|Volume 13, Issue 13 — July 12, 2016|
|Building a Service Using the Lean Startup Model|
By Scott Tiner
I recently read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and could not help but think about how IT and AV could benefit from the processes Ries defines. I particularly found myself thinking of the AV integrators and the struggle that some of them have right now with the small margins they are receiving on equipment. As these companies continue to try and find ways to create new revenue, the Lean Startup is a process they should be familiar with. Firms from the large multi-city designers all the way to the small family-owned integrators may not think of themselves as entrepreneurs — they figure they have a defined product, customers and understand their revenue flow. But the business world is constantly changing — and you need to constantly change as well.
The basic concept of the Lean Startup is when creating a new service or product, you need to take risks, make assumptions and then test those assumptions. Additionally, and maybe most importantly, you don’t spend months building products (or services). Why? Because chances are that what you are building will not be right for your customers. At this point you are probably saying, but I asked my customers what they wanted. Perhaps your customer has even been taking part in helping you build your service. Surprisingly, you don’t need to always listen to your customers. It is likely that your customers don’t even know what service they may be interested in. If they are helping you build a product, they are likely helping you make incremental improvements on a service that already exists. This service is likely provided by many other integrators and therefore provides you very little differentiation, and therefore brings little value to the customer. Instead, you need to build what Ries calls a Minimum Viable Product. That is a product or service that does the absolute basic of what is needed. Then you take the next steps in testing, measuring and adapting.
Ries spends a lot of the book discussing the need for testing and measuring what you are building. This is a critical piece of developing new products. The problem that most companies run into during this process is that they are measuring the wrong things. For example, many firms will measure customer growth and revenue growth. However, they may be missing out on measuring indicators such as repeat customers, or the increase in customers who go from a trial service to a full fledged subscription service. Revenue growth is nice (and important) but overall, continued growth and acceptance of the product is even more important.
A quick example of a Lean Startup process would be how we developed our video conferencing service at Bates. Had we asked what people wanted and built a system around that, we would have a very expensive system that was never used. Rather, we saw a need for conferencing. Typically, these are for job interviews. We started with a webcam connected to the dedicated computer in a conference room. Feedback told us our customers wanted to be able to get more people in the image than the webcam allowed. So, we added an inexpensive PTZ camera. We were using Skype as the software, because that is what most people knew. Again, we measured and received feedback and learned that there were issues with Skype. We made a move to Zoom as the software for video conferencing. Other small changes over time also took place. When we heard issues with audio, we added some different microphones. Now we are hearing feedback that indicates people are interested in high definition cameras. Through this process we developed a system that is used several hundred times per year at a very reasonable cost.
While a book on entrepreneurship may not exactly be on your beach blanket reading list this summer, this particular book would be a great addition. It will help reshape the way you think about developing new products and services for your customers, providing them with more value and you with more business.Leave a Comment
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|The Importance of Being Honest|
By Hope Roth
It was a lie so obvious and about something so utterly unimportant, I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing. In the process of tracking down a fairly minor issue, I asked if a contractor had done work on a particular floor over the weekend. “We didn’t touch this floor,” they said. So how did all of that new equipment get installed? And why was one of their coworkers now telling me about all of the wiring changes that they had made? They were so clearly lying to me, and it tainted everything they said for the reminder of my time on-site.
When confronted with an uncomfortable question, many people are tempted to make something up on the spot. Sometimes, because they don’t want to appear ignorant (It can be surprisingly hard to say, “You know what, I don’t know.). Sometimes, because they know you’re not going to like the real answer. Either way, a small white lie often seems like the easiest way to make the uncomfortable conversation go away. Unfortunately, those “little” lies often mean that you’re just kicking the can down the road. And then, when it all comes back to you, the problem is usually orders of magnitude worse.
Getting caught in a lie, even a minor one (sometimes especially because it’s a minor one), can poison a working relationship. When a contractor lies about something stupid, something that can very easily be disproved, it makes you wonder what else they’re lying to you about. It means you’re not likely to give them the benefit of the doubt in future interactions. And it often creates more work for them. Someone who is inclined towards lying to you is not generally someone that you will trust to own up to their own mistakes. Which means that they tend not to get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to figuring out where a problem might be originating.
I feel like this should go without saying, but unfortunately it doesn’t. Do not lie to your customers. Do not lie to your coworkers. Do not lie to the other trades. Practice saying, “I don’t know the answer to that one, but I’ll look into it and get back to you.” Own your mistakes.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” You know I’m a very productive person because I make mistakes. All the time! But I’m also pretty confident in the general quality of my work. If you ask me to look into why something isn’t working, and I realize it was something I did, I’m going to tell you that I goofed. And then I’m going to tell you how I’m going to fix it. I’ve had far more clients thank me for my candor than have complained that I am not 100 percent perfect.
And if you don’t want people to lie to you? Practice saying, “Thanks for letting me know.” Toxic environments breed toxic reactions. I’ve worked jobs where the client flipped out over every single minor problem. Nobody wanted to own their mistakes, because they knew that the reaction would be disproportionately negative. They also knew that none of the other trades was going to own up to their part of any problems. It’s amazing we got any work done at all. Mutual honesty means mutual cooperation. Troubleshooting in the figurative dark is about as effective as troubleshooting in the literal dark. Sometimes it’s even less effective.
Ultimately, being honest about our mistakes is the first step in making sure that we don’t repeat them. Even if the client never notices, we need to be honest with ourselves. It can be painful to think about the things that we could have done better. But it’s a pretty good feeling to know that we haven’t made the same mistake twice.Leave a Comment
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|AV Insider Spotlight: Michelle Ford, Business Development Manager, Aquavision|
By Ajish Raju
Every week, I am highlighting on some of the incredible people who are in the audiovisual industry. As this blog is mostly about AV insiders, today we are profiling Michelle Ford.
Michelle Ford has worked in the audiovisual industry for over six years. She is the business development manager of Aquavision.
Please drop your questions in the comments below and i will make sure that she sees them.
1. Describe your journey in the AV industry. How did it start?
I grew up with a passion for photography and cinema after being mesmerised by my grandfather’s creativity producing family videos and audio files with the old 7mm reel to reel and large format images with the Bronica and Leica rangefinder cameras. I jumped at the opportunity to work for CEDIA – Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association to drive membership and education throughout Europe and beyond. The trade body was driven by the pioneers of the custom industry. I learned so much about AV and best practices from some of the true movers and shakers. After 5 years with CEDIA I relocated to another county and was approached to work for Aquavision – innovators of in wall and waterproof televisions. I feel so lucky to be working in an industry I feel passionate about. I believe this is key to individual success. Passion is infectious. It’s easy to feel passionate when your company is quality driven and not cost driven in today’s world of consumerization and commoditization!
2. What do you think is the challenges that are facing a new person who wants to join the industry?
Challenges today for anyone entering the industry is that it’s not enough to install AV equipment. Some custom installers have become lazier in the sense that they will look for the simplest solution for them as opposed to offering the best experience for the client. You need to be able to offer the client something that they cannot get via the pervasive world wide web. We are after all in the ‘experience economy.’
3. What are the positives of working in this industry?
With technology evolving at an exponential rate, it is the most dynamic of industries to work in. And for the custom installer who works ahead of the curve, it’s the most exciting place to be.
4. What in your opinion would you change in the industry? What are the negatives that are prevalent ?
Consumerism is detrimental as commodities are often confused with luxury.
5. Describe your ideal client? What do you wish clients to know before hiring you.
The ideal client would be someone who really ‘gets the product’ and can sell the experience.6. If you were going to start over, what would you do differently?
I would probably have gone into photojournalism, focusing on nature.
7. Describe the apps and gear that you use daily which makes you more productive.
Our CRM is really sophisticated and such a powerful tool. It really helps hone in on your customer base and measure performance, projects and much more. Also, I am an Apple fan so I couldn’t imagine being without my iPhone 6s or iPads!
For more information about Michelle Ford, go to the Aquavision website, or find her on LinkedIn or Twitter.
If you have missed any of the previous interviews, please click here.Leave a Comment
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|AVAD Acquired by Kingswood Capital ManagementKingswood Capital Management, an operationally focused middle market private equity investment firm, has announced that its controlled affiliate has acquired AVAD, LLC, as well as its subsidiary, AVAD Canada Ltd.|
AVAD is a distributor of high-end audio and video solutions focused on the commercial and residential custom installation markets in North America, with more than 10,000 customers across the United States and Canada. The company offers premium AV solutions to small- and medium-sized businesses, commercial venues and mid-to-high end residential markets in the United States and Canada. Kingswood has recruited consumer electronics and distribution industry veterans, Tom Jacoby as chief executive officer and Fred Farrar as president.
Tom Jacoby, AVAD’s new chief executive officer said, “Fred Farrar and I have had the pleasure of working with AVAD as one of our customers over our many years in the consumer electronics industry. We hold AVAD in the highest regard and look forward to joining its strong, passionate team and extending AVAD’s market leading position. We have plans to invest in AVAD’s infrastructure and will particularly focus on using web enabled technology to deliver added value to all of our trading partners. We are delighted to be able to contribute our experience and commitment to this great organization.”
AVAD is here.Leave a Comment
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|rAVe Founder Gary Kayye to Keynote Integrate 2016 Show in AustraliaThe 2016 version of Integrate, Australia’s version of the ISE show — combining both ProAV and HomeAV into one event — will feature the debut of Gary Kayye’s latest keynote — The Future of AV: It’s Revolutionary, sponsored by Crestron. The show is held 23-25 August, 2016 at the Sydney Showgrounds, Olympic Park, Sydney Australia.|
There have been been many evolutions in AV over the past 30-years, but no revolutions. But, we are getting ready to experience the first true AV revolution. Are you ready for it?Some would argue that the movement from analog to digital was revolutionary in AV, but not Integrate’s 2016 keynote speaker for Day 2, Gary Kayye. Kayye says that, although that shift could be labeled as disruptive, it wasn’t revolutionary. In fact, Kayye says we’ve never seen anything as disruptive as we’re about to see — and it’ll happen by the end of this decade.
Kayye’s keynote, “The Future of AV: It’s Revolutionary” won’t just be about where we’re going to be five years from now. In fact, he’ll take you through the journey (step-by-step) we’re going to experience to get there. Then, he will tell you the four things you need to do to prepare your business for the Future of AV.
This will be a session you won’t want to miss. Kayye is a lively, entertaining and detailed speaker who promises to tell you what you need to know about this AV revolution, how you can prepare for this AV revolution and why this is the Future of AV.
To learn more about Integrate Australia, go here. You can actually register to attend here.Leave a Comment
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|iPoint Control Adds Slack IntegrationiPoint today announced that iPoint Control, its business automation tool, is fully integrated with Slack, a messaging app for teams. With Slack, iPoint Control team users can send messages to individuals or groups of people through channels, replacing email as the team communications tool with an integrated, simple chat function that disseminates critical business messages and information more efficiently. Slack is available on all devices including Windows, Mac, iOS, Apple Watch, Android, and any web browser.|
iPoint is a powerful notification engine that provides trigger-based notifications as users interact with the system. It is designed to streamline many functions into a single platform, including CRM, proposals, sales orders, change orders, invoicing, payment management, purchasing, inventory control, project management, scheduling, parts and time tracking, payroll, and more. Previously, the system notifications were sent to email. Now, with Slack fully integrated into iPoint Control, users have a dedicated notification system accessible from any device, ensuring every iPoint communication is received without adding more messages to an already full inbox and slowing down productivity.
With Slack, any team member can be added and create channels, allowing them to subscribe multiple team members to a single communication channel. iPoint sends notifications to the Slack users and channels in place of email accounts. With messaging in one place, Slack extends iPoint Control’s simplicity and versatility to become a comprehensive business operations tool for any scenario. For example, users can:
- Create a “Sales Team” channel in Slack. Any time a proposal is accepted, iPoint can send a notification to that channel, motivating all sales team members by alerting them to the closing of another sale.
- Create a “Project Management” channel. Any time a sales order is paid, iPoint can send a notification to that channel, reminding project managers to review their schedules.
- Automate individual notifications sent from iPoint to the company technician user in Slack when a new work order is assigned to that technician. All of that technician’s notifications are saved and indexed, bypassing email and increasing efficiencies and productivity.
More information about iPoint and the iPoint Control platform is available here.Leave a Comment
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|Autonomic Announces Integration with Lutron RadioRA 2 Home Lighting Control System|
Autonomic has announced compatibility between their Mirage Media Servers (MMS) and Mirage Audio System (MAS) with the RadioRA 2 home lighting control system from Lutron. The Autonomic music systems, already compatible with the Lutron HomeWorks QS home lighting control system, afford integrators tremendous opportunity to provide new or existing clients with elegantly integrated whole-house entertainment (up to 96 zones) utilizing Lutron keypads as a control option within the home. RadioRA 2 integration is available through Autonomic firmware version 5.3+ available for update through the Autonomic Dealer Zone or through the Mirage Media Server web configuration page.
RadioRA 2 system keypads can be used to trigger presets, control power, volume, play/pause/skip, thumbs up/down and other transport controls of the Mirage Media Server. Integrators can configure the system’s functionality to meet client-specific demands via the Autonomic web-based tool. The Autonomic MMS will automatically discover a RadioRA 2 system and all related keypads on the network — the integrator can proceed to select the desired RadioRA 2 device from a dropdown box, which will show all available zones and keypads. Users will enjoy tailored functionality as well as two-way feedback between the MMS and Lutron keypads. Preset buttons can be configured to both recall existing presets and store new ones. All of this outstanding functionality is available without the need to disrupt any existing Lutron lighting-related presets or functionality.
Now Lutron HomeWorks QS and RadioRA 2 customers can enjoy whole-house entertainment seamlessly integrated with a user interface they already own. Lutron customers now have access to all leading streaming service providers as well as the sparkling clarity of high-resolution audio playback. Adding RadioRA 2 compatibility to the Autonomic product lineup presents integrators with tremendous opportunity to explore profit opportunity from both new and existing clients. RadioRA 2 integration is on the Mirage TV YouTube channel here.
Autonomic is here.Leave a Comment
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|Optoma Launches HD142x 1080p Home Theater ProjectorOptoma today is launching its HD142x 1080p home theater projector. Saying it has better color and contrast an improved lamp life and a smaller form factor than it’s predecessor, the HD141x, the Optoma HD142x has an added sRGB color mode (for Rec.709 HDTV broadcast spec colors).|
Features of the Optoma HD142x include:
- Both Rec.709 and sRGB color modes
- Contrast ratio spec of 23,000:1
- 3,000 lumens
- 3D ready, including support for all HDMI 1.4a mandatory 3D formats for playback of 3D content for immersive viewing
- Wireless and device compatibility: MHL devices such as Optoma’s HDCast Pro for wireless streaming, Roku Streaming Stick, and smart phones connect directly
It’s priced at $579 – here are the details.Leave a Comment
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|Epson Adds 4K, HDR and UHD Blu-ray to Three New Home Cinema ProjectorsEpson Europe has introduced three new home theater projectors, the EH-TW7300, EH-TW9300, EH-TW9300W, which have been designed to offer 4K enhancement, UHD Blu-ray and high dynamic range support, motorized optics and lens position memory.|
These HDR compatible home cinema projectors combine the latest imaging technologies to bring movies to life with extra detail. They feature 4K enhancement to bring a new level of finesse to the texture and resolution of the projected image, whether they’re displaying native 4K content or digitally upscaling Full HD 1080p content. The projectors are also designed to support the most advanced content, including HDR and 4K UHD Blu-ray discs. This gives users the optimal visual experience with more depth, detail and natural yet intense colours. In fact, their expansive colour gamut displays the entire sRGB and DCI colour spaces.
The EH-TW7300, EH-TW9300, EH-TW9300W are available from September 2016, priced at £2,199, £2,999 and £3,299 respectively. All the specs are here. Leave a Comment
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|BenQ Debuts Portable 500 Lumen Streaming ProjectorThe i500, BenQ’s new mini projector, projects images up to 80 inches at just 3.3 feet from the wall as it uses a short-throw lens. Integrated with BenQ’s Colorific technology, the WXGA (1280×800) i500 uses an LED light source for up to 20,000 hours of life and is spec’d at 500 lumens. You can stream to it via Bluetooth or connect via an HDMI input.|
Pre-loaded with an Android OS and a built-in media player, you can it includes apps for YouTube, Vimeo, Spotify, Netflix, Hulu and upload video games. The i500 has a gold finish and lists for $749.
Here are all the product specs.Leave a Comment
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|Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Is Now WhiteBritish audio brand Bowers & Wilkins launched the Zeppelin Wireless nearly a year ago — now it’s introducing the Zeppelin Wireless in white. Thanks to Apple fans clamoring for a white version, it’s now available (as well as their traditional black).|
Like its counterpart, the Zeppelin Wireless white is fitted with five completely new drive units and features two Double Dome tweeters as found in Bowers & Wilkins CM Series of Hi-Fi speakers, while the two-midrange drivers benefit from FST technology. This unique approach to drive unit design is also found in Bowers & Wilkins flagship 800 Series Diamond, and helps Zeppelin Wireless white deliver lifelike vocals and instruments. A new, larger 6.5” subwoofer with ultra-long voice coil allows deep bass to be played at impressive volume.
The reinforced cabinet has also been redesigned to reduce vibrations in order to provide a solid platform from which the drive units can work. Along with a front fascia 50% thicker than the previous version, specially designed glass fiber ribs strengthen the cabinet in all the right places. The result: pristine sound from high- quality drive units.
The Zeppelin Wireless white will be available August and priced at $699.99. Here are the 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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Copyright 2016 – rAVe [Publications] – All rights reserved. For reprint policies, contact rAVe [Publications], 210 Old Barn Ln. – Chapel Hill, NC 27517 – 919/969-7501. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.