Montreal, Quebec, CA (December 5, 2023) — Since 1978, Montreal-based AV technologies distributor SF Marketing has been at the forefront of the Canadian market, representing prestigious brands such as Shure, QSC, Q-Sys, Pioneer DJ, and Blackmagic Design, and catering to the retail, systems integration, and live event markets. In addition to its broad portfolio, SFM is known for its unwavering commitment to technical expertise and a people-first company culture—a vital driving force behind its consistent success. SFM’s recent acquisition by international AV distribution powerhouse Midwich Group marks a new chapter for the company, unlocking an enriched global perspective and a broader array of value-added services for its customers and partners. In an exclusive interview, SFM president Randal Tucker shares his insights on the company’s journey, its ability to navigate the distinctive challenges of the Canadian market, and its ongoing journey of growth and innovation.
For distributors, the ability to take orders and deliver products are table stakes. But SFM goes far beyond those essentials, acting locally on behalf of its manufacturer partners in every step past R&D, product development, and manufacturing, “everything from establishing and executing the local go-to-market strategy to helping take care of the end user post-sale,” Tucker explained in the interview. “It’s about taking a real sense of ownership over the whole process, and that’s what we try to instill in everybody in the company.”
On the customer side, SFM provides turnkey support to integrators, retailers, and end users. “Our Technical Application group—we call it TAG for short—is able to provide a real backstop for our customers, manufacturers, and sales team,” said Tucker. “We have seventeen technical sales reps deployed across the country who cover our various sales channels, but they’re backed by fifteen TAG personnel, each with a specific skill set, who can be called in at any point in the sales process, including post-sale. There’s both an art and a science to making many of the products we sell work the way they’re intended to in the real-world contexts where they’re deployed. So our TAG personnel at any given time can be working with one of our systems integrator customers on programming and commissioning a complex AV system, or at the other end of spectrum on the B2C side, providing technical support to the end user of a Shure recording mic for use in their home studio. From my perspective, no other player in our industry comes close to providing the level of technical resources that we do in the Canadian market.”
Maintaining this breadth of services has meant investing heavily in IT infrastructure. “For a long time, people in our business had the luxury of not having to digitally transform, and we started realizing about 10 years ago that we ignored digital transformation at our peril,” Tucker explained. “So, we started to invest in technology that would allow us to scale what we do, especially operationally. Most recently for instance, we’ve deployed technology to run our logistics operations faster, more efficiently, more accurately, and at scale.”
Earlier this year, SFM was acquired by international AV distributor Midwich Group—a proposition that appealed to the company right away. “When the Midwich Group approached us, we really liked their model of pursuing very specialized businesses like ours around the globe,” said Tucker. “They’ve been approaching their strategy very intelligently, amplifying their considerable market weight and expertise to a global level by procuring companies with philosophies similar to ours. This deepens the group’s portfolio in specialized areas and in turn helps the acquired companies grow. It’s a rare and refreshing approach.”
“We also wanted to sell to somebody who actually understood our approach to the market,” he added. “We’re emphatically not a broadline distributor–I like to think of us as a services organization that offers ‘high-touch’ distribution as merely one of our services. The Midwich Group not only understands this, but has given us its full support as we continue in this direction.”
The acquisition has ushered in a new chapter for SFM, infusing the company with new global resources and perspectives. “Because Midwich has a pretty impressive global presence between Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Southeast Asia, and now North America, we’re able to immediately plug into all of this expertise with a global network of companies that do what we do and share best practices,” said Tucker. “Plus, as part of the Midwich Group, we’re now able to provide manufacturers and other channel partners with a more global option for distribution, rather than merely a local one.”
As SFM embarks on new growth initiatives and develops new value-added services, its goal remains the same—if supercharged. “One of our main initiatives right now is the expansion of our offering of professional services to the channel. The technology we sell is becoming more and more complex to deploy, especially in multi-brand environments where interoperability between products from different manufacturers is key–inevitably there are some big gaps in know-how that need to be filled in, and this is where we can help. In this context it ‘takes a village’ to deliver a satisfying result to the end customer, so we want to be sure we’re working arm-in-arm with manufacturers, design consultants, and integrators to make sure this happens. When everyone in the channel is working in tandem towards a sustainably great outcome for those who actually have to make use of the technology every day, it helps create a tide that lifts all boats.”
Given the deep expertise needed to sustain SFM’s breadth of services, employee retention is critical for business, and this is where the company’s “employee-first” mindset has made great strides, with initiatives like a four-day work week creating benefits across the board. “The nice thing about the four-day work week is, not only has it been a game-changer in terms of hiring and retention, it’s also forced us to be better about dispersing knowledge within the organization a little more broadly than we probably would have otherwise.”
For SFM, investing in its digital infrastructure has been key to its evolution. And that has also positioned the company to embrace the new technologies and tools needed to sustain innovation. “Innovating makes these investments a necessity,” said Tucker. “That’s the nice thing, right?”Read the full interview with Randal Tucker here.
SFM provides customized go-to-market solutions and services to global brands within the audiovisual, live entertainment, and media production industries. In addition to traditional wholesale distribution services, the company offers an array of enhanced services designed to help suppliers and customers achieve their full market potential. For more information, visit www.sfm.ca.
About Midwich Group
Midwich is a specialist AV distributor to the trade market, with operations in the UK and Ireland, EMEA, Asia Pacific and North America. The Group’s long-standing relationships with over 600 vendors, including blue-chip organisations, support a comprehensive product portfolio across major audio-visual categories such as large format displays, projectors, digital signage and professional audio. The Group operates as the sole or largest in-country distributor for a number of its vendors in their respective product sets.
The Directors attribute this position to the Group’s technical expertise, extensive product knowledge and strong customer service offering built up over several years. The Group has a large and diverse base of over 22,000 customers, most of which are professional AV integrators and IT resellers serving sectors such as corporate, education, retail, residential and hospitality. Although the Group does not sell directly to end users, it believes that the majority of its products are used by commercial and educational establishments rather than consumers.
Initially a UK only distributor, the Group now has around 1,500 employees across the UK and Ireland, EMEA, Asia Pacific and North America. A core component of the Group’s growth strategy is further expansion of its international operations and footprint into strategically targeted jurisdictions. For further information, please visit www.midwichgroupplc.com