April 2006 Issue


All Hail the Sixth "P"

Predictability is a huge, though often overlooked, aspect of marketing and selling in the custom world By Robert Ain I don't know who first started the five "Ps" in marketing, but I first applied it to business in the 1980s and it still holds true today. If you're unfamiliar with them, the five "Ps" are Product, People, Place, Price and Promotion. Some marketing books specify only four "Ps," excluding People. I've had conversations with some of those authors, contending that People are a key component and that four "Ps" aren't enough. So I'll probably be excluded from the annals of great marketers by taking

Devil in the Details

Can industry trade associations agree on a baseline standard for technician certification and training? By Janet Pinkerton numerous industry trade associations are attempting to agree on a standard for electronic systems technician (EST) training and certification that would pertain to both the residential and commercial sectors. The goals of the effort, which is the outgrowth of years of roundtable discussions slowly coming to a head, are multi-faceted: to create baseline skill and knowledge criteria for technicians entering the industry from a variety of channels to create an Apprenticeship Training program recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor that would establish

Disaster and Rebirth in New Orleans

This PARA dealer's store and home were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Today, however, he looks forward to a brighter future. By Jay Valentino New Orleans is my home. For four generations, my family has meticulously restored and operated three hotels in the historic French Quarter. But the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 challenged us all in ways we hadn't imagined possible. The vast majority of the Crescent City's inhabitants—80 percent of the housing in New Orleans was substantially damaged or destroyed—is still struggling to recover, six months after the largest disaster in U.S. history, and as the Gulf Coast enters another hurricane

DVR Video to Go Open 24 Hours

By Cliff Roth&000;&000; How personal is a personal video recorder if the recordings aren't portable? Why must such recordings be bound and tied to a component that resides in a living room? Reasonable, positive answers to these questions are emerging in the marketplace. As a result, custom retailers selecting digital video recorder (DVR) equipment for their clients' homes these days may need to start looking beyond the living room and investigate portable video playback options. Imagine piling the kids in the family vehicle, leaving for a summer vacation, and grabbing a bunch of the latest episodes of your favorite programs to watch in

Making Audio Work

Opportunities are wide open for the custom retailer who can peer beyond flat-panel's pixels By Nancy Klosek It isn't video. It's audio. And it isn't easy. In fact, it takes a village—C-tailing business owners, manufacturers, salespeople—to make the case for a high-ticket audio purchase. Suppliers and C-tailers who get it know that conducting a good demonstration is only the culmination of the presentation process. The development of cannily designed product lines on the manufacturing side and, on the retail side, an unvarnished self-examination of the dynamics which influence audio purchases are the requisite preludes to a sale, say industry participants from each camp

Mix and Match

C-tailers employ a variety of training programs to meet their goals By Janet Pinkerton&000;&000; every C-tailer must make its own judgment call about how to spend time and money educating employees and what certifications to carry. It's a return-on-investment issue further complicated by the fact that investments are made in individuals who could possibly leave the company. Custom integrators we interviewed—some also retailers, some not—each select a mix of training resources, including internal efforts, manufacturer training, trade association education and certification programs. At Tweeter Home Entertainment Group, National Director of Product Training and Resource Allocation Bob Stinehour says 20 full-time instructional designers and eight

Recurring Revenue? Keep Dreaming?

By Ira Friedman There is no "recurring revenue" in the custom business. Of course, that doesn't stop custom dealers from looking at their friends, the "security guys," with mild envy. Those monthly monitoring charges they collect sure look sweet. And there's no cost associated with them, either. Ah, free money. "If only we could develop a form of recurring income like those security guys," muses the custom retailer, "then we could have some stability in our business." When the custom retailer revisits his warranty policy, he tries to envision a day when his customers send in quarterly "maintenance" checks. Ah, that free money. Well,

Spin Cycle

Nationwide's independent appliance, furniture and electronics retailers are reloading their business models to incorporate custom home theater. But along the way, a number of obstacles have come out in the wash.&000;&000; By Audrey Gray Heraclitus, the hotshot philosopher in ancient Greece until Socrates and Plato eclipsed him, is credited with the idea that nothing endures but change. He'd get no arguments from Trey Brunson, the 35-year-old vice president of H & H Furniture, Appliances and Electronics in Brunswick, Ga. "When my grandfather started this store back in 1933, it was a gas station!" he laughs. "To say we've evolved would be an understatement!"

Spread the Love, Reap the Rewards

Lifting employee morale is a rather easy, low-cost task. It can boost your profits, too. By Steve Honig What's the temperature of your workforce right now? Don't know? You need to. The single most important aspect of employer-employee relations is morale. Morale starts at the top, and it affects middle management and ultimately the workforce that is in daily contact with our clients. Creating great morale is the least expensive aspect of running a company, and it has a significant overall effect on profits. Happy employees produce happy clients. Happy clients want to spend more money. It's easy to talk about how important morale

Standardized Custom

New systems—part computer, part multizone receiver—will enable C-tailers to deliver profitable, unique systems that aren't labor-intensive. By Frank K. Sterns "Any color—so long as it's black." —Henry Ford With those words, the age of mass production was launched. The premise was simple: Limit options in order to standardize production and maximize profits. So, with that in mind, thousands of identical Model T Fords rolled off the production line to meet the needs of an ever-expanding base of customers who relished the freedom of movement that the automobile provided. And old Henry, with his Ford Motor Company and assembly line process, became one of the

The Wireless Install

Klipsch expects A/V-savvy wireless networking technologies to broaden the custom installation market By Janet Pinkerton&000;&000; For a custom installation industry so accustomed to pulling wire and generating revenues and profits from the endeavor, wireless networking technology often appears to be a threat. Paul Jacobs, president of Klipsch Group, Inc., views wireless as a potential growth opportunity, however—both for Klipsch as a company and for the custom install market as a whole. The potential impact of wireless technology was the subject of lively debate during Klipsch's strategy sessions, held in late 2005. "In our discussions and our strategic planning," Jacobs says, "what we continue

There's Gold in Them There Walls

Savvy installers and integrators are leveraging the communications bonanza that residential structured wiring provides. By Brian Ploskina&000;&000; For more than a decade, builders have contracted with integrators to wire homes with next-generation cabling capable of delivering high-speed internet, high-definition television, whole home audio and more. According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), nearly one million homes were built with structured wiring inside them last year. But most of the structured cabling cans that hold the components for home entertainment and security are half-empty, says Mark Cerasuolo, director of brand development for Leviton Integrated Networking and Controls. In the basement, he says, you'll find "large

What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

Business health can be very similar to your personal health. If you are unaware of a low or elevated component in your blood, you probably will not treat it until you are aware of the abnormal readings. In business health, sometimes you must perform an investigation into what is ailing your business to determine the correct prescription for improved performance. Sometimes, however, our investigations are misled or poorly administered, making it more difficult to prescribe the best solution to correct the problem. For example, a while back I was speaking with the CEO of a consumer electronics retailer that was doing market research on its

Who Is the Person You Listen to the Most?

Listen to the feedback you get—both from your mentor and from yourself. By Dave Donald and Jeremy Burkhardt We are social beings. Our ability to communicate at such a high level of cognition is one of the major factors that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. It has allowed us to create the miracles of modern science and the works of the masters in art and literature. Communication is so critical to our natural daily activity that even a brief interruption in that ability can cause havoc in our lives. Imagine losing the capability to hear or speak for even