June 2007 Issue


“Out-stallation” Tips

WATCH OUT FOR LIGHTNING “There’s greater risk of lightning damage when you put any equipment outside—TVs, speakers, even Cat-5 wire. I lived in South Florida for a while, and can tell you that any metal object outside can be a lightning rod. We’ve not had any problems so far with this, but I’ve heard horror stories from installers at other companies. We’re working on figuring out ways to limit our exposure to outdoor lightning strikes. It’s something people may not think about till it’s too late, so we have to look ahead, because there’s certainly growing demand for more stuff to be put outside;

Apple TV Installation: Potential Quagmire?

Apple has earned a reputation for easy-to-use products that work fine the first time you try them, but that certainly wasn’t the case in our experience with Apple TV. A visit to the Apple TV bulletin boards confirmed we weren’t alone; many early adopters seemingly also are having difficulties. Everything started off well enough. Since Apple TV requires at least one networked computer to have iTunes installed with content to copy or stream, our first order of business was getting iTunes installed on our Compaq laptop. We downloaded an episode of Showtime’s Weeds that we’d already seen in both HD and standard-def via digital

Applications: Take It Outside!

In custom installation, when you’re dealing with a “room” as big as all outdoors, the rules of the game go flying out the (non-existent) window. Refreshingly, exterior installations aren’t a hard sell; they’re natural extensions, in most cases, of inside jobs. That’s where the easy part ends, however. The more complex the client’s desires, the more project planners must think outside the box to create element-proof but visually pleasing solutions that come as close as possible to meeting in-home installation standards. We discussed outdoor installations with four professionals who’ve been there and done that. Classic Stereo & Video • Grand Rapids, Mich. • www.classicstereo.com

Become a Sales Avenger

“You’d be a great salesman!” they said. “Hey, you’re smart, look good, you have the gift of gab and you don’t mind stretching the truth a little bit.” If these are the credentials for a sales position, we’d rather do nothing. Sure, a salesperson needs to be able to communicate, and it certainly helps if he or she is also likable and outgoing. But let’s make sure we’re making a clear distinction between a salesman and a cheesy suit out to make a quick commission. We’ve seen many salesmen hawk one product today as technically dominant, and the next month (after they’ve been terminated)

Calling All Audio Magicians

Tom Sumner’s father-in-law, a Sacramento, Calif.-based custom installer who primarily does corporate work, didn’t know Yamaha’s Digital Sound Projector existed until Sumner told him about it. “It’s a one-bar solution that gives you true surround sound, and great sound,” Sumner told him. “You put it up, and people say, ‘Wow, that TV sounds great!’ But really, it’s our Digital Sound Projector.” Sumner plans to make sure more people know about the Digital Sound Projector and future next-generation products. In April, he was named president of Yamaha Electronics Corp., USA, (YEC) and also corporate vice president of Yamaha Corp. of America (YCA), YEC’s parent company.

Color LED Lighting Can Dazzle in Pools, Trees

“As head designer,” says HiFi House Chief Custom Designer E.J. Feulner, “lighting is important to me, and lighting control factors into most of my outdoor projects for landscaping, pools and other areas. My philosophy is that clients shouldn’t have to touch a light switch to turn on an outdoor light.” Until very recently, outdoor integrators have dealt mostly with utilitarian lighting and control systems, “programming scenes for when you’re watching movies to turn the lights off on that side of the house, or for illuminating the path back to the kitchen where you get more food. Pretty straightforward stuff,” says Aurant CEO Jeff Anderson. But our

Convert Inventory to Dollars

Last month, we discussed your balance sheet, your current assets and the benefits of having cash available to take advantage of opportunities that arise. If your accounts receivables and cash management are currently in good shape, what else can you tap to raise cash? How about your inventory? Last month, when we discussed where three of the larger electronics retailers had their current assets, Best Buy had the lowest inventory as a percentage of current assets (42 percent), followed by Circuit City (60 percent) and Tweeter (75 percent). These numbers don’t tell the whole story; other metrics are used to judge how good inventory

Don’t Let Bad Apples Spoil Your Whole Bunch

“As the owner or manager of a custom home electronics business, you can make every effort to meticulously screen out inappropriate personalities when hiring staff. Invariably, however, one or two people can slip through the safeguards in the recruitment process who, for one reason or another, don’t really belong in your organization. This possibility is even greater the longer you are in business and the larger an organization you have. We asked some custom dealers to discuss some of the classic signs of an ill fit in personnel, and reveal what they find are the best ways to make a clean break with a chronically

Is iTunes Ready for Whole-Home Audio?

Let’s take a trip back to 2001. All settled in? Good. So get this: Some computer company has manufactured a funny-looking handheld device that stores a person’s entire music library—but only if the file is compressed to about an eighth of the size of the original CD-quality song. Who’s going to listen to compressed junk like that? Maybe a bunch of kids who don’t know any better, but clearly not the sophisticated people looking for custom integrators and CEDIA members to install whole-home audio systems. Is it time to go back to 2007 already? Welcome home! OK, maybe we didn’t call the whole iPod

Jeremy Burkhardt and Dave Donald List Four Books That Could Bring You Sales Success

Click on the titles to be taken to their amazon.com pages, where you can learn more and make purchases. Dale Carnegie: How to Win Friends & Influence People Og Mandino: The Greatest Salesman in The World Brian Tracy: Goals! How to Get Everything You Want—Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible Jeffery Gitomer: The Sales Bible: The Ultimate Sales Resource

Just What Is Good Service?

Ask any custom electronics professional what differentiates his business from those of his competitors. The answer will probably be “service.” We’d like to think of ourselves as offering the best possible service experience to our customers. But what is a great buying experience? What kind of service do people buying from specialty dealers expect? No one plans to disappoint customers, of course, but sometimes it just seems there’s nothing we can do to make them happy. According to a survey of 7,000 consumers conducted by BIGresearch, good service is far more than just quality, selection and on-time delivery. More than one-third of respondents said

Our Own Community Center

When I was growing up, the heart of our town was the Community Center. My mother used its after-school activities as an opportunity to drop us kids off and grab some unencumbered solo time to do errands while we dutifully learned the Dewey Decimal System. CustomRetailer is the core of a newfangled community center—a magazine, a weekly e-newsletter and a web site that together are dedicated to enriching the interactive experience for custom electronics professionals who are following a strategic approach to their business development. This is the time of year when we re-qualify our readers and submit our circulation numbers for audit by

Seven Steps to Unlocking Your Team’s Potential

“Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking your potential,” Winston Churchill once said. We have a saying at Niles, too: “Lean, don’t ram.” It’s something my first boss in this business taught me. I was 23 and full of energy. Stubborn and determined, everything had to be done right now! Well, my boss took me aside and said, “Frank, you have great potential, but you have to learn that when you want to knock over a wall, it’s better to lean than ram. If you run at the wall with all your might, you’ll likely knock yourself out, but if you lean

Spotlight: Homeowners Could Use a Little Structure

Like many Americans, I live in wire hell, although perhaps in a deeper circle of wire hell than most. My old Craftsman home has DirecTV satellite feeding three entertainment systems, a home office with a fax machine, two computers hooked into high-speed internet, business and VoIP phone lines and a dedicated home theater in my converted garage. Each application requires a tangle of wires that run up my walls and across my floors, where they lay together in dusty clumps. Still, even my issues are amateur compared to what custom integrators and builders need to address: security, lighting, HVAC, whole-house audio, intercoms. I shudder

Spotlight: Some Prominent Structured Wiring Solutions and Applications

Channel Vision Central features easy-to-install, easy-to-upgrade modular structured wiring systems and components. Each component in the system can be effortlessly snapped into place inside a panel. Solutions range from entry-level up to premium packages, simplifying system design and offering the installer flexibility to address various situations. System products include amplified RF products, computer products, enclosures and covers, fiber optics, IR distribution, passive RF products, satellite distribution, speaker distribution, structured modulation, telephone products and wall plates. www.channelvision.com Imagine a fire started in your client’s home. Through Honeywell’s Internet Connection Module (ICM), the security system is triggered, a buzzer sounds to wake occupants, the HVAC system

Spotlight: The Latest in High-Quality Cables

Monster Cable has redesigned its M Series of audio, video and speaker cables. The new M Series audio cables include Monster’s exclusive cable technologies like PEX and MicroFiber dielectrics, 24k gold contact Turbine connectors, Bandwidth Balanced Time Correct windings, and Magnetic Flux Tube for enhanced performance. The new M1000 HDMI cable supports 1,080p Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD as well as lossless audio formats like DTS-HD and Dolby Digital. All M Series component video and HDMI cables are ISF-certified. www.monstercable.com/MSeries VizionWare’s Hi-Wirez Digital Interconnects deliver a wide range of video resolutions from 480i to 1,080p and “beyond.” Its Hi-Wirez HDMI cable utilizes patent-pending embedded

Tough Apples?

Apple TV, which debuted in early April, isn’t an independent, standalone internet TV set-top box, such as Akimbo. Rather, it’s a home media link/digital media adapter. More specifically, it’s an iTunes link that takes the iTunes content found on up to five different computers on a home network and makes that content available on TV in two different ways, via copying (“syncing” in iPod jargon) or streaming. Were it not for the fact that Apple has sold more than 100 million iPods to date, and has over 80 percent market share in legal, paid music and TV downloads, Apple TV would be just another

Vidikron Vision Model 150

Vidikron’s flagship three-chip DLP 1,080p projector, the Vision Model 150 ($99,995 MSRP), is THX Video Display-certified and engineered to Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) calibration standards. Its 1.2-kilowatt Xenon LightAmp illumination system produces the company’s brightest 1,080p performance to date; optional CineWide and CineWide with AutoScope technology enables 2.35:1 viewing. The package includes Vidikron’s all-digital VHD Video Controller/Processor, which provides scaling and aspect ratio control. Four high-precision optics choices are available; cabinet color options are Classic White and Graphite Gray. www.vidikron.com

Want to Build Wealth in the CI Business? Buy Real Estate

If your custom installation company has sales over $1.5 million per year, it’s time to buy a building. This may be the most important financial decision you’ll make for your company, because the building will be the only hard asset you own. CI companies, like dental practices, have good cash flow but poor asset value. Unlike a successful retail store, you don’t have a lease in a great traffic area. You don’t have inventory. You don’t have repeat business built up from years of advertising. All you have, essentially, is your reputation, which I’m sure is a fine one, but tough to sell when

We Have Some Growing Up to Do

With CEDIA EXPO just around the corner and the registration brochures hot off of the presses, it’s time to start thinking about our plans for September. Some companies will choose not to attend; others will bring their entire staffs. The reasons for this are as diverse as the companies themselves. Or are they? We may all think we’re in different places within our respective businesses, which ultimately will drive our planning decisions. But in the overall scheme of things, we’re all a part of an extremely adolescent industry. The very word “adolescent” is one to which all of us can relate. We either are