Priming for Major Expansions in Las Vegas
by Don Svehla
Las Vegas-based Structure Exhibits was founded on the philosophy that not only is perfection achievable, it’s required. Exhibit City News spoke with John Boyko, president of Structure Exhibits, recently to discuss the company’s expansion, its strengths and how, occasionally, epiphany can be a threat to pedestrian safety.
ECN: Structure Exhibits has expanded by about 15 people over the last six months. What is driving the growth within your organization?
Boyko: It’s the industry, especially here in Las Vegas. There are plans for major expansion at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The hotels, including Wynn Las Vegas and Mandalay Bay, are also expanding so we need to keep pace with the growth. We’ve always been focused on providing the highest level of service so with that in mind I think it’s important for us to have the right people in place and have the proper manpower to take care of our clients.
We recently handled one of the largest private events we’ve ever been involved with. It was a 50,000-square-foot event for a company called Magento. It’s a backbone store for online services, one of the biggest in the world. (Magento is the leading platform for open commerce innovation and handles over $155 billion in gross merchandise volume annually)
It’s really important for us to be able to provide the services at a higher quality for events like this and having the people in place who know what they’re doing to achieve a successful outcome. The change in the economy and the change in the tax code contributed to our growth also. With the saving in taxes we were able to take that savings and invest it back into the company.
ECN: How do you use your background in design to drive the creative spirits within your ranks?
Boyko: Beyond the high level of service that we try to keep focused on, I think the key to success for a client is a great representation of their brand. Great design really drives traffic and it also leads to reflection that makes people think of the product long after the event is over. It’s important to have a memorable experience. Out on the show floor I still see a lot of cookie cutter booth designs, but I think right now is a really important time for the show floor. It’s changing in many ways. We want to stay on the forefront of technology. I’m a tech-geek so I always want to push the envelope and help our team discover the areas within design to help facilitate pushing those ends and hitting those untapped resources. I want us to really focus on figuring out what the next stage of exhibiting is.
Over the past few years we’ve invested a great deal in LED video wall tiles and custom lighting solutions. About five years ago I was strolling down Times Square in New York and I realized that there were no billboards up anymore. There was video content and that video content was everywhere. It captured my attention so completely that as I was crossing a street, I almost got hit by a car. I realized that the next step is this technology for visual marketing and interaction with our clients. Just the simplest thing of having a rotating sign, something that has movement within a booth captures your eye more than something that is sitting there static. When you can start to engage your clients from a distance, that’s revolutionary on a show floor. I really felt that being able to provide that in-house for our sales team and our design team really allowed us to push the envelope and provide this higher level for our clients’ brands out on the show floor.
ECN: Even with your expanding operations, industry vendor partners are important to a company’s success. How do these relationships add to your company’s success?
Boyko: The bottom line is that you’ve got to have the right partners. We strive to provide as many services in-house as we can. In addition to our exhibit rental inventory and hardware, we also provide all of our AV solutions and the majority of our furniture rental. It helps us control the quality, it helps keep down the costs for our clients and allows us to provide the highest level of service to our clients. That said, some services are better handled by partners specific to a client’s request, which are sometimes outside the realm of services that we provide. There’s a company that we utilize called Flux Branding. They are really focused on branding and marketing new products for clients. The owner, Jamie Schwartzman, is one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met. We’ve been working with them for about 10 years now and the level of creative ability he has–to take a client’s brand, restructure it or take a new product and market it so it can be understood in a simple format is second to none. Any time we need those services we’re going to go to them. It’s important for us to provide our clients with services that are going to be successful for them. We don’t want to pretend to be something we’re not. Any time services, outside of our wheelhouse come along, and it’s better for the client to use someone who specializes in something we don’t, we’re going to do that.
ECN: On the fabrication side, you have metal working, graphics and even embroidery. What are some of your recent or upcoming projects and how does your organization meet the fabrication challenges?
Boyko: We look at each project individually rather than just taking some rental products and dropping a logo on them. You’ve really got to dig deep and figure out the best solution for design based on what the client’s needs are. There are a lot of times when I’m walking around on the show floor and I’ll ask myself “Geez, why did they do that that way?” I think a lot of the time it’s just that they used a cost-effective, cookie-cutter solution. We run into budgets all the time where the parameters don’t allow us to go further into design and fabrication. We look at how we can make it easier and save the clients’ money. Having a great team of minds involved in all facets of the industry allows us to effectively meet the needs of our clients without beating up their pocket books.
ECN: What is one of your favorite things about the tradeshow industry and conversely, what is one of your least favorite things about the tradeshow industry?
Boyko: I think the answer is the same for both questions. I like the rush. I like that the show is going to open at a specific date at a specific time. There’s no going back and redesigning and pushing it back. You hear that all the time about buildings, where they find out they can’t move into the facility for another six months. I had my pool done last year and they told me it was going to take 10 weeks to get it finished and it ended up taking three and a half months. There was no rush because there was no definitive deadline. I like the fact that the show is going to open and you’d better be ready for it. I got started in this industry in the I&D world and I liked being that last guy on the show floor that can make a difference. I liked being the superhero. I liked throwing on the cape and being able to take care of those last-minute needs. All of a sudden a typo was noticed in a graphic or a product didn’t show up for a client. How do we fix this? What’s the solution? I like coming up with that on the fly, figuring it out and having the clients excited that we solved their problem.
That’s also the hardest part about the industry. The timelines are getting thinner. Clients used to start talking to you about their exhibit needs six months or even a year out. Now many clients start talking to you just two months out. It’s a quick push to go from a concept all the way to the creation and out to the show floor. To be creative takes time and I think society itself has stopped focusing on time and taking your time. Everything is about instant gratification these days.