Q&A with Jenny Koehn, VP of Sales at Condit Exhibits
ECN: Condit is celebrating their 75th anniversary in 2020. What is the history of the company? What were the early days like?
Jenny Koehn (pictured left): William H. Condit (Bill for short, pictured right) founded Condit as Denver’s first graphic design agency. As a World War II veteran, he recovered from illness and injury in the Estes Park area. He made his way down the mountain after his recovery, and he set up shop in a windowless attic on Colfax with just one other employee.
Condit headquarters bounced all around Denver as the company grew and evolved—first into an ad agency, then a cabinet maker, and eventually morphing into the exhibit design and fabricator we are today. Bill, like Condit, was truly multifaceted—he flew planes, taught himself to play harmonica, and was a master watercolorist. The Colorado license plate is based off one of his paintings!
ECN: What challenges has Condit faced over more than seven decades in business?
JK: Condit has weathered a number of storms throughout the years. Since the turn of the millennium, the aftermath of 9/11 and the economic recession of 2008 have been the most staggering, financially. We’ve watched Colorado grow into one of the more populous states in the U.S., which has brought with it new opportunities, like a more diverse workforce and an expanded local client base, but also increased competition and higher regional taxes.
As such a long-lived organization, Condit has been continuously challenged by shifts in advertising and business-to-business communication as well as advancements in machining and manufacturing technology. The nature of face-to-face marketing and events has also undergone significant transformation since we built our first booth.
ECN: How has Condit changed since 1945? How does the company differentiate in a crowded market and achieve this kind of longevity?
JK: Beyond the refocusing of our business toward exhibits, we concentrate on three key pillars to set ourselves apart.
The first is our commitment to quality. When you work with Condit on a project, you are getting a premium product in every sense of the word. From design through fabrication and all the way to labor, storage and maintenance, everything is white glove. Condit booths have a distinctive durability and a caliber of construction that customers notice and appreciate. Over the years, we continue to perfect our in-house methodologies to give our clients the best experience possible every time they exhibit.
The second is our customization. Our collaborative design process is extensive, fostering in-depth conversations between our design team and the brands and businesses we serve. Nothing is too outside the box, and our design team thrives on the wild and the strange, whether it’s a new component material, an unusual centerpiece or an all-around extraordinary idea. In 70 years, we’ve manifested, refined and reinvented more custom designs than we can count!
The third is our culture. It’s become a bit of a trendy expression these days, but we mean it: we’re a family. For us, that translates to both the fun (the road trips, the group hikes, and the after-work drinks—sometimes all in the same weekend!) and the tough (holding each other accountable, cutting back when necessary and quashing disagreements before they start). Through the decades, we’ve worked (extremely) hard, and we’ve played hard, too.
ECN: What is Condit’s plan for future growth and expansion?
JK: In late 2019, we acquired Exhibit Source, Inc., based in Chicago. This acquisition added new markets, clients and capabilities to the portfolios of both organizations. As a result of the new partnership, the door is open to a whole range of services which were previously not easily available to ESI’s clients. Sculptural metalwork, advanced presentation technologies like digital signage and holograms, and direct printing on glass, metal, wood or whatever you can imagine are now part of the offering. With a secondary warehouse and manufacturing facility in Chicago, Condit can now better service our clients and prospects east of the Mississippi.
Additionally, Condit is focusing on the permanent installations arm of our business this year—echoing back to our cabinet-making days of yore. Tradeshows have traditionally been our “bread and butter,” but we’ve always had these capabilities behind the scenes. In fact, we do a significant number of projects for museums, nature centers and educational facilities in the Mountain West region. We also design, fabricate and install quite a few corporate projects—like office timelines, 3D graphics and custom furniture.
We are working to develop our presence in the millwork space and give our expert woodworkers and metal workers, most of whom have been with us over 20 years now, a chance to really shine! We’re pleased to have some contracting and subcontracting opportunities in the pipeline there too. (Pictured right: Condit Exhibit’s expert fabricator Phil Syman, who has more than 40 years of experience in the industry).
ECN: How is Condit weathering COVID?
JK: COVID-19 certainly took Condit (and the rest of the world) by surprise, and we are doing our best to pivot where possible. We’ve cut back where we can (and where we must in some cases), and we are diligently pursuing several new and innovative offerings we can share with our clients and prospects to add value to their event marketing program as it evolves.
In the third quarter, we launched our own full-service virtual exhibit platform. With detailed 3D renderings, interactive functionality and integrated analytics, we believe this will be a fantastic resource for businesses and brands that are exhibiting virtually or simply looking for an experiential standalone digital marketing piece.
In anticipation of events and mass gatherings like tradeshows and conferences resuming, our design team is constantly thinking up new layouts and features to adhere to the latest social distancing parameters and government-mandated health requirements. They are also refreshing existing client booth designs to be more safety-forward, particularly for those companies in the food/beverage space and the healthcare industry.
Lastly, Condit is also crafting a couple of solutions for offices, schools and other facilities. These include products like sneeze guards, floor decals, masks, environmental signage, sanitizer stations, antimicrobial flooring and the like. On a larger scale, our temporary structures can also be used as testing centers, waiting rooms, and more.
ECN: In closing, what are your thoughts on the future of the events industry and face-to-face marketing?
JK: Overall, we are hopeful for the eventual rebound of the exhibitions industry. While we do believe that face-to-face marketing has been forever altered by the pandemic, we are optimistic for the return of safe live events and grateful for the opportunity to engage in new marketing technologies and event techniques like virtual exhibits, hybrid events and everywhere in between.
This story originally appeared in the Nov./Dec. 2020 issue of Exhibit City News, p. 37-39. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_nov-dec_2020