November 2007 Issue

 

Bridging the Residential-Commercial Gap

The notion of entering the world of commercial integration is an extremely seductive one to successful integrators who are confident that they’ve perfected the art of the deal—and the art of the details—in the residential installation realm. Beyond the desire to tread new profit paths, there is the housing market slowdown that has appeared as a market influence within the last year and seems to loom larger with each passing month, stimulating greater interest than ever among home custom installers to look at business possibilities on “the other side.” But can an extension into commercial be effectively—and safely—made without compromising business stability on


But How Do I Get It Done?

It is often said we all know what to do, it’s just a matter of doing it. As we look at our businesses this is often the case. However, the things that are urgent regularly get in the way of the things that are important. How many times have you reached the end of a very busy day only to realize you have been unable to accomplish all or any of those tasks you carefully outlined on your to-do list? This often comes down to a matter of working in your business instead of on your business. Michael Gerber, in his bestseller “The E Myth,”


Catapulting Simple to Extraordinary

Creative, unique and innovative product ideas are what every manufacturer craves. Constantly striving for bigger and better is a full-time job and can sometimes leave the best in the industry hoping for some divine intervention. So, when a grand development surfaces from something fundamental, it prompts many to ask, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Phoenix-based OmniMount is reaping the benefits of such an epiphany. Something as seemingly straightforward as a kickstand led to OmniMount’s receiving one of the five coveted CEDIA Manufacturers’ Excellence Awards at the recent Expo in Denver. The product creating all the buzz is the ULPT-X, the ultra-low


Contrast Ratio: Hype and Reality

Late this past summer when Sharp announced that their new “tenth gen” LCD panel fabrication plant, under construction now and opening in 2010, will produce an improved 56” LCD measuring just one-inch thick, including backlight, most of the attention it grabbed focused on the startlingly thin depth. But Sharp had another, less-noticed LCD improvement potentially even more startling: A claim of 100,000:1 contrast ratio for the new tenth generation screens. And this is up from today’s 10,000:1 models. Given that even today, LCD monitors commonly sold for computers bear much more modest contrast ratios, ranging from about 400:1 up to about 1,000:1 for the


Do the Right Thing

It should be obvious that donating to charity is the right thing to do. Charitable organizations do worthwhile work in your community, and you can sleep well knowing that you made a positive contribution to their efforts. If feeling good isn’t enough of a motive for you, think about what it might do for your business. I started years ago by donating low-end VCRs and portable CD players to silent auctions at our daughter’s school. My initial donations cost me more than what was raised for the school, as everyone at an auction is a bargain hunter. In spite of hurt feelings, I continued donating


Handling Back-Talk

The large fees integrators charge for custom projects generally are the sum total of a highly itemized list consisting of all project planning and consultation leading up to the job, and then all the components, wiring infrastructure and labor it took to complete the work. But what spells the difference between adequacy and excellence in a custom installation, purveyors of the discipline will tell you, is the largely unlistable element of customer care. How do the best integrators measure, evaluate and toil to improve that area of their business relationship with a client at each stage—and how do they deal with feedback, both positive


HTSA Focuses on the Luxury Customer

With sales to the low- and mid-end of the market flagging, the Home Theater Specialists of America (HTSA) buying group is directing its members to tap into more luxury clients. The group discussed this and other issues at its annual fall meeting in Dallas last month. Combined sales of the group’s 62 members was up only about five percent this year, for combined revenue of about $500 million, says Richard Glikes, the group’s executive director. “I thought we would have had a better year,” he said during the group’s recent Fall Pump Up in Dallas. “Depending on the dealer, we’ve always had 20,


Is it Time for a Financial Reality Check?

Many comments I have gotten on my financial columns suggest that the business climate is changing, building starts are fewer and custom retailers are concerned about their cash flow. If your deposits are becoming smaller and builders are taking longer to pay you, it is time for a financial reality check. Where do you get the funding for your business? The typical custom integrators and retailers have very positive cash flow in good times. When the economy slows down or stalls, cash flow becomes less predictable. With fewer scheduled jobs, accounts receivables struggles to collect money in a timely manner and


It’s All About You!

Like a speeding bullet, the holiday season is upon us! Traditionally, this is the time of year where all sense of time is suspended and we put on our auto-pilot headset and hunker down to weather the storm. Before you go underground, I have one request. This is also the time of year for us to take stock of the direction of our publication, Web site, E-weekly and the new Webinar opportunities to bring you a robust calendar of content for 2008 that serves your needs. It is all about you! Your take on the topics that keep you up at night or resources


Keeping It Simple

The home control/automation market, once the territory of a very small number of manufacturers, is getting increasingly more competitive as more companies enter the fray with more ways of achieving the desired end. One of the newer companies is Ostervill, Mass.-based Savant, which has been operating for a little over two years, and has seen a lot of growth and attention in the last year. Savant president Jim Carroll acknowledges that the market is getting more crowded but sees that as a reflection of the increased demand in the market. “I think the typical consumer is really becoming focused on electronics in the


Let’s Talk: Listening to Customers

Customers can be a real pain. I know because I’m one of those difficult customers that retailers and service providers of all types hate. Waiters wipe their brows with relief when I leave their restaurant. Help-desk operators probably have my account flagged so that they pass me into an indefinite holding pattern whenever I call. There’s a certain retailer I’m forced to deal with weekly who undoubtedly hides behind the counter every time I walk in. I’ve called Verizon so many times to complain that I have their 800 number saved in speed dial. I can be the customer from hell. I’ve had


Managing More Than the Project

We often think of project management as the back end of a custom installation. We think it’s the technical intricacies of installing, connecting and programming the system. I think the project begins with the first encounter a prospect makes with us and that, hopefully, it never ends. After all, if the sales staff doesn’t do a great job, there won’t be a project to manage. And if no one follows up with the client, there won’t be additional sales and referrals. It’s not surprising that mass merchandise chains have climbed on the consumer electronics bandwagon. After all, their customers want


Moving Projects

Many retailers have made the transition from moving boxes to moving projects. We’ve gotten pretty good at selling and designing systems. We can program some very cool user interfaces and deliver exciting experiences for our clients. Why then, do we torture ourselves every day just trying to get the work done? For some, many mornings are chaotic as crews try to figure out their daily work load. Why the daily crises? Most importantly, how do successful firms address this operational quagmire? Whereas moving boxes has become a skill retailers have learned and, at the very least, have become


Screen Innovations

US Nippura: Nick Johnston, Reseller Accounts Manager, Blue Ocean Projection Screens Many consumers believe that projection screen systems require a dedicated home theater room. How has new screen technology made this not true? Advancements in screen technology in regards to ambient light performance have allowed for a shift from the dedicated blacked-out theater to multipurpose rooms where light control is not as necessary. Rear projection screens allow for a fully lit room, tremendous sizes, and increasing resolution capabilities that keep up with and enhance all improvements and progress in greater resolution detail. Front projection screens have also evolved to perform better in high


The Feedback Loop

Having changed her driving habits by watching the digital fuel consumption gauge on her Prius’ dashboard, Jackie O’Neil wanted a similar feedback system for her LEED Gold-rated, zero net energy home. And the home automation and control industry is close to providing just that. A former corporate exec who educated herself to be a developer of energy-efficient homes, O’Neil built two zero net energy homes—one for herself, the other for her sister—near Perkiomenville in southeastern Pennsylvania. With grants to help off-set the cost of the $40,000 photo voltaic system that supplies the home’s energy, the first home was built for $167 per square foot;


Using “What If” Questions

Editor’s Note: In August, Ira kicked off his series of educational columns. This month, he reviews the advantages of asking “What If” questions. He emphasizes their ability to engage your client, create enthusiasm and ensure a fantastic end-result, no matter the size of the project. Part 4: When Chantel meets her prospective client, she asks a lot of “What If” questions. “I know you want this room to be brighter and sunnier than it is now. What if we knocked through this wall and added a window right here? That would look great!” Or, “What if we added extra lighting fixtures to