Installs Inc.'s network of technicians executes installation SKUs for retailers—especially the big boxes—as well as manufacturers and service providers.
By Janet Pinkerton
Costco.com in mid-January offered Installs Inc.'s Flat Panel TV and 5 Speaker Installation Service for $649.99, as Item #961689. Over at walmart.com, Premium Flat Panel Wall Mount and Home Theater Installation (Wal-Mart No. 000598806), also by Installs Inc., was offered for $698.
If an installation service can be reduced to a stock-keeping unit (SKU), is it then a commodity? "I don't think so," says Lee Hess, co-founder and director of Installs Inc. Over the past 10 years, his Buffalo, N.Y.-based company has developed an installer network that executes home installation services for clients that include retailers like Best Buy, CDW, Costco, Crutchfield, Dell, Home Depot, Sears and Wal-Mart; manufacturers like Panasonic, Philips, RCA and Sony; and service providers like DirecTV, Sirius and XM. The National Football League and the National Hockey League use Installs Inc. for their VIP installations.
"When installs become very easy, you don't sell any," Hess says. "As a product can become commoditized, you lose the market."
Installs Inc. says its target market isn't the custom install job that requires a bid, but SKU-able installation services that are "just a little bit too complex for the consumer to understand," Hess says.
The company is majority-owned by private equity firm Genstar Capital, which purchased control in 2002. Thomas Hunt and Hess founded the company in 1995 as Digivision Satellite Services to do installations for the nascent direct-to-home satellite industry. Roommates at Harvard Business School (class of 1971), both had already built careers: Hunt as partner and general manager of several cable companies, Hess as senior vice president of Wendy's International, directing national franchising, real estate and corporate finance.
Hunt flagged Hess on the opportunities posed by direct-to-home satellite and, after researching the market, the two men in 1994 purchased the rights to 52 DirecTV territories in 10 states from the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative. From the onset, Hess and Hunt made the decision to not sell satellite services and equipment, but to instead support satellite retailers selling within its 52 territories.