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Alphacompany aims for top marks

With his new outfit, Belgian entrepreneur Laurent Grietens returns to the basics of what a rental company should represent: service, reliability and efficiency.

A substantial investment of around €2 million in Lab.gruppen and L-Acoustics equipment, in combination with the back-up of French rental giant Dushow, is the blueprint to position Alphacompany as a leading audio and video supplier for concerts, events and TV shows in Belgium and abroad. The operation is led by entrepreneur Laurent Grietens, who has 25 years of experience in European AV.

In 1987, Grietens’ Art System was one of the first rental companies to be based in Belgium but operate in neighbouring France too. When, in the mid-1990s, bigger sound rental companies were looking for acquisitions to strengthen their position, Grietens, after having declined several options, joined the Ecran Total/Fréquence (ETF) conglomerate in 1998, adding audio to its existing video and lighting business.

In 2000, Laurent Grietens sold Art System to ETF, but remained in function as sales and sound department manager until 2004, when Procon acquired ETF. Next he joined Ampco/Flashlight as sales manager for southern Europe, leaving in 2011.

“The idea to start from scratch with a new company had to do with the fact that I felt clients wanted more flexibility, response and service,” explains Grietens. “This is exactly the opposite to what they were experiencing with the mega-structures on the rental market – I wanted to have a human-sized company.”

Under the banner Alphacompany, Laurent Grietens re-entered the rental market this summer, adopting a “simple, healthy, flexible and reactive” philosophy as its trademark. “The idea was to offer a responsive service, with the credibility, back-up and knowhow of a major player, but without the disadvantages of a group structure,” says Grietens. “By choosing Brussels as our main hub we are targeting both the north and south of Belgium, with France as extra potential.”

A strategic arrangement concluded this summer with French rental giant Dushow will allow Alphacompany to look forward with confidence, and at the same time, opens the door to a new market for Dushow. In addition, Alphacompany will have access to the latest video technology through Dushow daughter company Alabama. “And there’s the practical side – we are located just five minutes off the Brussels Ring and 250km away from Dushow, allowing the quick transfer of equipment when necessary. Although 95% of our assignments can be handled with our own inventory, this nearness allows us to answer the demand without charging our company in too many heavy investments,” underlines Grietens. “We are aiming for a 100% rotation of our material.”

As for the choice of the equipment, Grietens, with his experience in the audio rental segment, decided to work with local distributors. “The choice of Lab.gruppen amplifiers was obvious for us. We know the people who work at (Lab.gruppen distributor) Inytium very well, some of them worked at Art System in the past. This is a bonus in terms of maintenance and service,” enthuses Grietens. “With Lab.gruppen PLM 10000Q type amplifiers both for FOH and monitoring, we go for high-performance products and the latest technology. All of the amplification can be built into identical racks, powering either the main or monitor system.”

“Alphacompany opted for the best technology on the market,” echoes Ludovic Vandegoor, MD of Inytium, shown (left) with Grietens. “Both the Lab.gruppen amplifiers and the Lake LM44 processors are the most recent additions to the respective catalogues, and already they are of an international standard.”

Alphacompany’s basic inventory further includes Midas Heritage 3000 and 1000, Yamaha CL5 and PM5D, and Digidesign SC48 and VENUE consoles. The choice of L-Acoustics speakers was inspired by the compatibility with Dushow’s rental equipment – Grietens is also convinced that L-Acoustics stands for security in the market. Alphacompany’s inventory includes 48 boxes of KARA, 24 KIVA, 24 ARCSII, 12 112XT and 108XT cabinets, plus four SB18 and 16 SB28 sub speakers, and enables the company to service audiences of 10,000+. “And the back-up from Paris allows us to take on really huge productions,” Grietens adds. “As for monitoring, with some 90% in-ear systems on stage (we offer Shure and Sennheiser systems) we decided to use Martin Audio LE1200/1500 – a steady standard in stage monitoring today.”

Grietens agrees that a substantial investment to launch a new company is not at all evident – he’s convinced that, today, the market is aiming for balance. And crisis doesn’t stop the world going around, he says. “We launch a new business and invest in the latest technology – the profitable $/euro exchange rate caused an inversion on the market. We have been concentrating on our sales power and financial structure, allowing keen investments in the future while maintaining a healthy cash flow and reserves,” concludes Grietens.

“Today we’re back with what was the key to our success 20 years ago. Over the years, companies have lost control over the ‘flux’ of the business, losing track of what I call the production spiral (pre-production, production, follow-up). We want to return to the personal client relation, consumer confidence and efficient support. I believe that it’s not the kit but the people that make the difference.”

At press time, Alphacompany employs a staff of six plus a number of freelance engineers – Grietens wants to put together a motivated team of dedicated system techs, boosting the company’s image as a credible partner for audio, video and lighting solutions.

Marc Maes