March 2007 Issue

 

A Classic Coming of Age Story

Talk about living in the shadows of giants—Vidikron knows all about such things. The video projector manufacturer, founded in Italy way back in 1980, was acquired in 2002 by Runco International, home of projection industry legend and megawatt personality Sam Runco. Since then, some have wondered just what the difference is between the two companies beyond Vidikron’s trademark white chassis. After all, they both target high-end consumers with some very expensive, premium-quality equipment. We asked Jim McGall, Vidikron’s vice president of sales and marketing, to differentiate Vidikron from Runco, and he laid it all out for us in this interview. Would you agree that


A Conversation with Custom Builders USA Chief Operating Officer Lee Odess

Lee Odess joined Custom Builders USA (CBUSA), a $2 billion management company that maintains 12 local networks of approximately 340 custom builders, in 2005. CBUSA acts like a buying group, using its national footprint to hook its members up with service vendors and product manufacturers at lower costs and higher levels of service through its Partners in Quality (PIQ) program. Currently CBUSA’s chief operating officer, Odess has a unique view of the complex dynamic between builders and installers/integrators. Prior to joining CBUSA, he gained more than six years of industry experience as home builder account supervisor for lighting control manufacturer Lutron Electronics. Today,


Are You Ready for the MDU Business?

The hot topic right now is multi-dwelling units, or MDUs. MDU is a fancy way of saying “apartment,” and today’s apartment builders are looking for the amenities and conveniences currently found in fine homes, like automation, distributed audio and video. There’s opportunity here for custom installers and integrators, but the MDU business is fundamentally different than a typical residential install. It’s worth noting those differences before submitting a proposal. Builders strive to reduce variability When a developer plans his business, he adds up the cost of land acquisition, improvement, build-out and marketing, then divides by the number of sellable square feet. That gives


BG Z-Series Loudspeaker

BG’s three-way, floorstanding Z92 Z-Series Loudspeaker ($2,499 per pair suggested price) delivers “extended bass with very high SPL capabilities, significantly less distortion and greater accuracy and sonic refinement,” says the company. The 44.25-inch-high, 7.7-inch-wide, 14-inch-deep speaker is intended for both home theater and stereo use, and matches BG’s new Z62 Left/Center/Right Loudspeaker. The Z92 includes planar ribbon drivers, two 6.5-inch aluminum cone woofers with rubber surrounds and a Neodymium magnet system. Its Neo3PDR ribbon tweeter is coaxially mounted in front of a 10-by-5-inch Neo10 midrange planar driver. It’s available in three real-veneer finishes: black ash, cherry and light maple. www.bgcorp.com


Collaborate and Grow

A fine automobile is the result of careful collaboration between groups of specialists. The engineers working on the drivetrain coordinate with the suspension engineers. The interior features team works with ergonomic specialists. The exterior design team works with aerodynamic specialists. All of these teams need to stay within strict design and budget parameters. When all of this is done well, the result is a great automobile. Conversely, lack of forethought and planning leads to a less-than-ideal result. We’ve all been in a poorly designed automobile and wondered, “What were the designers thinking?” This is a fitting analogy for the complexities of a modern home.


CustomRetailer Goes Digital!

Are you an analog person like me? I love to read magazines, and I especially appreciate the portability of print. As I write this, my February copy of CustomRetailer is by my side on an airplane. The printed copy came in handy when I checked to see that I promised to tell you all about the rollout of the new digital edition of our magazine. The next time you renew your subscription to CustomRetailer, you will be offered the digital edition in addition to the printed copy. Why is this such a big deal? Well, some of us have the habit of tearing out


DBL ‘Turbo’ Charges Its Line

One day, you’ll walk into DBL Distributing’s warehouse in Scottsdale, Ariz., and all you’ll find will be robots working diligently, packing boxes and shipping them to anxiously awaiting dealers. A grey-haired President and CEO David Lorsch, the lone remaining paid employee of the multibillion dollar enterprise, will be meeting with customers in New York while receiving constant updates to his mobile communicator on shipping progress and the nearly-zero rate of packing errors. OK, maybe, maybe not. But in the present, the company has taken its initial steps to totally automate the process of “pack, pick and ship” by implementing Turbo Line, an integrated order


Forever Yours, Faithfully

Last month, I discussed mining your existing customer base for new business, and about how it takes five times as much time, money and effort to attract new customers as it does to retain current ones, according to studies by consultants Bain and Co. Repeat customers buy more profitable products, ask for fewer price concessions and make fewer returns, but most dealers put more effort into acquiring new customers than in revisiting old ones. With all of that in mind, have you thought about loyalty programs? Well-crafted ones keep customers coming back over and over, and you don’t even need to seek them out.


Lifeware Scores Deal with CBUSA, Unveils Builder Packages

Exceptional Innovation’s (EI) Lifeware home control and automation software will be available in packaged form to members of the Custom Builders USA (CBUSA) organization, the manufacturer said during last month’s International Builders’ Show (IBS). In addition to CBUSA’s other functions, it acts like a buying group, using its national footprint to hook its members up with service vendors and product manufacturers at lower costs and higher levels of service through its Partners in Quality (PIQ) program, of which EI is now a part. CBUSA members will be able to sell “good, better, best” home control packages to homebuyers, with installation performed by local Lifeware-certified


Lights, Camera, Traction!

A couple years back, Home Theater Specialists of America (HTSA) Executive Director Richard Glikes was looking for a good woman. He had specific requirements. He wanted someone 40-ish, attractive but not intimidating and, most importantly, happy. And he definitely wanted one of those bright-eyed, smiling women. This was part of a big decision for Glikes—a $140,000 decision, in fact. That was the price tag for the full production of two high-definition television spots that would feature an American couple lounging, dancing and snuggling in their fully automated home. The male half of the couple—“talent” in TV talk—had been an easier choice. Glikes chose


Manage and Motivate Your People

I recently returned from the annual CEDIA Management Conference, and I’m pumped! The four-day event, a mixture of inspirational keynote speakers and nuts-and-bolts seminars, is designed to teach CEDIA members how to become better business managers and leaders. I’ve been to every one, and it always seems to inspire me. I’ve never failed to come home with useful concepts I can apply to running Niles. I just love this stuff! I buy all the business management books and study the concepts. Some I find incredibly useful, others just a waste of time, but I find the same themes repeated over and over. This year’s


Spotlight: Derrik Lam, Director of Product Development, Peerless Industries

We gathered seven leading manufacturers of mounts and asked them some quick questions that produced some revealing answers. Think of this as a quickie trade show, where you can kick some tires and see which manufacturers strike a chord with you! And the best part is, it won’t impact your travel budget at all… What’s the biggest challenge facing installers when it comes to mounts? Knowing what exists out there. For example, we have over 3,800 active models. With this fragmented marketplace, installers may not be aware of all the possible mounting solutions available. What’s the biggest challenge facing you as a manufacturer of mounts? The rapid


Spotlight: Don Burns, CEO, Vantage Point

We gathered seven leading manufacturers of mounts and asked them some quick questions that produced some revealing answers. Think of this as a quickie trade show, where you can kick some tires and see which manufacturers strike a chord with you! And the best part is, it won’t impact your travel budget at all… What’s the biggest challenge facing installers when it comes to mounts? Selecting mounts that have universal compatibility between the hole patterns on the manufacturer’s flat panel and the environment of the actual install site. In a retrofit situation, installers deal with stud placement, electrical layout, a customer’s particular need for articulation or


Spotlight: Geoff Miller, Executive Vice President, Omnimount

We gathered seven leading manufacturers of mounts and asked them some quick questions that produced some revealing answers. Think of this as a quickie trade show, where you can kick some tires and see which manufacturers strike a chord with you! And the best part is, it won’t impact your travel budget at all… What’s the biggest challenge facing installers when it comes to mounts? Getting flat panel televisions as close to the wall as possible. Installers are seeing that it’s all about aesthetics and design of the home theater room these days, and one of the trends is mounting solutions that are as thin and


Spotlight: Jason Cole, Marketing Communications Manager, Premier Mounts

We gathered seven leading manufacturers of mounts and asked them some quick questions that produced some revealing answers. Think of this as a quickie trade show, where you can kick some tires and see which manufacturers strike a chord with you! And the best part is, it won’t impact your travel budget at all… What’s the biggest challenge facing installers when it comes to mounts? Cable management. The second you hang something on the wall, you have to get signal and power to it. If your mount doesn’t feature cable management of some type, you’ve just added more work for the installer. What’s the biggest challenge facing


Spotlight: Jim Wohlford, Founder and General Manager, Sanus Systems

We gathered seven leading manufacturers of mounts and asked them some quick questions that produced some revealing answers. Think of this as a quickie trade show, where you can kick some tires and see which manufacturers strike a chord with you! And the best part is, it won’t impact your travel budget at all… What’s the biggest challenge facing installers when it comes to mounts? Meeting customers’ expectations of having their TVs mounted where they want them. After determining if a mount can be securely fastened to the wall where the customers want it, the next part of the problem is power and cable management up


Spotlight: Steve Durkee, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Chief Manufacturing

We gathered seven leading manufacturers of mounts and asked them some quick questions that produced some revealing answers. Think of this as a quickie trade show, where you can kick some tires and see which manufacturers strike a chord with you! And the best part is, it won’t impact your travel budget at all… What’s the biggest challenge facing installers when it comes to mounts? Consistently providing a fast and profitable installation while managing the peripheral issues—cables, wall substrates, power/signal locations and accessibility—and customer changes and preferences, such as changing the model of the TV the day you show up to do the install or


Spotlight: Tony Grasso, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, K2 Mounts

We gathered seven leading manufacturers of mounts and asked them some quick questions that produced some revealing answers. Think of this as a quickie trade show, where you can kick some tires and see which manufacturers strike a chord with you! And the best part is, it won’t impact your travel budget at all… What’s the biggest challenge facing installers when it comes to mounts? Maximizing the sale. K2 Mounts recently introduced a line of robotic mounting solutions to take this category to the next level. Robotic mounts solve three major complaints: glare, reflection and off-axis viewing. There’s also a “wow” factor that leads to referrals


The New Kid in Town

When you think about buying groups in the world of home electronics installation and retailing, the Home Theater Specialists of America (HTSA), Home Entertainment Source (HES) and the Progressive Retailers Organization (PRO Group) spring to mind. Recently, however, Specialty Electronics Nationwide (SEN) has made a strong push to join those familiar names. The group has grown to over 400 members since it began a little more than a year ago. SEN has some serious backing; it’s the specialty consumer electronics division under the Nationwide Marketing Group umbrella, and Nationwide just happens to be the largest buying group in the industry. Nationwide, which has served


This Column is All About Us, and That Includes You

I’m just about ready for spring, so I’m mighty glad it’s upon us. The days are getting warmer and longer, and the walks around town are getting more pleasant. Pitchers, catchers, position players and Baseball Annies have reported to Florida and Arizona. The sweet, annual smell of rebirth is in the air. I admit it, I’m always majorly crushing on Mother Nature this time of year, and it puts me in a mood to take stock of things. So this month, in that spirit, I’ll put aside my usual ruminations on the industry and instead tell you about all of the fresh things we’re


Whose Problem Is It, Anyway?

I’ll start this column on a personal note. I hate Volkswagen. I should also say that my wife hates VW. With that out of the way, I ask this question: Are you a Volkswagen or a Toyota? Toyota has a “good” problem and a “bad” problem—and they’re the same problem: Toyota’s way of doing business. The “good” part of its problem is that it’s turning Toyota into the largest automotive company in the world. The Toyota Way of doing business clearly revolves around quality products and quality customer service. The “bad” part of Toyota’s problem is that, as it grows, it must figure