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Ask An Expert: Fern Continues Growth Acquiring Triumph And DWA

by Calanit Atia

Fern, one of the largest service contractors in North America, producing more than 1,100 events per year, has acquired Seattle-based Triumph Expo and Events (20 years in business) and Portland-based DWA Trade Show & Exposition Services (40 years in business).

Fern, in business for 110+ years, is the third largest official services contractor in the U.S. with more than 400 full-time employees. Its core focus is on service and innovation, and recently they launched ONEVIEW, the industry’s first team-based exhibitor platform.

Aaron_Bludworth__FernAaron Bludworth (pictured left), president & CEO of Fern spoke with Exhibit City News about these latest acquisitions.

Why did the company decide to acquire both Triumph and DWA?

AB: We liked the opportunity from several dimensions including geographic growth, the culture of the businesses and the great clients served by both companies. Growth is hard to come by in the competitive spaces we operate in, so we are always looking for opportunities to grow through acquisitions in addition to our sales and organic growth efforts, but we are very selective when it comes to pursuing or completing a deal. If the management, team, customer base, financial and quality performance, and geography aren’t right, we pass.

What factors appealed to you about Triumph and DWA?

AB: The Pacific Northwest is a relatively isolated region, and it’s a long distance from other markets. It made more sense for us to have a larger platform, a bigger footprint in that market than either one of the companies had by themselves. Once we started thinking seriously about that market, we wanted to get as big of a platform put together as we could.

Both Triumph and DWA are the preferred contractor in the markets they serve while also having a core customer base they serve across North America. Additionally, the move into the Pacific Northwest will allow us to serve this growing market for existing customers more effectively.

What assets did the companies you purchased add to Fern?

AB: The most important assets, of course, are the customers and the teams of both companies. Additionally, both companies have great creative design and production capabilities and the equipment and tools used in producing their great work. Both companies have been quality focused and have well cared for and maintained equipment used in producing shows and events.

You had mentioned that everything would stay the same?

AB: The core operations of the businesses will stay the same, and we hope every member of both teams remain with the company long-term. The management will remain in place, and so we expect management styles will be very similar to how they have been. Of course, over time, we will add various services, especially technology, that Fern currently has to the offerings of these new locations. So, everything will stay the same though we hope the combination of the business will enhance the offering to the customers.

How will you incorporate your management style?

AB: As far as I’m concerned the Triumph and DWA employees have been with Fern since the day they joined those companies–I want them to feel like part of the family. Fern has been successful for 110 years because of our people, and we will continue to be successful because of our people, which now include the folks from DWA and Triumph. They already emulate the Fern culture; it won’t be hard to maintain it.

How are you going to incorporate Triumph and DWA into Fern?

AB: They are being integrated into Fern. Both will begin to operate as Fern in the coming months and systems are already being integrated on the backend. This integration is natural. The existing leadership and infrastructures will stay the same, the same people, they will start doing things a little bit different to conform to the Fern model, and in some cases, Fern will adopt their practices.

Whenever we do a deal we learn from the people in the businesses we buy; we improve our overall process as a result of some of the learning from the companies we acquire. Some Fern services and processes are important additions and necessary from a scale perspective; we will incorporate those practices. If the companies we acquire are doing things better than we are, even if they are smaller, we want to learn from those things and incorporate them across the Fern system. We take a methodical approach to understanding how they do business, why they are successful, what do they do that is unique, what do they do that their customers love, and find ways to continue offering any of those things that we don’t have.

Fern’s business approach is what makes them a leading provider of exposition and event production services. For more info, visit

Calanit Atia is an award-winning event planner, exhibit management expert, founder and president of A to Z Events and Trade Show Talent, columnist, Las Vegas destination  expert, Air Force veteran and speaker. She can be contacted at   

This story originally appeared in the May/June issue of Exhibit City News, p. 20. For original layout, visit

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