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Scaling for quality 5 min read

Growth Decoder: Growing pains - how to scale without sacrificing quality, with Pure Image

Mahfuz speaks to Drew Galvin, principal of Pure Image, about the hard work of building his home theatre and automation company from scratch – and the even harder work of steering it through a period of growth. 




Key takeaways: 

[00:10:00] Galvin believes there’s no substitute for marketing. Whether it’s business cards, lawn signs or search engine marketing, marketing is key for a small and growing business. That said, it’s also important to cast a wide net and talk about your business to former colleagues, friends and family because you never know where your next business lead is going to come from.  

[00:25:00] Any one person in a business can only do so much – it’s your team that’s going to define your destiny. You spend so many hours of the day working with your team, so hire people you like! Don't hire someone that you wouldn't hang out with on the weekend. 

[00:36:24] It’s important to understand accounting and your company’s cash flow. Galvin says you can’t overlook this aspect of the business. Be good enough to manage your cash flow well yourself, or hire a highly qualified, trustworthy person who can handle that role so you can focus on growth and taking care of the business. 

[01:03:00] Be open to advice. Find people you trust because they may steer you and your business in a direction you hadn't even considered. 

Drew Galvin, Pure Image

From pain point to business idea

Drew Galvin knows a thing or two about growing pains – both the pain that comes from a business that’s growing too fast and the pain that comes with a setback.

Galvin runs Pure Image, a home theatre and automation company in Western Canada that has recently expanded beyond Vancouver into Whistler and Victoria. 

The idea for the company came 18 years ago when Galvin was working at a Future Shop and found he couldn’t fulfill a customer’s order. 

At the time, the store had a home theatre department that most customers would merely walk past, especially when they learned that just one system would set them back nearly $20,000. Except one night, a customer came in and wanted to buy exactly what was on display. 

“He said ‘I want that and I want it installed’,” said Galvin. “So I go running around the store [asking the] evening manager ‘where would I get the mount for this?’, ‘who do we call to do this?’ I have this guy standing in the back and he's got his credit card ready to go.” 


Building on satisfaction 

Eventually, in the midst of that scramble, Galvin realized they couldn’t just put all the pieces together to make the system work, and had to admit this to the customer. Then it dawned on him. “Surely there should be a company that has all of the solutions.” He considered this for about a year—while moving on from Future Shop and tending bar at an Earl’s in Langley, BC—until deciding to go for it. With his father’s help, he incorporated the business.

As luck would have it, his manager at Earl’s needed someone to install five Plasma TVs in time for the Grey Cup. If Galvin could promise to get the work done by then, he’d have the job. “And, away we went. And we managed to make the deadline.” 

Galvin printed business cards, relied on some word-of-mouth marketing from former Future Shop colleagues and posted signs for his new business wherever he could. He loaded all his gear into his 1997 Acura Integra and got to work. A year later he took another step, buying a dedicated work van. The business was on its way, helped by Galvin taking a DIY approach to search engine marketing. 

As the business grew, Galvin decided to pay particularly close attention to customer service.

“Vancouver is a city where everyone knows everyone. And if you leave a customer unhappy, you never know when that's going to come back and get you for something else,” he said. “So, we subscribe to the fact that we must leave every client satisfied. There is not a single person in Vancouver that we've ever left high and dry.”


Finding space to grow 

That approach, in turn, led to him building a high-quality service department that can work with customers both over the phone and in-person. It’s also provided a way for Galvin to differentiate Pure Image from competitors who might not have the same service capabilities. Hiring and maintaining a skilled service staff fits into his belief that a company is nothing without a high-functioning team to support it. 

As the business grew, so too did its need for more space. Along with his work vans, Galvin had been using a storage unit as a warehouse and workshop when he decided to take the plunge and invest in real estate in 2014. But, the unexpected costs to renovate a space in Vancouver’s Yaletown neighbourhood nearly proved to be the end of the business. 

“As a bit of a greenhorn, I went into that place and completely underestimated the scope and size of the task to improve that building,” he said. “So we went well over budget.” 

But, with some luck – and many, many extra hours – Galvin and his team were able to see the renovation through, ultimately setting the company up for its next phase. 

They were now positioned to respond to opportunities in Whistler and Victoria, B.C. High-end residential construction projects in Whistler meant the need for high-end home audio and theatre that Pure Image could capitalize on. That led to new hires and the opening of a Whistler office.

Then came the pandemic. While managing the ups and downs of lockdowns and a slow return to normalcy, Galvin again decided to put his head down and keep working. He found highly-skilled people who had lost their jobs and hired them because they had the technical acumen the company needed. That set them up well as lockdowns eased. People began to invest in their homes again, which proved to be a boon. 

By 2022, business was still expanding – Pure Image was taking on large hotel projects, for example – and his team had outgrown their showroom and warehouse space in Yaletown.

A friend in commercial real estate found the “right forever home for our company,” said Galvin. “A nice mix of warehouse and office that could house the different departments, and allow us to sort of receive, stage, pre-assemble and design all under one roof.

“That’s when Pure Image and Canadian Western Bank became a thing [especially] when it came to preparing a mortgage. I was determined to not make the same mistake I made in 2014, which was going into a new adventure undercapitalized.”

After a small reno to make the space their own, the new space in the Vancouver suburbs is bustling.

“I'm watching the quality of our finished product go up and up and up, which can only be a good thing,” says Galvin. “So yet again, another exciting time for the company.”