David Ross, CEO of Ross Video was the guest speaker at the Breakfast Connections event held at the McIntosh Inn in Morrisburg on Tues., May 2. His presentation on the success of his company kept the audience completely engaged for over an hour. Tinkess Photo
MORRISBURG – The McIntosh Inn in Morrisburg was the venue for the second Breakfast Connections event of 2023. The early morning networking session was hosted by the Cornwall Business Enterprise Centre and Municipality of South Dundas, and there weren’t many empty seats to be found.
Following greetings from MPP Nolan Quinn, SDG warden Tony Fraser and South Dundas Mayor Jason Broad, guest speaker David Ross, CEO of Ross Video proceeded to captivate the audience with the story of how his father had moved a small business to the Village of Iroquois and how it had grown to the point where this year it could exceed $400 million in sales.
“My father started the company in the basement of his house in 1974,” said Ross. “And he had a friend of his saying, you know, you should start your own company. My dad said, well, I have nothing, I have a mortgage and I don’t have much money in the bank.” The friend kept pushing, saying that Ross senior must have something, and he responded, that he had just spent the last two years repairing and refurbishing a World War Two fabric trainer aeroplane.
“I mean, this aeroplane wasn’t much, it didn’t have a radio, it had a wood propeller, you started it like a lawnmower almost on the front end of a long story. (The friend said) you’ve got that, sell it. Someday you’ll have two. And so, my dad sold it for $3,500, which the bank matched, and that was the seed capital of what became Ross Video.”
Today, Ross Video is an international success story. It is 80 per cent owned by David Ross with the remaining 20 per cent owned by employees. They are debt free and have been for quite a while. Revenue in 2022 was approximately $330 million and Ross says that in 2023 it should exceed $400 million. “So, one of our goals and it’s not out of reach, there’s a chance that we could actually go up by 100 million this year. So, it’s pretty cool,” said Ross. “Since I joined in 1991, the revenues were growing by 17 per cent a year, every single year on average, for 31 straight years. It turns out that if you do that, you get a pretty good return as well.”
They have also grown from 25 people in 1991 to approximately 1,500 today, including 300 added in the past 12 months.
There are many reasons for the company’s success: there is the diversity of the products and services they offer. They have clients in news, sports, entertainment, government, and technology. They can claim Netflix, Microsoft, Cisco, and Apple as clients. You’d be hard pressed to find a professional sport venue that doesn’t use Ross Equipment, and that’s not just in North America either. They have sold in over 100 countries every year and their reputation is value for money and great customer service and that is in 27 different product and service categories.
They have also grown in leaps and bounds through acquisitions. “Over the years, we bought about 19 companies,” said Ross, “So we’re like 20 companies in one. And we sell a lot of data products, and there’s a lot of different technologies as well.
“We sell software, we sell hardware that we manufacture, we work in the cloud, we sell robots, we sell services and things like that. So, there’s a lot of diversity in what we do, so if we make a mistake in any one area, and we have to catch up, it’s going to pay for it. And of course, we have staff diversity. “
Why partner with someone when you can just as easily bring them in-house?
In the end, it all comes down to people, and, as with most things at Ross Video, it is a multi-pronged approach. They hire college and university students for their co-op program, 50 students for every four-month term. “Usually by that time, if it’s a four-year programme, by the third year, we’ve already snapped them up,” said Ross. “And they’ve already decided they want to work for us because they work most of their lives, or professional lives at Ross, at that point. Why would they want to go and work for Silicon Valley when they can stay at home and do really cool things, because they know, they’re doing cool things.”
As their competitors downsize, Ross Video also scoops up the best people that have been let go and integrates these smart, enthusiastic people into the Ross family. Meanwhile, they have multiple recruiters who seek out those who want to come work with an employer of choice.
“I’m busy on LinkedIn, as some people here know, and I did a post recently about one of the reasons why Ross Video has done so well over the decades,” said Ross. “I boiled it down to one sentence, which is hire smart people and don’t piss them off.”
It seems so simple; you would wonder why so many companies find it so difficult to do just that?
The next Breakfast Connections’ meeting will be in Cornwall on May 17 at the Civic Complex. The guest speaker will be Cornwall Mayor Justin Towndale. You can register for the event at the Business Enterprise Centre website (businessenterprisecentre.ca).
Terry Tinkess is a professional photographer, educator and journalist. He has been making a living with a camera and keyboard since 1999 and has been featured in such publications as The Ottawa Citizen, Cornwall Standard Freeholder, The Globe and Mail, The Miami Herald, Ottawa Construction News, The Ontario Construction Report, Ontario Home Builder Magazine, Reed Construction Data, Canadian Potato Business and most recently, The Record and Eastern Ontario AgriNews. Terry lives in Ingleside, Ontario with his wife Brenda, Mia the anxious Pittie and cats Wally and Chubbers.