April 2007 Issue


A Conversation with ASID Past-President Linda Elliott Smith

Linda Elliott Smith has been an interior designer for nearly a quarter of a century. She began her practice in 1983 and, in 1985, started her own interior design firm, Smith & Associates, which specializes in contract, hospitality and residential projects. Smith not only possesses a long history in the practice of interior design, but also has been an active and outspoken leader for the advancement of the trade itself for many years. During 2003 and 2004, she served as president of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID); she has served as a volunteer leader for that organization since the 1980s, and

Are You Prepared to Travel?

If you’ve positioned your CI company in the high-end, chances are you’ve done a job outside your market. But was it profitable? Perhaps it was a client’s second home in the mountains. Or a referral living in the next city over. A good client sees no problem having you work on all of their homes, regardless of where those homes are. And if it’s a strong referral out of town, you can be sure the client understands you’ll be traveling—and charging appropriately for the costs incurred with distance. This high-end business may take you anywhere, so it’s best to be prepared for that eventuality.

Everybody in the Sandbox!

Industry event organizers need legitimate hooks to attract interest and attendance by custom integrators and installers who must spend increasing time and energy (not to mention, money) to get to them all. Andrew Ard, principal of the KA Marketing manufacturers’ rep firm, feels he delivered a compelling hook with his second annual Electronics Expo, held last month at United Leather’s downtown Dallas custom home furnishings factory. Ard views his Expo as a local “sandbox” where like-minded dealers can converge with manufacturers and see how products and people can work together. It was quite a large sandbox, too: The event, a combination training and networking

Hard Times at Retail, Good News for You

March wasn’t the best of months for Circuit City and Tweeter. But it was a pretty good month for you, beyond the fact that you might have some decent talent looking for work in your market these days. Circuit City laid off 3,400 associates and took an enormous PR hit in the process. My local newspaper’s web site awkwardly ran a Circuit City banner ad at the top of its home page while, just below, its editors were inviting terminated employees to share their horror stories. A number of newspaper and TV station web sites posted stories with the headline, “Circuit City Fires Employees

HTSA Soirees in Savannah

“Together, we can win, win, win.” That was the message conveyed by Richard Glikes, executive director of the Home Theater Specialists of America (HTSA), at the buying group’s annual event, which moves around the country from one exciting locale to another. This year’s four-day event, called The HTSA Soigné Soiree, was held in Savannah, Ga., and was attended by HTSA’s members and vendor partners. Glikes outlined various goals that would be set forth for the group, now 11 years old, at a kick-off breakfast/meeting. One major goal for HTSA is to focus business on its existing vendor partners; Glikes encouraged the membership to support

Is This Surround Sound’s Last Stand?

The Grammy Award wins recently chalked up by two performances on Monster Music’s George Benson and Al Jarreau Givin’ It Up release brought some very visible validation to Monster Cable’s Super High Definition Surround project. But to hear it from the “Little Monster,” Kevin Lee, the Benson/Jarreau SuperDisc project was just the latest manifestation of company founder/Head Monster Noel Lee’s lifelong effort to push quality audio through conduits that extend well beyond the cables through which he made his name in the CE industry. “My dad has a passion for music,” explains Kevin Lee. “Six or seven years ago, we had a

Opportunity Knocks

In fact, it’s knocking on your front door! The opportunity to grow your business by strengthening your relationships with architects, builders and interior designers is one of the most potent strategies available to you and your company. CustomRetailer will be focusing attention on this critical subject matter in the months to come. This issue is devoted to the theme of your collaborations with these partners and how the individual disciplines integrate together. Our ongoing commitment to this topic continues with our new Common Ground section, which is devoted to fostering greater communication and understanding among electronics systems contractors (ESCs) and complementary residential tradespeople. CustomRetailer

PARA Focuses on Information Sharing

The Consumer Electronics Association’s (CEA’s) PARA Division held its annual conference—the third since CEA’s involvement with this specialty retailing entity began—at Orlando, Fla.’s Peabody Hotel, in sync with last month’s custom installer-oriented Electronic House Expo Spring trade show at the nearby Orange County Convention Center. The strategy was executed “to expose people to that show,” explained PARA Executive Director Kerry Moyer. This co-location strategy was one of several changes to the PARA event. Other wrinkles involved moving the event from its usual May time slot to March, and compressing the event to two full days from a traditional four-day schedule. The changes were made,

ROI Spreads Our Word

The CEDIA Registered Outreach Instructor (ROI) program is a key way CEDIA and its membership are spreading the word about the growing importance of involving an electronic systems contractor early in the design-build process. Through the ROI program, electronic systems industry experts fulfill a number of basic requirements, and then are offered opportunities to share their knowledge with architects, builders, interior designers and related industry partners. The program is fostering relationships with industry partners who can open the door to a widespread understanding of—and reliance on—our industry. An obvious benefit to becoming involved in the ROI program is the one-to-one relationship building. Industry partners

Some Suggested Reading for Businesses on the Move

If there’s one truism in business, it’s that we can all learn more. That’s especially true for the veterans of the consumer electronics business, who are more open than ever to new ideas that can stimulate growth and progress. Over the years, I’ve encountered numerous books, web sites and newsletters that offer layers of detail on how ideas can work in your business. Unfortunately, many of those ideas are just that—ideas—and really haven’t been tested. I tend to learn more from ideas that are derived from market research and investigation. The following recommendations, then, outline ideas that are proven quantities. These ideas come from

Spotlight: Finally Seeing the Light

It’s taken a long while, but builders and architects seem to be crossing a threshold in home automation: They finally understand that they don’t understand. Allyson Marcus, a spokesperson for Lutron Electronics, one of the largest lighting and shading control systems manufacturers, noticed this new attitude at the International Builders’ Show in Orlando this past February. “I was swamped by builders this year,” says Marcus. “They feel like it’s do-or-die time. They told me, ‘I need to learn this immediately.’” This is potentially very good news for custom integrators, because the more builders comprehend the complexities of successful systems integration (and the dangers

Spotlight: Tips on More Effectively Selling Lighting Control

Vantage/Legrand has been a leading lighting control manufacturer for a long time. Now it’s expanding into home automation and distributed audio. We recently chatted with Vantage/Legrand Vice President of Sales Bob Long, who has some opinions on how custom electronics professionals can better sell lighting control to clients. What does it take right off the bat to get customers excited about lighting control? There are certain sales processes integral to selling the concept. Most people don’t understand what’s possible in the world of automation and lighting control. You have to take them and show actual examples of what you’ve done. If you just

SXSW Heroes

Let’s face it: When you’re a bona fide rock star, you know how your music should sound. And only one volume level will do—somewhere between make-the-neighbors-wet-the-bed and these-speakers-will-soon-bleed. So if you’re in charge of setting up an audio/video oasis for musicians taking a break during the South By Southwest Music and Media Conference (SXSW), held last month in Austin, Texas, then you’d better make sure you have the equipment to satisfy these exacting tastes. Speaker manufacturer Paradigm got the opportunity to be a part of that bit of fun. Marketing Manager Mark Aling didn’t hesitate for a second when he got the call and,

This Month’s Project: The Renaissance Theater

Acoustic Innovations (AI) of Boca Raton, Fla., maintains a very unique relationship with custom A/V integrators. It doesn’t do installations itself, but the full-service interiors and acoustics company works directly with installers to create gorgeous home theater spaces. “Usually, custom installers come to us as they would another vendor,” says AI founder Jay Miller. “We work with these installers to design, manufacture and install theater interiors that take into account both aesthetic and acoustic issues, such as room isolation and room reverberation.” End users often contact AI directly; AI simply refers them to one of its 100-plus affiliated local installers so each client can