Professional Lighting & Production - Winter 2017 - Page 25

video side of the business,” Giffard adds about the company’s recent develop- ments, and given that lighting and video are increasingly intertwined, that deepens penetration into the lighting market. While they continue to expand globally, their Montreal headquarters is key in en- suring continuity in terms of resources and staff. And, although Solotech has purchased various companies over time to deepen their presence in specific sectors, currently the focus is on purchasing equipment and being a part of the R&D process of that gear. “We’re not just buying gear off the shelf. We do have our own LED screens, brand new and made by SACO in Montreal – the S6, S12, and S28 – but we’re not building them, we’re part of their development, so that gives us an edge on that side.” It’s a culture of shared innovation, which benefits Solotech and its clients regardless of the market sector they play in. Again, Tremblay poses a question: “What about the gear that we haven’t heard of – what we believe will be trending in a year, or two, or more from now? We’re also working on that.” Providing what their clients have come to expect is fine, he says, but it’s critical to look down the pipe to anticipate, see, and develop the systems, equipment, and technologies that will be the future game changers for both their traditional clients and the growing range of sectors that de- pend on technologies that, previously, were the purview of large-scale performances, events, and facilities. “The question,” Trem- blay offers, “is how can we create value?” While a company can survive and even thrive by staying the course, offering more – by looking forward and relentlessly innovat- ing – is a preferable model. Innovation was key to the products with which Tremblay worked in the gaming industry, and the same holds true in this job. Shared innova- tion is key going forward. “I would say that most of our clients are pushing the envelope, so we ha ve to challenge ourselves,” says the CEO, and that’s integral to Solotech’s growth in every area. “It’s not about how much it costs; it’s a question of perception. Artists want to be different. They want to push the envelope.” Doing so with existing products is fine, but unless you consider what may be – in terms of products and services that are either be- coming relevant now, or test the imagination in terms of VR, AR, and real-time interactions on multiple platforms – you will not progress. Solotech is determined to progress. Solotech has been involved in projects running the gamut of applications, including the biggest entertainment brands and artists in the world. “As you know, Solotech was doing many A-list tours for a number of years,” Chouinard says. “Cirque du Soleil and Celine, obviously, but we’re now working with Bruno Mars, Paul McCartney, and The Rolling Stones. We’ve also upgraded on major corporate events with the likes of Amazon, Ali Baba, and Walmart.” Many of the company’s recent purchases came through its American corporation, Chouinard adds. “So we’re becoming more of a global touring company. We’re on tour now with Lady Gaga. We’re just finishing the world tour with The Weeknd, and so now we have a lot more of those major acts all over the globe.” The consistent growth and success, Chouinard says, isn’t just based on resources, but on the level of creativity and quality behind any delivered job, which is a product of Solotech’s talented team. While they’ve expanded into other markets, the work done within the company and with close collaborators – particularly in terms of R&D – is integral to fulfilling clients’ needs and allowing those clients to push the boundar- ies of what’s possible for their own patrons, clients, and stakeholders. “We’re just seeking really good, talented people for our staff. That’s the most import- ant thing,” Chouinard offers. The company’s growth in scale and revenue – including the 100 per cent increase in rental revenue over a period of five years – has largely been achieved by “finding good people and bring- ing them into the team. It’s not all about gear,” he sums up; “It’s about people.” Their efforts remain, at every level, client-driv- en. Cirque du Soleil and Celine Dion are glob- al household names, but in the beginning, they were known only in Quebec. Similarly, other clients such as the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival and Montreal International Jazz Festival have grown exponentially over the years. Cyclically, the revenue generated by these high-profile brands allows Solotech to continue to support other, lesser-known artists and projects at the ground level. Put bluntly, Solotech has thrived as long as it has not only through the evolution of its technologies and services, but by establish- ing and maintaining close relationships – in many cases, friendships – with their clients, which says something about the culture of the company. “That’s right,” Chouinard says, referencing Dutch violinist André Rieu, who’s often listed in Pollstar’s annual top 20 highest-gener- ating touring artists, as an example. “He’s going all over the world and we’ve worked with him for 20 years. There are many clients who’ve been really close and happy to work with us and, again, using our experience and the knowledge of our people, we’re trying to take this to the next level.” In short, their efforts involve delivering a turnkey solution to save their clients money and time, while reducing the hassles of dealing with multiple providers. It’s a focus that continues to inform their approach as they work to incorporate new technologies in new applications and mar- kets. Giffard explains: “A lot of technologies are being commoditized, so we constantly have to reinvent ourselves, and reinvest in and retrain our people. But, for example, on the video side, there’s been a lot more ap- plications – digital signage on billboards, in smart cities, in parking lots and everything transit-related, high-end AV in hotels, shop- ping centres, and condominium develop- ments. Where we used to play much more in the sports and entertainment venues, now we’ve really diversified. A whole new world has opened up for us.” As the average consumer becomes more sophisticated and the technology that was previously only installed in specialized environments becomes more ubiquitous and touches every part of our lives, that new world will become increasingly im- portant. “Again, that’s why Solotech’s capabilities are crucial,” Giffard reinforces – “because we have the means to invest in our employees, in research, in areas that are going to be good prospects for us in the future and to train our staff accordingly. That’s a key differentiator for us.” As far as physical expansion overseas goes, Tremblay says: “We’re always looking at this. The thing is that we’re going to find the right way to do it. Rather than looking at it from an ego perspective, being global and everywhere, I’m looking at this from a market segment perspective, and we’re trying to nail down market segments we’re excited about and good at.” If the past 40 years have been any indi- cation, it won’t take them long to do it. Kevin Young is a Toronto-based musician and freelance writer. Winter 2017 | 25