|Volume 13, Issue 10 — May 24, 2016|
|Branching Out — Does It Make Sense?|
By Lee Distad
Things change; that’s a message we repeat on a regular basis in the trade media. Disruption, commoditization, price erosion, there are a whole host of factors play into changing the business landscape. Sometimes the evolution of a business is gradual and easy, other times it can be a little rocky. At some point or other every business faces a crossroads: Do we have to try something new?
Getting into new categories or verticals isn’t always easy, and almost always involves having to leave your comfort zone. That said, you need to think hard about new ventures and apply some objective analysis. Remember: A business makes money, a hobby costs money.
When trying to decide how to branch out into a new business ask yourself three questions to help you determine whether or not it’s a good idea.
First, ask yourself what the marketplace is asking for. Is this something that’s in demand? These are remedial business school questions to ask. Think about the SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
Consider the risks and figure out how much money it’s going to cost you to add a new category to your business. “You have to spend money to make money” is a phrase that I typically associate with people who have squandered their fortunes and ended up with nothing. That’s not to say that you don’t have to make a serious investment in time, money, and labor in order to have a decent chance of making it work. But don’t cash out your existing assets and put everything on “red” either.
Lastly, do a realistic assessment and ask yourself if this is really going to make a difference. Is this a well-thought out exploration into new territory, or are you taking a Hail Mary pass to save a doomed enterprise?
In some instances I’ve witnessed I got the distinct impression that the business owners were just slapping on another business on top of their existing one as if it were a handful of Playdoh. One AV integration company I knew had been in business for almost ten years, and got hit hard by the economic downturn. Caught flat-footed, and pretty much making it up as they went along, they decided to expand their retail storefront and add 12v car audio. The only thing that choice managed to do was drain their cash and credit even faster, leading them to bail on their lease in the middle of the night. On the bright side their demise was a profitable opportunity for other local AV Pros to pick up the clients they abandoned and get paid handsomely to complete their half-finished jobs.
Every scenario has an upside and a downside; you just don’t want to be the one who’s having the downside.
I don’t mean to discourage readers. Not all attempts at changing your business are doomed. I can think of just as many successful examples as unsuccessful ones. One of my friends capitalized on his AV company’s expertise to create a division that specializes in custom designed and installed wine cellars that has been very successful.
Another long-time AV friend has shifted gears several times in a thirty year career. What began as a specialty HiFi shop morphed into an AV integrator, while also branching out into the sales and installation of C-band satellite dishes (remember those?) in the late ’80s. His satellite division eventually morphed into sales and install of digital dishes, and eventually out of satellite altogether as AV grew larger and more complex. He’s still prospering today, and his business now looks nothing like it did even ten years ago.
So by all means, explore new opportunities, just be sure to ask yourself the right questions and think hard about the answers.Leave a Comment
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|Be Your Local Smart Home Expert|
By Kris Gamble
Shop local, eat local, holiday local — it’s an ethos that lots of your customers probably try to follow. They will also have their trusted tradesman that they turn to for car repairs, decorating or plumbing. This local ecosystem ensures that the local economy remains healthy, encouraging investment, creating jobs and building community spirit.
With more and more consumer friendly, mass market products becoming available to give Smart Home functions to homeowners and it inevitably being complicated to setup and install, becoming the recognized local smart home expert would be a smart move.
Simple methods to boost your local presence can easily be done online with SEO, Adwords, directory listings and trades review sites but the offline activities should not be forgotten. Recently I raised the question over the worth of playing a small part at the national building shows, yes you will raise lots of leads but when you review them post show how many were local? I know they will be the first leads you’ll react to, we all want our businesses to be efficient and not have long travel distances to site and in the long term those local projects will be easier to maintain. Do some of the further afield sales leads get discarded?
At Customised this year, we have set our sights on local events to boost awareness of our services. Simple searches have uncovered exhibition opportunities at sporting events, self build shows, green technology conferences and country fairs. Start searching your local events calendar to see which shows would be a good fit for your business. You may find that the prices to be involved at these events are actually very affordable and this will allow you to take part at multiple events instead of putting all your eggs in one basket at a national showcase.
Your presence at local events will bring recognition and give you the perfect opportunity to highlight your expertise. If budgets don’t stretch to exhibiting then look to attend local networking events where there may be a theme that can relate to your business services.
To end this blog I have one tip you should stick to every week. Call a local architect once a week and ask how they are providing their clients with information on future ready homes. For the cost of a call and hopefully a couple of coffees you will be face to face with a local architect designing homes for local people. You’re the local smart home expert, start telling people about it.
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|Dunning-Kroeger [sic] in Effect|
By Hope Roth
We’ve all dealt with people who get more and more adamant, even as they get more and more wrong. Maybe it’s a coworker who swears up and down that they never got your TPS reports (even though you can see them sitting on their desk!). Maybe it’s a customer who tries to change the scope of their system after it’s been installed and commissioned (even though you have the original scope in writing!). Maybe it was even you, but you just didn’t recognize it.
The state of blind ignorance that leaves a person unable to acknowledge their own shortcomings is often referred to on the internet as “my stupid cow-irkers,” but there is an actual name for it. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, and it refers to the blind spot in our own psychology where we are so completely uninformed about something, we become totally unaware of our own wrongness.
Dunning and Kruger observed this phenomenon when giving test subjects a test and then quizzing them about how they thought they had done. The subjects in the middle of the bell curve tended to rate themselves as average, but the people who had done either extremely well or extremely poorly were wildly inaccurate in their self-assessments. Those who had done well mostly rated themselves as having done only moderately well compared to their peers (the theory is that this is because they tend to assume that everyone else knows just as much as they do). And, finally, those who had done poorly mostly gave themselves high marks. They assumed they’d aced the test, even though they had gotten most of the answers wrong.
For more information about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, I would highly recommend Act Two of this episode of This American Life.
(The Dunning-Kruger Effect has been the subject of some scientific debate, but for the purposes of this article it has enough Stephen Colbert-style truthiness to serve as our launch pad).
The Dunning-Kruger Effect is particularly insidious, because by definition it’s impossible to detect in yourself. It’s like walking around with halitosis and a head cold. You’re not going to sniff it out. And most people are so insufferable about it, they’re not likely to have anyone give them gentle feedback about it. So how do we protect ourselves from our own (and others) bravado? I have a few suggestions.
Trust, But Verify
There’s nothing worse than a coworker who talks a big game, but can’t back it up. So how do you avoid hiring those people in the first place? Don’t just take them at their word. Have our good friends at Tier PM screen candidates for you. Give them real world skills tests and/or questions. Speak with all of their references. If I was hiring a programmer, I would ask to see some examples of their code. If you were hiring an audio engineer, you could ask them to put together a basic DSP file for you. When I got my first job as a technician, the hiring manager gave me a CTS practice test to fill out. I didn’t get every single answer correct, but I got most of them. And he was able to ask me follow-up questions about my reasoning about the questions I did get wrong. It was a good way for him to see how I would go about troubleshooting a problem. In that same fashion, taking a certification exam (or just a practice exam) can give you objective information about what questions you might have gotten wrong.
Use the Right Tools
I still remember the ignominy of a grade-school teacher berating me in front of our entire class for not checking my work on an assignment. My big mistake? I had spelled a word wrong. I tried to tell her that I couldn’t check my own spelling if it was my spelling knowledge that was faulty in the first place. She didn’t listen to me. These days, kids just use spellcheck. If the line is red, you need to fix it. It takes your own ignorance out of the equation.
Error checking and QA should be designed to eliminate your own blind spots. If you ever find yourself saying, “Well… that’s how it’s supposed to work,” when something gets flagged, you’re probably doing it wrong. On the first episode of my podcast, The Floating Point, Toine Leerentveld from Crestron told us about the software they use (Coverity) to ensure that their software engineers don’t introduce vulnerabilities and adhere to best practices. Most of us don’t have the luxury of automated error checking, but we can at least ask a trusted coworker to double check our math for us when it’s something really important.
Show Your Work
If my boss asks me how long I think it will take to do a project and I say “six hours,” he’ll say “OK.” If I say “one hour to write a Simpl# module, two hours to write the base code, and three hours to modify it for the other 10 processors,” he’s going to ask me if I’ve lost my freaking mind. And then he’s going to revise my estimate. Heavily. Letting him in on my thought process lets him see where I went wrong and provide error checking. Even the act of explaining your reasoning can give you that nudge that says, “wait a minute…”
A similar strategy can be employed in other areas of our industry as well. I recently spoke with a client who told me that a job their integrator thought would take two days ended up taking two weeks to complete. That’s a terrible situation for everyone involved. The integrator likely lost money on the job, and the client had to wait an extra week and a half for the completion of their project.
Following best practice guides for drafting proposals and documenting scope should protect everyone. There are some great resources out there that you can use to assess proposals. I would recommend starting with the white papers on InfoComm’s website.
Don’t Surround Yourself With Yes People
Earlier this week, I tried to do some programming that ended up being slightly outside my own comfort zone. I thought I was doing great… until I bricked my test processor. “I am the living embodiment of Dunning-Krueger today!” I joked with my podcasting co-host, Chris Tatton. “You know it’s spelled Dunning-Kruger, right?”, he said. Whoops.
(N.B.: Spellcheck thinks that Krueger is a perfectly fine spelling. Even automated error checking is fallible. We’re probably all doomed.)
My point is, I have friends and coworkers who are willing to tell me when I’m being an idiot. And I’m willing to listen to them. Which means that I have a real shot at learning from my mistakes. If I’m ever inclined to tell someone they’re wrong when they correct me, I let Google be our tie-breaker. And it doesn’t count if you click through 20 pages to find the one website that agrees with you.
Don’t Aim to be the Smartest Person in the Room
When I’m at trainings and conventions, I try to spend my time with people who have demonstrated knowledge beyond my own (I think I’m pretty good at sussing those folks out, but as this article demonstrates, I may be horribly, horribly wrong about this one). Not only do all of these smart people teach me all sorts of interesting and wonderful things, seeing the advanced work that they’re doing allows me to re-calibrate my senses about my own abilities.
I can’t tell you how nerve-wracking it is to write an article about the mistakes you don’t know you’re making and worry that I have mixed up your/you’re somewhere in my writing. If you think I’m off-base about any of this, please leave a comment and let me know. I’d welcome the feedback.Leave a Comment
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|New Outdoor Portable Projector Screen Company DebutsA new company aims to simplify home theaters by allowing them to go anywhere. Called Hitch Theaters, they have developed a line of portable projector screens and projector stands to let you take the theater anywhere.|
The idea for Hitch Theaters was first conceived by founder, Joe Livingston, on a date. He said they’d gone star gazing one night, several miles out of town and they decided to pull out a laptop and watch a movie. From there, he wanted to go bigger.
There are three systems:1. The True Drive-in Theater, which was developed to allow you to watch a movie from the comfort of the bed of a truck. The Rooftop Projector Stand allows you to project a movie across the bed of your truck onto your Hitch Theaters Portable Projector Screen that’s suspended from the hitch receiver of your truck. Compatible with any pickup truck with a hitch mount.
2. The Group Date: When three’s a crowd, add a Tall Projector Stand with Removable DVD and Sound Shelf. Simply turn your Hitch Theaters Portable Projector Screen around so it’s facing away from the bed of your truck (or any car with a hitch) and connect a projector!
3. The Movie Night: No hitch? No Problem! Have a block party with your neighbors or enjoy a movie in a park! With your Freestanding Portable Projector Screen and uniquely designed Tall Projector Stand with Removable DVD and Sound Shelf, it works anywhere.
Hitch Theaters has a Kickstarter here.Leave a Comment
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|Shelly Palmer to Deliver CEDIA 2016 Opening KeynoteShelly Palmer, trusted strategic advisor to the C-Suite of leading technology firms, regular technology commentator for CNBC, MSNBC, CNN and Fox Business News, and one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices of Technology, will present the CEDIA 2016 Opening Keynote.|
“Shelly Palmer has extensive experience and insight into the technology sector making him a great fit to present our opening keynote and share a vision with CEDIA attendees about the best ways leverage new technologies to their benefit,” said Vin Bruno, CEDIA CEO.
In his keynote, Palmer will explore how the most effective home technology professionals are managing change and how all CEDIA 2016 attendees can position their businesses to successfully compete in a connected world.
“As those who already have a deep understanding and love for technology, CEDIA professionals are poised for fantastic success over the next several years as the number of connected devices is set to surpass 50 billion by 2020,” said Shelly Palmer. “The proliferation of the internet of things means that anything that can be connected will be connected, and that simple truth lends itself to many avenues for innovation that I look forward to discussing at CEDIA 2016.”
Palmer is Managing Partner at Palmer Advanced Media where he is a driver of market, technology and strategic direction, as well as acquisition strategies, for his clients. Palmer is also an award-winning composer, producer, writer and director, and is the patented inventor of the underlying technology for Enhanced Television used by programs such as ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and ESPN’s Monday Night Football and response-based advertising systems.
The Opening Keynote will take place on Wednesday, September 14, 2015 at 5:30 p.m. in the Forks Ballroom of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Registration for CEDIA 2016 opens June 8 at cedia.net/expo. Additional biographical information and a hi-res headshot are available to the media upon request. Contact email@example.com for more information.
CEDIA 2016 will be held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas from Sept. 13-17, show floor will be open from Sept. 15-17. CEDIA is here.Leave a Comment
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|CEDIA Asks: Do You Know the Laws in Every State Where You Do Business?One of the most important projects CEDIA complete each year in the CEDIA Government Affairs department is the Home Technology Professional Licensing & Regulatory Reference Directory. This unique member benefit serves as an overview of state codes for each of the 50 states in the U.S., as well as in the District of Colombia and the Canadian provinces.|
As you well know, there is nothing more important than staying current with the laws and regulations governing the work you do. Use this guide to ensure you’re in compliance not only in your state, but also in any surrounding states in which you may do projects.
This directory offers only an overview of licensing at the state/provincial level, so be sure to verify with your local authorities. Because some states have year-round legislatures, and state boards may produce rules/regulations after the date our guide is published, it’s important to double check with the relevant agencies. We are currently working to update the guide with new information from the 2016 legislative sessions.
To access the guide, free to CEDIA members, log in here and navigate to the My Benefits page under My CEDIA, then follow the link in the right sidebar.
Questions? Contact Darren Reaman, director of government affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Nick McLain, government affairs manager, at email@example.com.Leave a Comment
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|CEDIA Develops Home Technology Certificate Program for Coldwell Banker Real Estate|
CEDIA and Coldwell Banker Real Estate have collaborated to offer a home technology certificate program to Coldwell Banker Real Estate independent agents. The newly developed curriculum, which will be taught by CEDIA representatives, will help agents better represent the value of home technology.
“Home technology is a source of convenience, security, and comfort in homes across the United States, with almost half of all Americans previously sharing with us that they either already own or plan to invest in home technology by the end of 2016,” said Budge Huskey, president and chief executive officer of Coldwell Banker Real Estate, LLC. “We believe it is imperative for our affiliated agents to learn about home technology and engage with the professionals who install it.Partnering with CEDIA to provide this course was an easy choice and we’ve already seen a great amount of excitement from our agents surrounding this new offering.”
The curriculum, created specifically for Coldwell Banker sales associates, hones in on the rise of home technology and relevant monetary and lifestyle benefits for both buyers and sellers.The first course offering was presented to a pilot group of Coldwell Banker Real Estate Independent Agents earlier this month, and a recorded webinar version of the course will be available to agents in the near future. CEDIA will re-purpose the materials so that CEDIA Outreach Instructors (COIs) may present the course to Coldwell Banker agents within their communities.
“Working closely with industry partners is key to the continued growth and success of our channel. Collaborative partnerships like the one we have formed with Coldwell Banker stand to benefit all involved: CEDIA members will be utilized as trusted technology experts, agents will be able to communicate the value of technology in the home, and homeowners will understand how technology complements and enhances their life at home,” said Vin Bruno CEDIA CEO.
All CEDIA members interested in connecting with industry partners in their area are encouraged to become a CEDIA Outreach Instructor (COI). As part of this program CEDIA members are taught how to deliver relevant (CEU-approved) technology education to design and build professionals in their community. The next training session will take place on Tuesday, September 13 as part of CEDIA 2016. Additional information about the COI program can be found here.Leave a Comment
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|Extron Ships Three New Capacitive Screen TouchLink Pro Touchpanels|
Extron is shipping three new TouchLink Pro touch panel models: the 12” TLP Pro 1220TG, 10” TLP Pro 1022T and the 5” TLC Pro 521M feature capacitive and vibrant glass touchscreens that provide more responsive control surfaces and greater viewing angles. The TLP Pro 1220TG features video preview inputs that support high resolution HDCP-compliant video from HDMI sources and Extron XTP devices. The TLC Pro 521M TouchLink Pro controller features a secure and powerful built-in control processor and supports Ethernet-controllable devices. All three customizable touchpanels feature faster processing and more memory. For ease of integration, these touchpanels receive power and communication over a single Ethernet cable. Their designs and features make them ideal for control applications requiring fully-customizable touchpanels with flexible mounting options.
All of these new touchpanels are designed for use in AV system applications that require complete, interactive control of a broad range of devices. TouchLink Pro touchpanels operate using standard network infrastructure and are easy to install with reliable and cost effective Ethernet cable. They are customized using Extron GUI Designer software. This intuitive interface design software offers ready-to-use resource kits to help design a wide variety of interfaces for rooms and presentation environments. For mounting flexibility, the TLP Pro 1220TG and TLP Pro 1022T can be removed from their bases and mounted on a standard VESA mounting arm or bracket. The TLC Pro 521M can be mounted in landscape or portrait orientation on a wall, lectern or any flat surface, including glass.
All of them are here.Leave a Comment
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|RTI Announces New Two-Way Driver for Fusion Research’s Play-FiÂ® Music Server|
RTI has announced the availability of a two-way driver for Fusion Research’s Play-Fi music server. The new driver, developed by Fusion, allows integrators to incorporate their Play-Fi server into RTI automation systems.
The Play-Fi server combines Fusion’s Ovation music server with DTS’ open platform Play-Fi technology. Specifically designed for the custom-integration channel, the server acts as a bridge between automation systems and third-party amplifiers and speakers utilizing Play-Fi technology. It enables music distribution, either wired or wirelessly, throughout the home, supporting up to six sources — three physical and three Play-Fi — in one box. Designed to provide a complete music entertainment hub, Play-Fi supports over a dozen streaming apps, including Pandora, Spotify, Tidal and Tune-In plus thousands of Internet radio stations as well as full iTunes backup and synchronization.
With the new Fusion Play-Fi two-way driver, users have a control interface that allows them to browse through their music options, while viewing cover art and song metadata right on their RTI controller. In addition, users can select the location they want to play music in, control the volume, and make adjustments to any other integrated electronic systems in their home or commercial facility — all from a single RTI user interface.
The Fusion Play-Fi music server driver is shipping and all the specs are here.Leave a Comment
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|Rotel Introduces the RA-1592 Integrated Amplifier|
Rotel Electronics has introduced the RA-1592 stereo integrated amplifier. The new RA-1592 uses a Class AB design with 200 watts per channel into 8 ohms, and features a rugged power supply with toroidal transformer, coupled to select T-network, slit-foil capacitors.
The high performance preamplifier section incorporates a 32-bit 768KHz AKM digital-to-analog converter and analog stages. The DAC and surrounding circuitry supports source inputs including DSD capable PC-USB (24bit/192k), three coaxial, three optical, integrated aptX Bluetooth and a front mounted USB iPod input. For analog, there is a phono stage input (MM), XLR balanced input and three analog RCA source inputs.
User selectable A-B speaker outputs with five-way binding posts, RCA pre-output and dual subwoofer outputs provide the ultimate flexibility in installation. The amplifier protection circuits monitor DC offset, overcurrent, short circuit and temperature to protect both the electronics and attached speakers.
Custom integration features include RS232 and Ethernet IP control, two trigger outputs, remote IR input and automated digital signal sense power control for easy integration with streaming sources and control systems.
It will ship next month and list for $2,500. Here are all the specs.Leave a Comment
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|BenQ Debuts PV3200PT 4K UHD Monitor|
BenQ America today launched its PV3200PT IPS and 4K resolution monitor. Purpose-built for 4K video postproduction applications, the 32-inch 4K Ultra HD display (3840×2160) has 10-bit color capability and 100-percent sRGB color, following the Rec. 709 standard.
One interesting feature of the BenQ PV3200PT is that they claim it can reproduce color tones with a Delta-E value of less than or equal to two and features a 14-bit 3D Look Up Table (LUT) for RGB color blending. In addition, BenQ claims the monitor offers a brightness uniformity function enabling it to maintain a consistent image across the entire display. By balancing brightness to a deviation and chromaticity less than 10 percent, the monitor offers a more consistent viewing experience. Individually tested to verify performance, the PV3200PT also features simple hardware and software calibration by allowing users to adjust the unit’s image processing chip without altering graphics card data.
An OSD controller provides preset custom modes so users can quickly switch between Rec. 709, EBU and SMPTE-C modes, increasing editing efficiency while saving time. ThePV3200PT monitor is part of BenQ’s Eye-Care models, which are designed to increase visual comfort while performing common computer tasks. While conventional screens flicker at a rate of 200 times per second, BenQ’s ZeroFlicker technology eliminates flickering at all brightness levels to effectively reduce eye fatigue and provide a more comfortable viewing experience during prolonged sessions of computer use. The monitor also includes ergonomic customization such as height, tilt, pivot and swivel adjustments.
BenQ’s PV3200PT monitor is shipping and lists for $1,499. Here are all the detailed specs.Leave a Comment
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For all you REGULAR readers of rAVe HomeAV Edition out there, hopefully you enjoyed another opinion-packed issue!
For those of you NEW to rAVe, you just read how we are — we are 100% opinionated. We not only report the news and new product stories of the high-end HomeAV industry, but we stuff the articles full of our opinions. That may include (but is not limited to) whether or not the product is even worth looking at, challenging the manufacturers on their specifications, calling a marketing-spec bluff and suggesting ways integrators market their products better. But, one thing is for sure, we are NOT a trade publication that gets paid for running editorial or product stories. Traditional trade publications get paid to run product stories — that’s why you see what you see in most of the pubs out there. We are different: we run what we want to run and NO ONE is going to pay us to write anything good (or bad).
Don’t like us, then go away — unsubscribe! Just use the link below.
To send me feedback, don’t reply to this newsletter – instead, write directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or for editorial ideas: Editor-in-Chief Sara Abrons at email@example.com
A little about me: I graduated from Journalism School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (where I am adjunct faculty). I’ve been in the AV-industry since 1987 where I started with Extron and eventually moved to AMX. So, I guess I am an industry veteran (although I don’t think I am that old). I have been an opinionated columnist for a number of industry publications and in the late 1990s I started the widely read KNews eNewsletter (the first in the AV market) and also created the model for and was co-founder of AV Avenue – which is now known as InfoComm IQ. rAVe Publications has been around since 2003, when we launched our original newsletter, rAVe ProAV Edition.
rAVe HomeAV Edition, co-published with CEDIA, launched in February, 2004.
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rAVe HomeAV Edition contains the opinions of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of other persons or companies or its sponsors.