Detmer’s Corner : Flipping the Commercial Switch
The Time Is NowFebruary 2012 By Mike “Sparky” Detmer
When Bill Janka took over Mission Audio Video, a mainstay in the Santa Barbara, Calif., retail community, the customer base was quite different from today. In the 1970s and '80s, Mission's customers were primarily audio enthusiasts.
Audiophiles went to Mission Audio to experience the latest high-end gear. And frequently, in the process, they bumped into industry luminaries like Bascom King who would stop by with a new power amplifier prototype or Sao Winn who conducted seminars on proper turntable, tone arm and phonograph cartridge alignment.
Today though, Mission Audio Video has morphed to accommodate its evolving customer base. With some of the premier luxury communities in the country like Montecito, Hope Ranch and Santa Ynez nearby, Mission finds high wealth customers who want complete systems integrated into their homes in ways that complement their lifestyles. These customers are the enclave of Mission's revenues as they build more vacation and retirement homes spreading positive word-of-month among each other about Janka's operation and pristine installations overseen by Rick Grayston.
Recently one of Mission's satisfied customers, who enjoyed the Santa Barbara lifestyle so much, decided to move their prospering business to Carpinteria, a small coastal community just south of their home in Montecito. They had a terrible experience with the commercial AV contractor who did their last office so they enlisted Mission to install all of the AV systems in their new office complex. At first, Janka was leery and not completely confident his processes and product mix could accommodate the job. But after some adjustment Mission took on the work, which expanded over time to be the largest grossing job of 2011.
When asked about the advantages and disadvantages of commercial work and what advice he would offer a residential company seeking commercial opportunities, here is what Janka said:
1.) Leverage your higher standards.
Because most residential integrators are accustomed to designing and installing systems that in many ways are extensions of individual homeowners, there is an innate quality incorporated into their residential jobs that may not be present in more generic commercial jobs. Janka says, "Go into commercial jobs with the attitude you have toward residential work and you will rule." After all doing the work better than the next guy is what got him such a high grossing job.
2.) Understand that the game is different.
Commercial systems typically do not require the high level of fit-and-finish as high-end residential systems, so they are easier to get done. However, the system designs frequently require a product mix that residential contractors may not be completely familiar with. While there is some product (like indoor/outdoor speakers) that crosses over easily, other components (like control systems) require special knowledge for appropriate system design and installation.