B-Tech AV Mounts, the British brackets manufacturer, is celebrating 45 years in the business this year and the company says its future has never looked brighter. In an exclusive interview with CIE, managing director, Matthew Bennett, takes stock.
Matthew, who completed an MBO of the business from his father in 2008, explains that he has significantly grown the business in recent years, making the company a global player within the AV industry, with a sales network that now sees B-Tech products installed around the world.
Today, The B-Tech International Group consists of eight companies, located in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. B-Tech sold its solutions to 49 different countries directly and a further 15 through distribution in the past 12 months.
The company has had to work hard to get to this point.
Matthew explains: “Armed with £500 and a van, my father set up the company in 1972, as a supplier of generic audio video accessories to the retail trade in London. Our first ever bracket was the BT1 Tilt and Swivel Loudspeaker Mount which was launched in 1979. Over the next decade, a number of additional loudspeaker mounts were introduced into the range, later followed by CRT television mounts, all designed and manufactured in the UK.”
However, it was the rise of large domestic TVs in the late 90s that opened a natural boom in business for B-Tech.
Matthew continues: “By the end of the decade, Plasma screens were entering the market and with B-Tech’s experience designing mounting solutions, we were in prime position to benefit from this revolution in viewing technology. Throughout the 2000s, our in-house designed mounting range continued to expand – covering the professional AV market as well as the retail consumer market, which B-Tech was very strong in.”
In order to keep up with demand and cost pressures, in 2002, B-Tech set up operations in Hong Kong to oversee and manage the transfer of production from the UK to the Far East. One major benefit of this was that it allowed B-Tech to sell direct from the factory to the rest of the globe.
For Matthew, the expansion of B-Tech’s portfolio has been hugely fulfilling, albeit not without its challenges. He explains: “The financial crisis from 2008 to 2010 was a particularly challenging time for many UK businesses and B-Tech definitely felt the effects during that period. Thankfully, we were able to emerge from that period as a much stronger business and have seen tremendous growth ever since.”
Matthew adds: “We have developed a highly successful product with our System X range and our professional mounting products now make up the largest and most significant part of our business. The key to their popularity is the user-friendly features designed to save installers both time and money.
“Modularity is another important aspect- most B-Tech products can be fitted to other B-Tech products; like a giant Meccano or Lego set – everything works with everything else. This means there is no installation challenge which can’t be met with a B-Tech solution.”
Sign of the times
Digital signage applications are getting bigger and more complicated, with no sign of the trend slowing down. This is clearly good news for Matthew and B-Tech, but also brings increased competition.
“The digital signage ‘boom’ that we are experiencing right now is really not limited to any vertical market,” says Matthew. “Screen technologies are so prominent in all areas of business now that we strive to make sure we cater to all markets. However, recently, we are finding the retail sector to be particularly strong as well as hospitality and transportation hubs, which is a reasonably good indicator of the current economic state.
As for the competition conundrum, Matthew knows the importance of having a ‘people first’ business. He says: “It may be clichéd, but we consider our success to be down to ‘the sum of all parts’ of the business. We pride ourselves on the level of customer service that we offer, which begins right at the product design stage, where we often consult key customers as part of the design process and give advanced previews for feedback.
“The high levels we set are reflected in the products themselves, which are of a high quality and have earned a solid reputation based on their reliability and ease of use. We have a great team of staff, working at B-Tech offices right across the world, who are dedicated to offering the best service possible and always pay attention to our customers’ needs. We have an extensive portfolio of off-the-shelf solutions and a dedicated in-house design team who can produce a bespoke solution if needed.”
With digital signage applications becoming more and more ambitious in their design, extreme solutions are now becoming the new ‘hot ticket’. At this year’s ISE, B-Tech demonstrated how its System X solutions can be used for mounting video wall displays at heights of over 4m. With a team of British engineers, B-Tech says it prides itself on being able to meet any mounting requirement.
New developments on the immediate horizon include lighter, stronger, more slimline mounting solutions, along with a hassle-free answer to mounting any RGB LED display.
Matthew says: “We design our products to be as universal as possible and, as mentioned previously, our different solutions all work in conjunction with one another. This makes it very easy to create entirely customised solutions from parts that already exist on the shelf. We do, of course, also offer a bespoke service with short turnaround times for those occasions where something completely unique is required. We also offer this service on an OEM and ODM basis.”
Back to the future
So, what of the future and the next 45 years? Matthew has a clear vision: “B-Tech’s main immediate task is simply to continue to improve on what we are doing – there is always room for improvement!
“One of B-Tech’s USPs is being a front runner amongst our peers in providing outstanding service to all our partners and it is imperative that this continues. There are multiple divisions within B-Tech from the designing of the products, to the manufacturing of them, to the global distribution, to the marketing and the sales channels.
“We will continue to do what we believe we do best, provide top quality products with the very highest levels of service. In essence and to use a cliché again, treat others how you would like to be treated yourself – simple as that!”
So what has changed in 45 years?
Since the first bracket from B-Tech – the BT1 speaker mount – was introduced, B-Tech’s mounting portfolio has grown to be one of the most comprehensive in the industry today.
Over the past four decades, we’ve seen bulbous CRT displays give way to flatscreens, and then onto Plasma, LCD, LED, 4k and OLED.
How the public get their information has also changed enormously, with digital signage and technology now seen in almost every walk of life. With changes coming thick and fast, particularly in recent years, it’s important that solutions match these developments, with safe, secure and trusted mounting that eases the integrator process. It is these core values that have helped to secure B-Tech as a leading global provider of AV mounting solutions, says the maker.
When the company launches in 1972, just having a television was considered a luxury. Then, a majority of televisions were black and white with colour sets being a symbol of status (a 24in-set would cost £300 – more than most people’s monthly wage). With just two channels to choose from, there was rarely any argument over what to watch.
Colour was the emerging trend of the early 70s, with the music scene embracing newly found freedoms. In the charts, David Bowie, Elton John, and T Rex were all emerging.
At the cinema, The Godfather, Dirty Harry and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes were big hits. And on TV, viewers – young and old – were treated to new shows such as John Craven’s Newsround, Are You Being Served, Mastermind and Colditz.
These were the days of no internet, no mobile phones with even the most basic pocket calculator costing a week’s wages.
Take a look at this chart to see what your hard-earned cash could get you in 1972:
|Family saloon car||£963||£17,000|
|Loaf of bread||£0.09||£1.00|
|Litre of fuel||£0.34||£1.19|
|Pint of milk||£0.06||£0.45|
|Pint of beer||£0.20||£3.10|
|Bag of sugar||£0.08||£1.35|
|1st class stamp||£0.03||£0.65|