August 2008 Issue


‘No Apologies Necessary’

Dealers often mention that in order to respond to their customers’ desires for in-wall and on-wall speakers, apologies must be made regarding the performance capability of the current market offerings versus even bookshelf models from some of the very same manufacturers. Perhaps not so ironically, the families that demand speakers that are hidden or low-profile are the same ones that won’t stand for sacrificing performance. This is why Wisdom Audio has taken great pains to ensure the performance achieved from the in-wall and on-wall versions of its brand new Sage Series is the same as its freestanding solutions. What’s more, customers are welcome to

Blending Art and Science

“What is design? It’s where you stand with a foot in two worlds—the world of technology and the world of people and human purposes—and you try to bring the two together.” —Mitchell Kapor, software designer (from his book “Bringing Design to Software”) When I attended the first CEDIA expo at Amelia Island Florida in 1989, I witnessed the birth of an industry. At the time, “Custom Installation” wasn’t even a term used to describe what the pioneers of our industry were doing. Most of us were hobbyists; tinkerers; dreamers and problem solvers. We were the rebels—an underground subset of the consumer electronics business that

CEDIA Build the Buzz

CR has compiled a list of participants in this year’s CEDIA Pre-Show Product Showcase. Take a look at some of the latest products that will be all the buzz at EXPO! Be sure to check out for a complete listing of all participating companies.


Every year the CEDIA Education Team and Subject Matter Expert review each course to make sure they are current and up to date for the industry. The following are this year’s new courses. For full course descriptions, log on to:

Central Vacuum Systems

BROAN-NUTONE LLC Tom Heidel, Marketing Manager, Central Vacuum Systems PRESENTATION ADVICE: Central vacuum dealers need to realize that everyone else has finally caught up with what they already know—that central vacuum systems provide significant improvement in a home’s air quality. In the past year, the two largest and most prominent ‘green’ building programs have recognized central vacuums as being important to indoor air quality and ‘green’ building. The NAHB’s Green Building guidelines and the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program both allow credits for the installation of a central vacuum system in a ‘green’ home. There are not many ‘green’ building items that provide

CR’s Customer Service Award goes to...

Affordable Audio of Massillon, Ohio Working with builders and other trade disciplines can be challenging. But it offers great opportunity to showcase your professionalism and collaboration skills. As is the case in this month’s Customer Service Winner, Affordable Audio. Because owner, Scott King, is willing to “bend over backwards” for his clients, builders like Dean Windham, president/owner of Noble Homes Inc., knows he has a trusted source for electronic systems integration. King’s efforts to form lasting relationships with clients and industry partners is matched by his dedication to excellence in his craft. For that, CR recognizes Affordable Audio as this month’s Customer Service Winner.

EXPO Excitement Builds

The importance of CEDIA to the electronic systems integrator is undeniable and to my esteemed colleague, Carol Campbell’s point below, every year EXPO is truly the start of a new year for those of us in the custom electronics industry. EXPO gives all of us a chance to rejuvenate, educate, decide what new products will benefit your customers most in the coming year and trade information with colleagues and pals. Perhaps most importantly, it gives us all a chance to get pumped up for the business year ahead. That’s why we devised this special Pre-CEDIA EXPO planning issue. Your time at EXPO is

Fruits of Your Labor

Besides providing an opportunity for good-will giving, non-profit organizations like the custom electronics industry’s Elf are also an object lesson in small-business management. CustomRetailer: Tell us a little about the Elf Foundation’s history and where you are, as you begin your eighth year as a non-profit. Doug Weinstein: Elf Foundation [which creates entertainment theaters in children’s hospitals through the generosity of the custom electronics industry’s integrators and manufacturers] was incorporated July 2001, and made $76,000 in donations and opened six projects our first year. Last year, we opened 10 new theaters and donated over $850,000. There are now 70 Room of Magic theaters open

Making the Most of CEDIA

Times are tough and money is tight, so maybe you’re thinking this would be a good year to skip the CEDIA EXPO. But before you throw in the towel and stay at home this September, maybe now would be a good time to put a pencil to paper and take an objective look at the business reasons for attending your industry’s premier event. If you’re willing to spend some careful planning time, I can assure you that your trip to CEDIA will be well worth the expense—even in a difficult economic time. Consider your return on investment In business, everything comes

New Years Eve!

For the readers of CustomRetailer, CEDIA EXPO is like New Years Day. For us, it is the kickoff of a new editorial calendar year guaranteed to continue to drive home strategies to Thrive and Survive! You’ll notice this change right off the bat—Maureen and I have decided to share the page as we share the stage with a whole team of amazing talent to bring you content that is clearly business-focused, original and extremely timely. There’s a lesson to be taken away in everything—and that’s what makes a business publication stand out. Each issue continues to be practical, relevant and engaging. We encourage readers

QUICK TAKES: CEDIA Manufacturers’ Excellence Awards Finalists

BEST NEW TECHNOLOGY FINALISTS Crestron Adagio Digital Media System This do-it-all system allows transfer and storage of media libraries, tile search on hard drives and the Internet, and playback of all manner of media. It uses a GUI that controls entertainment, lighting, climate, shades and security. CEDIA Booth #301 Exceptional Innovation Life|Ware Visual Project This is the all-in-one configuration tool from Life|ware. It’s notable for an intuitive interface and drag-and-drop functionality, that make configuring Life|ware easier, while the user discovers and adds new devices on the fly. A point and a click allow creation of Life|scenes—no custom programming required. CEDIA

Software Savior

Joe and Melissa Tooley, owners of AudioPerfection Inc., purchased D-Tools SI 3, but didn’t immediately get started in the software. In 2006, they decided to upgrade their software and get their business on track. They enrolled in D-Tools’ annual training event, D-Tools University (DTU), to get a jumpstart on the software. After one of the classes, Joe sat down with D-Tools certified partner and DTU instructor, Sam Cavitt of Media Environment Design (MED), for a one-on-one lesson. Joe and Melissa had never touched the software prior to attending DTU, but Sam’s advice and the classes they attended left them eager to learn and

Survey Results: Project Management

In the May issue of CustomRetailer, we asked our Insight columnist and industry insider, Rob Ain, to develop an online Zoomerang Survey based on how custom integrators are developing their project management. The following are the responses we received. Thanks so much to all who participated! 1. What percentage of your business involves some component of delivery or installation? 208 Responses. 80%-100% in the affirmative. 2. If you take the above number, what percentage of that revenue is non-product related? For example, if your total gross revenue is $1,000,000 per year and the percentage that has delivery or installation component is 80 percent or

The UCE: A Matter of Leadership

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” —Walt Disney Organizations that survive during hard economic times are the ones that create an EXPERIENCE for their customers. This is just one of the things we learned from Scott McKain during his presentation on the Ultimate Customer Experience at this year’s Management Conference in San Diego. It’s a lesson that prompted the development of a complementary Webinar for CEDIA’s Survival of the Fittest club members. In June, CEDIA hosted “The Ultimate Customer Experience—A Matter of Leadership.” Webinar attendees learned the dynamics of interacting with today’s

Time to Customize

I had an interesting group of family and friends at my home for dinner recently. As I listened to their conversations, I realized just how diverse they were. I also realized that within my close circle, I’d found a pretty good slice of America. There was the 70-year-old lawyer who lives overseas but practices law here. He has sophisticated video-conferencing systems in both his offices here and abroad. His wife browses You Tube to find Elmo cartoons for their grandchildren also living far from American TV. The 19-year-old Dartmouth student and the forty-something graphic artist were staunchly arguing the merits of

What Are You Going to Do at CEDIA This Year?

Each year at this time, I usually write about how one should prepare for the CEDIA EXPO. Getting your numbers ready for meetings with suppliers, assigning staff members to meet with suppliers, educating and training your staff members and networking, networking, networking! Rarely do I speak of a specific product category, but this year is different. This year, the secret word is “SECURITY.” If you go to CEDIA and are not selling security, I want to open your eyes to this growing part of our industry. According to our research, six out of 10 of our readers are not selling security. Those who

You Belong

Life is a fascinating adventure. A few of you have a plan that you have carefully crafted that is leading to a life of accomplishment and fulfillment. You have imagined specific landmarks and achievements along the way to confirm your continued progress along the path. You are able to document your constant improvement and enjoy the major triumphs you experience on a regular basis. You also have your teeth cleaned regularly and rotate your tires every six months without fail. The rest of us hate you. Well, maybe hate is too strong a word. We are annoyed, disturbed, irritated or just cheesed off.