September 2008 Issue


A Turnkey Solution

Let’s face it; video for private home cinema is complicated. With source resolutions of 480, 720 and 1080 lines and at least five aspect ratio choices, just to name a few, rendering an accurate picture is a real challenge. My firm, Performance Media Industries, Ltd., has always wrestled with this conundrum and I am happy to report that we’ve developed an elegant solution that addresses the needs of today’s home cinema. I am pleased to introduce PMI 2.0. Audio System Design & Room Acoustics PMI has been engineering world class, private home cinemas for about a decade now. Our goal has always been to

All Content, All the Time

When Apple introduced the first iPod in 2001, no one thought this simple device would ignite a digital content revolution. “The iPod changed the world,” says Mike Detmer, vice president of sales and marketing at Niles Audio (www.nilesau, a leading provider of application-specific products for professional custom installers. Unlike other “must have” devices the mass market never warmed up to, “the iPod was something the consumer liked and understood.” In a short amount of time, the iPod has moved from leisure usage to whole-house audio. “I can plug it into a docking station in my home, pick up a remote from anywhere

Basic Training for the Custom Trenches

CustomRetailer: Tell us about your background as a custom installer, and how that experience has come into play in your career in the custom industry. Helen Heneveld: I started in custom in 1989. There were no trade shows and no associations then—and no structured wiring companies. I founded an installation company called TALI, which stood for The Automation Link Inc., doing just home automation—lighting control, security integration, but not audio/video. I actually made the very first multi-port plate! I was not a hobbyist; I went into it because I saw it as a business opportunity. This was going to be big—bigger than

Breaking the Barriers

Pinnacle Speakers represents the creative side of the CEDIA channel. From their corner-positioned subs to their on-ceiling, yes, on-ceiling, speakers, the family-run business constantly eliminates what we once thought were limitations to a challenging install. And they aren’t finished. Before the Brothers Rothenberg prepped for another trip to CEDIA EXPO—where they plan to tackle another installation limitation—Mickey (vice president of national sales) took a time out to discuss with CustomRetailer the newest products, customer service and why Pinnacle’s unique distribution model keeps it positioned for future success, no matter the economy. CR: Pinnacle Speakers is a unique speaker company. How do you position

Creating Desire by Being Creative

Editor’s Note: In August 2007, Ira kicked off his series of education columns. This month, he encourages you to be creative and to share your enthusiasm with your clients. n Part 12: At this point in the Companion Selling process you’ve discussed the project with your prospect. You’ve shared some of your Secrets List. You’ve developed a Performance List, you’ve Ballparked, and you’ve established a budget the client is comfortable with. Refer back to previous columns in this magazine (or at for a refresher. Time to Build Desire Companion Selling is a shared process. You are the trail leader walking through the

Distributors State Their Case

We recently contacted some of the CE industry’s major distributors for their view on some of the hot issues impacting the retail channel. In this roundtable, the executives describe how their value-added services augment and extend manufacturers’ capabilities to retailers and specialty dealers. Warren Chaiken, President & COO, Almo Why Manufacturers Need Us: The large manufacturers only deal with national accounts, which are more cost-effective in this highly competitive business; the balance of accounts is handled by distributors. Manufacturers do not have the resources to devote to non-national accounts, hence, the need for distribution. In addition, distribution can provide more salespeople to

ELAN’s ‘Power of Three’ Brand Initiative

ELAN Home Systems’ Tech Week 2008 training and product-introduction event in mid-May near its Lexingon, Ky. headquarters afforded the 185 custom installer companies represented there unique and concentrated exposure to the complete line suites of ELAN and its sister brands. For ELAN, it was the chance, in a challenging market atmosphere, to make the case for itself as “a stronger value proposition to our dealers,” says the company’s Paul Starkey, executive vice president, sales and marketing. “Our mission is to become more important to a smaller set of dealers with in-depth support versus signing up many dealers and doing just a little

Finding the Formula

How does a brick-and-mortar retailer with deep roots in high-performance audio manage to succeed and excel in the custom discipline without abandoning retail? That question looms large, in these profit-strapped times. But Leon Shaw, founder and chairman of Audio Advice, the Raleigh, N.C.-based retailer/installer marking 30 years of business life in 2008, has figured out the right answers for himself and for the market he serves. Shaw shares some of his business insights on how he thrives in a challenging environment. CustomRetailer: Audio Advice is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. How did you choose this business? Are you an audio hobbyist?

Forge the Relationships that Count

I was recently talking with industry friends Randy Wilson, of Wilson Home Theater Systems, and Eric Leicht, president of AV Partners. Our candid conversation touched on those who are going to survive the current changes in our industry. Said Eric, “In general, it seems that the custom integrators that work in the high end are super busy, but their numbers are down. They have plenty of jobs that are long-term; it’s the smaller jobs that are drying up.” Added Randy Wilson, “During the recent writers’ strike [Randy is based in Los Angeles], there was a knock on effect to my business, but now

From Installer to Manufacturer – One Man’s Journey

Lessons as an installer have made Mike Pyle, CEO of SE2 Labs, a more astute and successful manufacturer. He tells his story to CR: CustomRetailer: How long were you a custom installer and what skills did you pick up that helped you as a inventor/manufacturer? Mike Pyle: I have been in the installation business since 1993 when I started at Western Wyoming Security & Communications (which later became Custom Electronics), for whom I sold and installed security and phone systems for ultra-high-end homes in the area. The most valuable lesson I learned was that there is a definite need for pre-fabricated

Getting ‘Furmanized’

Milwaukee-based Ultra Fidelis has been providing state-of-the-art A/V products and custom installations since its inception in 1997. If you had to use one word to sum up the company’s approach to audio and video, it would be “selective.” This includes the product lines they sell and the showroom where they demonstrate them. So when the company needed to move to a new location, the objective was to find a standalone building where they could recreate the compelling music and movie experiences most of us enjoy frequently at home, but rarely, if ever, in a commercial establishment. And when it came to power management for

Hiring/Retention Strategies

How much does it cost you to have the wrong people working for you? Poorly performing sales associates might not be able to sell their prospects fully featured products or add profit-boosting warranties and accessories. Worse yet, they might not have the skills to close as many sales as they should, sending prospects out to your competitors. An incompetent buyer might leave you overstocked and out of cash. And a marginal bookkeeper may not give you timely information you need to manage your business. As Jim Collins wrote in his best-selling book “Good to Great,” you’ve got to have the right people on the

Leveraging Luxury Living

Though it is deliciously tempting to embrace a French proverb as luscious as “Il est impossible de trope de luxe” (It is impossible to overdo luxury), a quick survey of real estate marketing these days might persuade you otherwise. The words luxury, luxurious and the hipper “luxe” have become as common as the words “For Sale” on signs, regardless of a condo or loft’s actual attributes. And in what’s increasingly becoming the buyer’s market of 2008, developers are being forced to come up with substantial specs to back up their exuberant claims of luxury living. Enter “technomenities,” pre-wired A/V and smart-home applications

Measure, Evaluate, Correct

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” —H. James Harrington CEDIA’s July Survival of The Fittest Webinar, facilitated by industry expert Todd Adams (DIpartner, Vero Beach, Flor.), covered key performance indicators. The objective of this Webinar was fairly simple: provide a brief overview of measuring organizational performance while providing a core foundation of metrics to build on. The fundamentals of any performance measurement system are based on three simple questions:

Media Wall

Installing a multiple-display media system—not to be confused with a multimedia system—can be as complicated or as difficult as you make it, and it always helps if you know what you are doing. And Tim Rooney, owner of All Around Technology (AAT) in Rockville, Md., certainly does. He and his team designed an integrated home and multi-display media room for Washington, D.C.-area real-estate magnate Herb Miller and family that culminated in AAT winning CEDIA’s 2004 Electronic Lifestyles Award for Best Integrated Home Level V. Fast-forward three years. Miller was downsizing and moving to a smaller residence with his family. The house he

Not Just Another Show

Any of us who have been a part of the industry for more than a few months have had the displeas… uh, opportunity of attending one of the many tradeshows offered to those in the electronics industry. In all seriousness, these events can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you approach them. The upcoming CEDIA EXPO is certainly a case in point. Please allow us to make a few recommendations for getting the most out of your time at any tradeshow. Plan Ahead You will be amazed how much more effective you will be and how much more you will accomplish

prevailing over the big box

Years ago, there was an office supply store on every single street corner in America. Today, a few big-box stores, like Staples and Office Depot, have taken over and all the mom-and-pop stores are out of business. A few of the mom-and-pop stores moved upscale, so the very well-to-do can get personalized stationery and other specialized paper products at very high prices. The last 10 years, the custom business has done very well; new businesses have continued to open and the introduction of flat panels has created a whole new business for the middle- to upper-income families. But it might be time for the

Projections Look Good

When Dolby Laboratories showed off its much-anticipated concept High Dynamic Range (HDR) LCD in New York City in late March, nearly as striking as the 46-inch display itself (more on that in a bit) was the fact that Dolby chose SIM2 as the hardware manufacturer to bring what was once a pie-in-the-sky dream into reality. SIM2, which doesn’t even currently produce an LCD—it’s Grand Cinema HTL line is being retired—is known globally for its sleek front projectors, especially its flagship C3X 1080, a 3-chip DLP unit. However, Sim2 has a reputation for pushing the envelope, so Dolby saw a natural partner in the Italian

Respect & Knowledge Make Winning Combination

Bob and Ron’s World Wide Stereo When it comes to service, it doesn’t matter if the client is interested in a full-blown home theater installation or a new flat-panel TV. You still need to offer the attention and respect to every client. That’s what John and Ardene Vencius found when they entered Bob and Ron’s World Wide Stereo. It was the simple things that impressed them, along with undeniable knowledge the staff possesses. All of this created an experience for the customers that will bring them back to Bob and Ron’s for years to come. And that’s a sale you can’t put a price