February 2008 Issue


‘Lift’ing Projection Expectations

Your average carpet walker at the Consumer Electronics Show last month was pretty impressed with Panasonic’s 150-inch plasma set. Mouths agape, eyes widened, they awed at the size of it. But if you’re a custom integrator, the awe probably turned into shock sometime after you started calculating the logistics of actually hanging the darned thing, let alone support it should something go awry. And, let’s face it: Why bother when you have projection systems at sizes, resolutions and placement options that blow every flat screen away? That’s the kind of sentiment Stewart Filmscreen director of sales Joaquin Rivera heard from dealers all week. And

A Salute to Relationships that Work

It dawned on me at the 2008 International CES that the key to our success as an industry could be traced to our partnerships and relationships. As a group, our publishing family was intimately involved in sponsoring the goal of making the specialty dealers welcome at CES by presenting compelling speakers at the Lunch and Learns, contributing a pod cast on How to Sell to Women and hosting a Meet and Greet Maureen Jenson hour. I will never grow tired of the well-wishers that gave us the high-five for bringing this powerhouse talent into the fold. This is the first issue, with Maureen’s

Codecs Count

The underlying codecs used in home A/V networking and home video equipment affect picture quality and can impact how bad things will look when there’s some momentary signal loss or corruption of the digital video data stream. Not long ago, just about all a custom installer needed to know about a video signal was what kind of connector it used—RF, component, composite or S-video—and how long of a cable run was needed for it. Today’s digital video is quite different as increasingly it’s becoming important for technicians, system designers and builders to understand what’s going on inside the digital video signal. And once you

Collaboration Mastered

WHAT SEPARATES THE MEN FROM THE BOYS in the world of custom audio-video installation is more than just a top-notch audio-video system and sublime integration. It’s the little details on which the trades must collaborate in order to take the project to that next level. HomeWaves in Cumming, Ga., takes a unique approach, combining parts of the four trades into its business model, but remaining flexible enough to handle any project, from that fiercely principled architect to the most tenacious interior designer. Building Mutually Beneficial Relationships Because HomeWaves focuses on “the art of electronic architecture” as Adam Weart, manager of design and engineering,

Custom Caucus

Pre-emptively trumping the Las Vegas-held presidential debate by precisely a week, 20 participants from the retailing, manufacturing, distributing, buying group and consultant arms of the CE industry offered wide-ranging and divergent views at the annual Consumer Technology Publishing Group’s (CTPG) Editorial Advisory Board roundtable discussion during last month’s CES. Hosted by the editors and publishers of CustomRetailer, Dealerscope, Picture Business and E-Gear, the forum touched on topics as free-wheeling as the “strange bedfellows” hardware-software company partnership trend, the analog-broadcasting cutoff issue, how to react to and cultivate the younger customer, and the move from the single-product sale to the solution sale. Marriages of Convenience?

Developing the Performance List

Editor’s Note: In August 2007, Ira kicked off his series of educational columns. This column focuses on crafting a Performance List, which consists of rough ideas that describe the functionality, aesthetics and performance levels of a system. Part 7: A Performance List contains all the prospect’s wants and needs. Your prospect says they want a surround system in the bedroom hidden from view when not in use, and you describe the perfect solution. Key to your description is the knowledge that your prospects have a limited understanding of the aesthetic, control and performance possibilities available to them. They might be thinking the plasma hides

Energy Control

There’s never been a more critical time to justify an investment in home entertainment and control technologies than today. The housing and economic downturn has everyone, even the wealthy, wondering how much capital they can spend and still weather the storm. Crestron’s spokesman Jeffrey Singer has some ideas, including ways to show how your customers can save money with some systems, depending on how environmentally conscious they are, and new Crestron initiatives that help educate the end user. He also reveals to CustomRetailer new technology Crestron is debuting later this year. Some integrators have given us the impression that, essentially, “You’re either a Crestron

Heard But Not Seen

For those who can see (or hear) beyond the towering black speaker boxes to a place where sound is ubiquitous, defining the room, Scott Struthers and Geoff Spencer share your passion. Twenty-five years ago, these Sonance co-founders took that passion and created the first in-wall speakers. They challenged themselves to develop unseen speakers that produced the same excellent audio quality as standalone speakers. They succeeded. Before Sonance introduced in-wall speakers, customers “didn’t know what they were missing,” notes Mark Pickard, director of marketing for Sonance. “But we came in and said, ‘You don’t have to settle [for traditional speakers],’” and their clients strongly agreed.

How To Survive and Thrive During Challenging Times

A slowdown in the overall economy has prompted CustomRetailer to conduct a snapshot survey among hybrid integrators/retailers in 13 areas of the country to gauge the effects on their businesses. We asked several key questions: - What is your typical scope and project size? - Have you experienced a slowdown in projects that you can directly attribute to a slowdown in home construction and/or the economy? - If so, how can you tell? - If not, what do you think is causing a slowdown in your business? - Is this causing you to take smaller projects than you normally

It Pays to be a CEDIA Member

While CEDIA members are working year-round to maintain successful businesses and face ever-changing industry challenges, CEDIA is also hard at work diligently investing membership dollars into the future of its members resulting in both direct and indirect benefits that impact each and every member company. CEDIA is constantly addressing the issues that affect your company every day, supporting your business and the electronic systems industry. Many members may not have the time to read all of the communication they receive day-to-day, but this is one communication that is filled with key initiatives that make being a member of CEDIA more powerful than one may

Recurring Revenue & Recurring Customers

The challenge for many custom retailers in the coming years is how to maintain growth in a slowing or stagnant economy. Also, there is a substantial downward price pressure on video displays and associated hardware. Even in the realm of home automation, prices are lowering as technology becomes less expensive and more companies want to expand their market penetration beyond the high-end segment of the market. One successful model for creating a long-term income stream is the recurring revenue model. The analogies to this model are prevalent with many products and services. On the service side, security, warranties, cable companies, phone companies


It isn’t only winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The chill has also fully set in on the new-housing market, well into a hibernation period that, by integrators’ accounts, has only begun to approach its peak. Everyone whose livelihood depends on custom integration can agree about 100 percent that this is no time to answer the current crisis du jour by letting their businesses fall into dormancy until things get better. An emphasis on bolstering retrofit business is one popular and obvious path to follow while hoping that the new-housing sector eventually heals, and many integrators are at least partially subscribing to this tactic. But

Sunny San Diego

Hey CEDIA Management Conference folks or anyone lucky enough to be planning a trip to the second-largest city in California this February. In sunny San Diego, a night out on the town is rivaled only by an adventure-filled day, whether you are visiting the zoo or enjoying the 70 miles of beaches. While the choices can be mind-boggling, we’ve narrowed our favorite places to eat, play and stay down to this short list. EAT BERTRAND’S AT MR. A’s Mr. A’s ($38-$41 for dinner entrees) was once thought of as a place reserved only for special occasions, jacket required. The restaurant’s image has evolved,

Survival of the Fittest

After the consistent stream of negative news from the housing market in 2007, it comes as no surprise that the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is reporting 2008 to be a challenging year for the home builder in the U.S. The projected setback is in turn expected to present a set of challenges for the CEDIA member. Many of you report that you have already begun to feel the effects of this pattern. As the housing and construction pinch continues to travel down the line, what will you do when the custom builder’s terms for you, the ESC, have changed? How are you

The ‘Green’ Minefield

At a time when crude oil has topped $100 a barrel, custom-centric companies are carefully deciding whether to incorporate “green” issues into their marketing and sales approach. Marketing one’s “green” capabilities as an electronics systems contractor (ESC) is a bit like dancing through a minefield. No company wants to get hit by allegations of hypocrisy, misinformation or “green-washing.” At Aurant, a custom integrator in Salt Lake City, CEO Jeffrey Anderson believes that, “As an industry, we do ourselves a disservice jumping on green as a marketing bandwagon. “There’s no debate we want to evolve our industry to be more efficient, more economical and

Tough Times Ahead?

Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the state of the housing market and the CI business in general. Let’s face it—these are not the best of times. For many of us, this is the first time we have had to face the challenge of a declining home construction market. Up to this point, we’ve had a great run! Since 1992, the housing market has been on a tear. Couple that with the fact that what we do has become mainstream consumer electronics and you have the makings of a great boom for all. But lately the skies have begun to

Treasure Your Employees

An old-school dealer once told me “I don’t worry about motivating my employees. If their paychecks aren’t enough to motivate them, they can find something else to do.” Ouch. Unfortunately, although seldom said out loud, too many dealers act as if their team members are disposable. The America’s Dynamic Workforce: 2007 report from the U. S. Department of Labor finds that unemployment has dropped to a record-low 4.5 percent while the number of unfilled jobs continues to climb. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to hire skilled labor to replace retiring baby boomers. Add to the equation long retail hours, the

Triumphing Over Economic Slowdown

Americans are an interesting breed. There is a can-do attitude among the people of the United States that is envied by many nations around the world. No matter what happens economically, the resiliancy of the United States eventually resurfaces. That’s what this issue is all about—not only surviving, but thriving during economically challenging times. Learning from each other and realizing you are not alone is often a good first step when trying to maintain and grow your business during difficult times. The key words here are socrosanct: You Are Not Alone. Turn to Nancy Klosek’s in-depth interviews in “Retrofitting for Recession” starting on

Winning or Whining, a Matter of Choice

It’s wintertime, cold and grey for most of the country, and spring seems a distant wish. The economy is a bit chilly as well. Local and national news anchors won’t let us forget that things are less than positive and we had better prepare for the worst. The economy is a major issue in the national political battle and both sides are making it the dragon that only they can slay. It is no surprise that we are often caught looking at the gloom with depressing resignation. The logical assumption is that if the economy is bad our business will follow suit. This