AV Magazine Article: Sarah Whittaker, Grand Technix: ‘Anna Valley did a good job’

AV Magazine Article: Sarah Whittaker, Grand Technix: ‘Anna Valley did a good job’

When I speak to Sarah Whittaker, managing director of Grand Technix, it is the day before her company is due on site in preparation for the London Marathon.

Grand Technix will provide the LED for the last 250 metres of the race course and the team are just about to load the trucks ready for the event.

Whittaker herself has run the London marathon twice before and is taking on New York later this year but is not running in London this time while the company is working on the event.

It is not the marathon that is the reason for our call, though. Grand Technix has just announced that it has acquired the brand name and brand collateral, including website and social media profiles, of Anna Valley.

This is the much loved event and broadcast technology company that went into administration last month, prompting an extraordinary outpouring of support for the employees affected on social media.

“Just to be clear, we’ve taken the brand,” says Whittaker, speaking of Anna Valley. “We will look at the stock – we work with some of the global brands from an LED perspective and we would consider it - but it wasn’t an immediate concern. It was more, ‘How do you make sure that people going on the website, and everything like that, have got a place to go to?'”

Grand Technix seems to have moved quickly in acquiring this element of Anna Valley’s assets, once the company went into administration.

“We have quite a large business and we follow our competitors quite deeply,” says Whittaker. “Once we heard, we put some announcements out about staffing, because the business has been going through quite a heavy growth period over the last 12 to 18 months.”

In fact, Grand Technix knew Anna Valley well, having worked “shoulder to shoulder” with the company at exhibition venues such as the ExCel and NEC. “We know that they did a good job,” says Whittaker.

The main concern that Grand Technix had was for event organisers being left in the lurch by Anna Valley’s demise.

“If one of the big elements of your show has just gone you need to fill that hole, “ says Whittaker. “It’s not just satisfaction for you. You’ve potentially got 20, 30, or 50,000 people coming to that event. We’ve worked in that environment. We’ve done those things for years. So, it was good for us to say, ‘How can we help?’”

A question that many people would like to know the answer to is why such a highly thought of company as Anna Valley went into administration.

“Nobody knows why they hit that difficulty. I don’t know the ins and outs of what went wrong with the business. ” says Whittaker. “They had some really good clients. They’ve worked with some really good businesses. Reputationally, Anna Valley was a good brand. They had a heritage in the exhibition worlds and, for us, that was the important bit.”

Grand Technix was formed some 18 months ago as the hardware division of Elonex, a family-run business that has been going for more than 30 years, starting in computer solutions before moving into Out of Home advertising.

Elonex, whose management includes CEO Nick Smith and CTO Darren Smith, operates an advertising network of more than 3,000 digital billboards in transport, retail and entertainment environments.

Grand Technix is responsible for the installation of screens across these sites. “We know we have to have the most stable screens, and we work with global partners to give us the best opportunities,” says Whittaker.

The Anna Valley brand name and collateral acquisition speaks to the other side of the Grand Technix business, though, working for other customers.

This week alone that doesn’t just include the London Marathon but also putting screens into the new Populous-designed, Co-Op Live arena in Manchester, and work on a touring car activation space for Bristol Street Motors.

There will be work with sports events in the summer, and the company’s projects run the gamut from permanent installs to rental work, although not so much the broadcasting side of Anna Valley’s business. It is exhibitions that are the prize.

Where Grand Technix differs from many companies supplying events is in its willingness to make any project work if it involves a screen, says Whittaker.

“Some of our clients come to us with some of the most unusual solutions that they are trying to get their head around. We try to hold somebody’s hand a little bit more and give them guidance and support.”

And it turns out that the Out of Home background that Elonex brings to Grand Technix is an important pat of the company’s fast growth over the last 18 months, even down to details such as doing its own fabrication and working with a structural calculation company on installs.

“We started the business in the right way,” says Whittaker. “We’ve got the Elonex heritage so we can tilt nicely towards that. But, equally, we’ve got our own standalone presence. We’ve done so much over the last 12 months that has really elevated us as a brand.”

Another important element of growth lately has been the partnership that Grand Technix has established with NovaStar for which it acts as a distributor. This is something that has picked up pace, with many calls coming in each week.

“Our speed of response is critical,” says Whittaker. So, a recent job saw a client reach out at about 2.30pm on a Friday afternoon, to then pick up stock from Whittaker’s own home at 7.30am on the Saturday morning.

Here again, a consultative approach and making sure customers understand the product is important.

Finally, we talk about the role of digital screens in exhibitions where the Anna Valley brand has played such a prominent role.

“We want people to be more digital,” says Whittaker. “I want to be in a place where exhibition halls have got lots of LED and ideally less print because it is just going to be destroyed after the show. If those screens are in the NEC or ExCel, they can just be dropped in and dropped out. It makes it so much cleaner and faster.”

AV Magazine Article: https://www.avinteractive.com/markets-news/venues/sarah-whittaker-grand-technix-anna-valley-did-a-good-job-18-04-2024/

Back to blog