With roots in theatrical stage scenery, Group Delphi, based in Alameda, Calif., understands the importance of storytelling. As Group Delphi has grown and expanded its reach, the company’s storytelling approach continues to be the foundation of its work.
“Over the years we’ve transformed the company into what is now our core business: the design, manufacture and management of large-scale trade show programs, corporate events, museum exhibits and, most recently, retail operations,” says Group Delphi CEO Justin Hersh. “The commonality across these different areas is storytelling. Our interest is in trying to understand what our customers want to tell their audiences and then in finding the environment and experience that most effectively tells that story. We’re more agnostic about the solution and much more interested in delving into the story and finding the most effective way to tell it. Sometimes that may be a permanent installation in a company’s lobby, graphics, multi-media and three-dimensional work. For us, it’s being able to bring a wide variety of tools to the table, working with the client to find the right solutions and delivering those solutions.”
As Hersh notes, Group Delphi has many tools at its disposal, from wide format and grand format inkjet printing to the use of dynamic digital signage. In other words, at Group Delphi the medium is not the message; the message is the message, and the medium follows.
Hersh sees digital content that arrives on-screen, whether at an event or as part of a display, as a complementary technology to digital printing. “There’s a tendency by the proponents of a new technology to present it as a category displacer,” he says. “However, we see new technology as different media that become complementary to existing media. One of the things that’s exciting to us is that as prices have come down and quality has gone up with wide format printing, the ability to use graphics to change an environment and then to overlay digital content, providing a level of interactivity, creates an opportunity for a much more dynamic experience.”
While storytelling is its foundation, Group Delphi has built diversification, integration of media and processes, and a focus on customer service into its corporate culture. Diversification, for instance, helped Group Delphi weather the recent economic storms as the trade show industry suffered. Fortunately, it appears that the trade show business is coming back, but being able to operate in a broad spectrum of markets with a diverse product mix picked up the slack.
“It’s hard to be in a single vertical market and not be concerned about economic volatility,” says Hersh.
“There are few fundamental things that have never changed: we’ve always put creative first, whether it’s our own design or one from an outside agency. We’re always stretching to make sure, no matter how tight budgets are, that we’re delivering on the creative side. We’ve also had a relentless pursuit of quality. Coupled with that is a real focus on customer service. Those are things that never go out of fashion. Other things come and go, but if you do those three things, then you stay on track,” Hersh adds. “With customer service you have to have a lot of visibility at the management level where you’re talking about it all the time. Each employee needs to be deeply ingrained in the culture of the company so that anyone in the organization knows that they have permission to do the right thing for the customer and that the company will back them up. You have to give a lot of power throughout the entire organization, and you have to be comfortable giving people that power. They won’t always make the right decision, but in general they will. The only way to support them is to help them get better at it, but you don’t take that decision-making power away from them.”
Using this formula, Group Delphi has grown both organically and through the recent merger with General Graphics Exhibits (GGE), a full service trade show and exhibit company, with photo and fine art printing services as well. “GGE offered some of the same services with a stronger presence in the graphics business, enhancing our graphics offering,” explains Hersh.
The merger fit perfectly into the diversification component of Group Delphi’s business model, expanding and enhancing the company’s core capabilities.
“The acceleration of integration is only going to become more important in the future. Customers don’t want to have to go to ten different providers; they want to find companies that can bring design, digital content, graphics and fabrication all in one package. We’ll continue to look for ways to enhance the variety of our services and offerings as well as the way we integrate those services,” adds Hersh.