are stretching their abilities to accomplish anything worthy or that what is accomplished changes the world for the better. “There is pride and satisfaction in knowing something has been accomplished that does not come easy to others or that you have been able to do faster or better,” Michael says.
Success Is a Moving Target
Michael sees success as a “moving target” that changes on a regular basis. “I have learned over and over that my dreams change as life moves forward and targeted accomplishments are achieved,” he says. “It is okay and in fact, appropriate to redefine my personal goals, as well as how I define success, as time passes.”
At present, for Michael, success means that a lot of different factors and concerns in our life are working well together and in a proper balance. These shift over time as a family, business, and the world around him change.
Michael agrees that it is nice to achieve accomplishments, perform at high levels, and be recognized by others, but he also regularly reminds himself that his personal happiness is really a sum measure of how effective he is being at influencing the happiness of the people around him, both in personal and professional life.
Passed on Many of His Responsibilities
Over the years, Michael has reduced his responsibilities at AVTECH. “I have grown to see things differently now than I did in the early days, and much of the work has changed due to the growth stage we are in today versus when we were just starting out,” he says. “I focus more and more now on ensuring our future success after me.”
Around five years ago, Michael appointed Rick Grundy to run the day-to-day operations. “He is an excellent manager,” he says, adding that they have established a management team across all departments that is qualified and stable.
“In summary, I have successfully passed many of the responsibilities that I once held,” Michael adds. “This allows me to focus more on selling and serving some long-term and high-volume customers; visiting our valued resellers; and participating directly in trade shows and trade missions around the world.”
Michael enjoys meeting with people from different parts of the business and in other parts of the world, as he believes it is important to understand how other people view AVTECH and Room Alert products.
Michael says that they have always joked that their mission was to achieve ‘Worldwide Domination’. “The truth is that we have been successful reaching most parts of the world with customers and resellers in 187 of 196 countries,” he says, adding that in 2018, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recognized AVTECH as Exporter of the Year.
Michael points out that the plan from here is to go deeper within different markets. “We have many organizations currently working to deploy Room Alert products enterprise-wide and that gets very exciting because it means they plan to stick with the Room Alert platform for years,” he says.
“Honestly, I think we’ll ‘stick to the knitting’ and continue with what works… creating ‘best of breed’ products and backing them with the best service real people can provide,” Michael adds. “If we can keep driving Room Alert’s value ratio up, then I know we’ll be here for the long term.”
Both Gartner and Forrester’s research reports note that between 28-30 percent of business downtime worldwide is caused by environmental conditions that go bad. Michael says that Room Alert provides an extremely important solution to stay informed and respond immediately, helping organizations of all types prevent downtime and maximize their business continuity.
“If the research from Gartner and Forrester is accurate, we could easily be a company ten times larger than we are now within five years,” Michael adds. “Wouldn’t that be fun!”