| Volume 13, Issue 5 — March 10, 2016|
|Antifragility And Systemic Risk in the Custom Install Market|
By Lee Distad
I get ribbed a lot over what one of my friends calls my “hate-crush” on Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who, if you don’t know is the author of Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable and Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.
I’m accused of having a hate-crush because his writing in turn delights yet vexes me. His work is thought provoking, as it ought to be, but sometimes it also gets on my nerves.
All of this is entirely beside the point — I’m not here to dissect his work, a task for which I’m admittedly poorly equipped. Rather, what I’m here to do is crib one of his concepts, systemic risk, for my own purposes, and bash it into a shape that will fit the argument I’m framing in this editorial.
A lot of business articles focus on growing your business, of which I’m all in favor. However, far fewer articles focus on keeping your business from declining, which is related but not limited to growth.
My point today is simple: The bigger your customers are, the greater the risk that your company will feel acute pain when you lose one of them, for whatever reason.
Let’s use some very simple math to illustrate my point.
Let’s say your company has a million dollars in annual revenue (I told you I’d use simple math). Your revenue comes from ten customers, each doing $100,000 a year with you. Lose one, and you’re facing a decrease of 10 percent next year.
The obvious solutions are to a) grow the business of your other nine customers, which they may or may not do and b) go out and find new customers to add to your roster.
Losing 10 percent of your revenue sucks, but unless you run on razor-thin margins, or unless your cashflow and expenses are a trainwreck, it’s not typically perilous.
Now, let’s review another possiblity.
Again, your company has a million dollars in annual revenue. This time you have six customers. One does $500,000 a year with you and the other five do $100,000 each. If you lose one of the $100,000 customers, your situation is much like it was in the first Scenario A. However, this time, if your #1 customer goes *poof* your situation is much more dire.
Losing 50 percent of your business hurts. A lot.
There are endless permutations of this, but whether you’re a manufacturer/distributor vending products(as I am), or an AV pro creating installations think about how your customer base is structured. It’s not always a case where the risk comes from putting all your eggs in one basket. The biggest risk can come from counting on Really Big Eggs.
As a distributor rep, I lose a few customers every year to market forces and attrition. Sometimes they go out of business (which is bad) or they get acquired by their competitors, who are often also my customer (which is good).
When a customer is a small account, I’m sorry to see them go, but I can usually expect their competitors to pick up the slack for me.
When a customer is a big account, I’m more concerned, and I have some work to do to go find more business.
On the AV pro side, install companies live and die by their deal funnel: the projects they’re working on now, the projects they have queued up to work on next, and the projects they’re bidding on and trying to secure for the future.
In my time on the install side, I was fortunate to never feel the pain of having nothing upstream in our funnel, but that was because our boss was adamant that we focus on not only massive prestige jobs with big price tags, but small and medium jobs to fill in the gaps between those six-figure progress payment checks.
We all love our biggest customers. We take pride in them, do our best to service them, and brag about them to our peers.
My solution to minimizing the systemic risk in my customer accounts is to have many smaller accounts in addition to my big marquee top accounts. And I do my best to make my smaller accounts feel special and looked-after. I never neglect a dealer or don’t take his calls just because he’s 5 percent of my total annual revenue.
Spreading out my revenue helps to insulate my business as best I can from the shocks of losing some.
Image via Nassim Nicholas Taleb and PwC Leave a Comment
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|AV People: Mike Blackman of Integrated Systems Europe|
By Molly Stillman
It’s quite possible that Mike Blackman is one of the most interesting men on the planet. His name is synonymous with the Integrated Systems Europe expo in Amsterdam, but many people in the AV industry around the world don’t know all the history that led Mike to where he is today.
Originally born in Guyana in South America, Mike was born British, and his family moved to the United Kingdom when he was only six years old. Like any young child, Mike’s dreams of “what he wanted to be when he grew up” ranged from a police officer to a teacher.
“I was always good with math and economics,” Mike said. “So, as I grew older, I started thinking about what kind of career could I do with that. I got into accounting and got a place at university where they recommended that I do an internship. Whilst doing that, I spent six months with a company in the accounts department doing corporate finance, projects, statistics, projections — all interesting work. However, I then spent a few months in the general accounts department and quickly got bored. So I thought to myself, do I want to spend the next four years studying to do this?”
The answer was no. Mike decided to not go to university and found a job at the Financial Times since they were looking for someone in the advertising department. It was there that Mike realized that marketing and sales were his forte. Mike then began to study international, industrial, and consumer advertising and marketing.Along the way, Mike also realized he was good at selling and got a rush from getting the “big contract.”
This led Mike to a position at Personal Computer World Magazine.
“This was in the early days of computing,” explained Mike. “The games industry was very rudimentary and small and I saw the transition in technology. A lot corporate guys were moving in and taking over these smaller gaming companies and shaping them up.
“There was a show founded by Felix Dennis called the Personal Computer World Show,” he continued. “Felix took the magazine and realized he needed to take the next step started the exhibition with Montgomery’s in London. They then head-hunted me to come over and be involved in the PCW show. What started as a show with 30,000 attendees turned into the largest computer show in the UK with 130,000 attendees. It was through that that I realized exhibitions were what I really enjoyed.”
From that experience, Mike became more and more involved with other shows and exhibitions around the world, including everything from shows with the International Data Group to the MacWorld Expo in Europe to WindowsWorld, where he met Bill Gates.
After much of this experience, Mike left and decided to start his own consulting company.
“I started off just doing technology [events] ,” said Mike. “My hobby was motorbikes and whilst in San Francisco at MacWorld Expo I had stopped off in the local Harley Davidson dealer there and was speaking with the sales director there and he said, ‘Hey Mike, you do expos, right? You should do something for Harley in Europe.’”
That got Mike thinking. When he returned to Germany, he got on the phone with Harley, which got the ball rolling. Eventually there were events all over Europe. He then picked up BMW as a customer for the launch of the new Mini Cooper. This gave Mike the confidence and diverse client base he needed to really grow his business.
However, Mike was used to being the person who made things happen, so when he became a consultant, he began to miss the organization part. It wasn’t too long after that that Mike was approached by InfoComm to launch and manage an expo in Europe.
He met with Randy Lemke and the team at InfoComm in 2003, and by April of 2003, Mike was officially on board and the Integrated Systems Europe Expo in Europe was born.
What started as just a small show in Geneva in January 2004 has grown to a show with over 1,100 exhibitors and 65,000 attendees.
“Every year we get more and more exhibitors,” said Mike. “This industry is growing and we are riding with it. We have to consider — are we mirrors or are we leaders [of the industry]? We are a reflection of where the industry is going and we keep tabs with what’s going on. We want to make sure we are covering the issues and the solutions.”
The fact is, Mike loves what he does and is so passionate about it. In fact, he even boasted that he’d continue doing this job even if he won the Powerball. Outside of his work in the industry, Mike enjoys riding motorbikes (although he, admittedly, doesn’t ride as much as he used to), driving his Porsche 356 on sunny days, skiing, snowboarding and even skateboarding with the youngest of his sons.
He and his wife have five children (two from a previous relationship) ranging in age from 12 to 29. Last year, he had the opportunity to return to Guyana for the first time in 50 years.
“It was emotional to see my place of birth,” said Mike. “Meeting relatives, seeing the things that haven’t changed among the things that have changed. Seeing the house I grew up in. It was all very emotional.
“Facebook has been the best thing that’s ever happened as far as being able to reconnect with my family. I have hundreds of cousins around the world, some whom I have never met, and I’ve been able to ‘meet’ them through Facebook and connect with them. I have family in the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Guyana, etc. No matter where we go, I have a place to stay.”
Mike’s passion for travel has taught him a lot and he believes that the more people travel, the more they can learn about other nations and cultures and the process of breaking down prejudices can really take place.
Mike is also extremely passionate about education. He has seen firsthand what education has done for him in both his personal and his professional life. Education, Mike believes, can happen in many ways — through classes, workshops, formal testing and also just by having a conversation with and asking the right questions of someone else in your industry. He believes learning firsthand from someone else can be so rewarding.
It’s clear that Mike’s success, along with ISE’s success, are all a result of the passion, dedication and commitment to education that he possesses.Leave a Comment
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|VESA Publishes DisplayPort Standard Version 1.4, Now USB Type-C and Thunderbolt CompatibleThe Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) today announced it has published version 1.4 of the DisplayPort (DP) audio/video standard. The first major update to DisplayPort since version 1.3 was released in September 2014, DP 1.4 is also the first DP standard to take advantage of VESA’s Display Stream Compression (DSC) technology. DSC version 1.2 transport enables up to 3:1 compression ratio and has been deemed, through VESA membership testing, to be visually lossless. Together with other new capabilities, this makes the latest version of DP ideally suited for implementation in high-end electronic products demanding premier sound and image quality.|
DisplayPort is a packet-based, extensible protocol for transporting video and audio data. Initially introduced as a new external interface, its flexibility has enabled its adaptation to embedded displays and incorporation into other connectors like the new reversible USB Type-C interface and Thunderbolt. Its Multi-Stream Transport (MST) capability enables high-resolution support of multiple monitors on a single display interface.
In September 2014, VESA published DP 1.3, which has been the baseline for new system development. DP 1.3 increased the maximum link bandwidth to 32.4 Gbps, with each of four lanes running at a link rate of 8.1 Gbps/lane, a 50-percent increase over the previous DP 1.2a specification. DP 1.3 added extra protocol flexibility to enable more seamless operation over the USB Type-C connector in the form of the DisplayPort Alt Mode. The increased link rate increased the uncompressed display resolution support up to 5K x 3K (5120×2880), and also upped the MST resolution, enabling simultaneous use of two 4K UHD monitors, each with a pixel resolution of 3840×2160, when using VESA Coordinated Video Timing.
DP 1.4 further builds on the capabilities of the standard’s prior incarnations. The use of video transport compression enhances the ability to take advantage of the USB Type-C connector, enabling both high-definition video and SuperSpeed USB, while also facilitating High Dynamic Range (HDR) and 8K video across the DisplayPort or USB-C connector. Examples of increased display resolution with the new standard include 8Kp60Hz HDR deep color and 4Kp120Hz HDR deep color. Other key new features include:
- Forward Error Correction — FEC, which overlays the DSC 1.2 transport, addresses the transport error resiliency needed for compressed video transport to external displays.
- HDR meta transport — HDR meta transport uses the “secondary data packet” transport inherent in the DisplayPort standard to provide support for the current CTA 861.3 standard, which is useful for DP to
- HDMI 2.0a protocol conversion, among other examples. It also offers a flexible metadata packet transport to support future dynamic HDR standards.
- Expanded audio transport — This spec extension covers capabilities such as 32 audio channels, 1536kHz sample rate, and inclusion of all known audio formats.
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|exaSound Adds RoonReady to PlayPointexaSound Audio Design announced today the introduction of new, RoonReady firmware for their PlayPoint network audio player. The PlayPoint is the sixth in a family of audio technology products created by exaSound for the consumer marketplace.|
PlayPoint is exaSound’s answer to the proliferation of network music protocols and standards. A network audio endpoint that supports all high end standards and streaming providers, PlayPoint embraces AirPlay, HQ Player, MPD, UPnP plus TIDAL and Qobuz. In conjunction with Roon Labs, the PlayPoint now also seamlessly integrates Roon’s deep functionality with exaSound’s already exceptional fidelity.
With the use of exclusive ZeroJitter and ENclusiv technologies, PlayPoint includes all modern sample rates supported by exaSound DACs; 44.1 through 384 kHz/32 bit PCM plus native support for DSD1 through DSD4 (12.28 MHz). Designed to be used in partnership with all of exaSound’s DACs, PlayPoint has double shielded, milled aluminum casework which, together with GalvanicInfinity USB isolation, prevents EMI noise from interfering with the operation of the DAC. Another distinctive feature of the PlayPoint, when coupled to exaSound’s e28 DAC, is it’s ability to stream up to eight channels for uncompromised surround as well as stereo.
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|Listen Technologies Introduces ListenWiFi â€” TV Audio in the Palm of Your HandListen Technologies is now shipping its new line of ListenWiFi products. ListenWiFi allows venues such as fitness clubs and others with multi-screen deployments offer a personal listening experience by streaming audio content from multiple TV or audio sources directly to their customers’ smartphones via the Personal Listening Wi-Fi network.|
ListenWiFi delivers unprecedented audio quality, manageability and flexibility. Customers download the app, connect to the ListenWiFi network and tune into the channel displayed on the TV, with no disruption to their workout when changing machines at the gym. They can also easily manage audio channels and the app contents via the cloud.
Software for the server and app is updated automatically with no monthly fees, so venues know they can always connect to the widest variety of mobile devices and have the latest features. The flexible system can be configured with anywhere from four to 24 channels without having to replace the server. The server is compact and quiet, allowing venues to place it in a wide variety of locations. This standalone system utilizes its own Wireless Access Point to easily and reliably create a network for distributing quality audio.
ListenWiFi offers numerous benefits: fitness clubs can eliminate the costly, easily damaged audio headphone jacks on their cardio machines, and other public venues can offer their patrons easy access to the TV audio content they choose. The system uses its own Wireless Access Point for Wi-Fi broadcast of the Wi-Fi Personal Listening network. ISP connectivity provides internet access for customers connected to the Wi-Fi Personal Listening network and delivers software upgrades. Best of all, ListenWiFi is easy to install and maintain, and it comes with excellent support — and it gives users complete flexibility to stream virtually any audio source they choose, with no monthly service fees.
Here are all the specs.Leave a Comment
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|Adelyte Announces Version 2.0 of Crescendo Framework with Cloud DashboardAdelyte Company just launched the second major version of its free and open-source software framework — and did it on a live podcast with Gary. Developed starting in 2010, Crescendo achieved version 1.0 with its 2014 community release. Version 2.0 demonstrates “The Loft,” a complete working system with a full suite of graphical interfaces. The demo fulfills a field-inspired scope of work that salespeople, project managers, and programmers can relate to.|
Many Crestron programmers write good code. The real power of Crescendo Framework is in the open-source community surrounding it. Everyone can download the code, run the demo, edit the modules and make contributions.
The Crescendo 2.0 demo ships with Crescendo Cloud, the first and only Cloud dashboard for Crestron control systems. “The Loft” features an interactive floor plan of the residence described in the scope of work. In addition, the dashboard provides a wealth of information about processor run-time statistics including a text console for debugging. In less than ten minutes, the service can be added to any 2-Series or 3-Series Crestron processor.
For more product information, including private label and reseller opportunities, go here.Leave a Comment
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|DVIGear Launches 4K MultiViewer Switcher and ScalerDVIGear is expanding its line of switching and scaling products with the new DVI-3580a 4K MultiViewer Switcher / Scaler. The DVI-3580a accepts up to seven video inputs: four HDMI (or DVI), two DisplayPort and one RGB/YPbPr analog (VGA). The unit supports a broad range of input signal formats and resolutions up to 4K/60p (4:4:4 on the DisplayPort inputs). The selected input signal is routed to two mirrored outputs, one HDMI and one HDBaseT. The HDBaseT output is POH (Power over HDBaseT) compliant, so a compatible receiver unit (model DVI-7520-RX — sold separately) may be remotely powered from the DVI-3580a unit over the HDBaseT link. This MultiViewer can simultaneously display up to four video signals with resolutions up to 4K, which are displayed in four possible layouts: single, double, triple or quadruple. Any input signal can be displayed in any MultiViewer window.|
In addition to this device’s video capabilities, the DVI-3580a also includes audio embedding as well as de-embedded audio outputs. Each video input is coupled with an analog stereo audio input connection. The unit includes three audio outputs: HDMI / HDBaseT embedded audio, eight-channel (7.1) analog audio and TOSLINK optical audio. User-adjustable lip-sync correction is provided. This unit may be controlled via a variety of options, including LAN (built-in Web GUI or Telnet), RS232, IR remote control and front panel selections.
The DVI-3580a includes EDID Management capabilities that allow each connected source device to be presented with a unique EDID from a variety of possible files, including: one of six factory installed EDID values, the EDID from the connected HDMI or HDBaseT display or one of seven custom EDID values that can be stored in the unit’s memory. EDID values can also be downloaded from and uploaded into any custom EDID memory, which allows the possibility of off-line EDID editing and the creation of custom EDID files.
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|Extron Introduces 10″ Capacitive TouchLink Pro TouchpanelsExtron just introduced 10” versions of their control system touch panels in the form of the TLP Pro 1022M and TLP Pro 1022T. Available as both wall mount and tabletop TouchLink Pro touchpanels with capacitive, edge-to-edge glass touchscreen, they are 1024 x 600 resolution. As with all TouchLink Pro models, these new, customizable touchpanels feature faster processing and more memory. The convenience of Power over Ethernet — PoE allows the touchpanels to receive power and communication over a single Ethernet cable. The TLP Pro 1022M and TLP Pro 1022T have the same sleek design as our larger TouchLink Pro touchpanels and features that make them ideal for control applications requiring fully-customizable touchpanels with flexible mounting options.|
The TLP Pro 1022M and TLP Pro 1022T work in conjunction with any Extron IP Link Pro control processor and are designed for use in AV system applications that require complete, interactive control of a broad range of devices. All 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 powerful 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 1022T can be removed from its base and mounted on any VESA standard mounting arm or bracket.
The TLP Pro 1022M and TLP Pro 1022T are both here.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.