Techopia Live: How Ross Video branches out without losing steam

Techopia Live got a crash course in live video production last week from broadcasting veteran Ross Video as CEO David Ross discussed how a 44-year-old company stays fresh in a rapidly evolving industry.

The made-in-Ottawa production company is in all areas of broadcasting today, from cameras to circuit boards to graphics to robotics. Ross said that when his father was leading the firm, equipment could run for 20 years without being replaced, but production cycles have sped up significantly since the turn of the millennium.

“Sometimes products we’re designing now are obsolete in as little as three years. It’s like designing iPhones sometimes,” he told Techopia Live.

Ross Video has stayed ahead of the curve by branching out into adjacent products, a move that Ross said helped the firm stave off the allure of acquisition. Some companies try to fill a single gap in the market with the hope that a larger incumbent will buy them up, but that idea never sat well with the head of his family’s business.

“The other side of it is, ‘I want to build a company that’s going to be around for a while,’” Ross said. If you instead build out a number of offerings, even if one product or service becomes obsolete, you’ve got business to fall back on.

Deciding how to branch out, however, is what separates Ross Video from the pretenders. When the firm began its work in robotics, Ross said the company’s expertise in circuit boards and programming was no help. That was the time for an acquisition to give Ross Video a foundation to build on in the space.

David Ross

“When you want to do something entirely new, you buy a company. When you want to be cost-effective and have things that integrate really well with what you already have, then you build it on what you already have,” he said.

“And if you can’t do something new inside your company and you only have to acquire, then you’ve lost the spark.”

The other question to consider when branching out is the when. There will always be new opportunities in tech, but building a 40-year-plus company comes down to discipline, Ross said. Master one area of the business instead of splitting your attention, and you’ll have the resources and foundation to pursue the big opportunities when necessary.

“There’s a million directions you want to go, but you have to do it at the right speed or things fly off the wheels or you run out of cash flow,” Ross said.

“It’s trying to balance your desire to go faster with your need to go slower.”

To hear Ross’s other keys to growth, watch the video above.