The Death of the AV Generalist- Part Two

About a week ago, I wrote about the death of what I referred to as the “Generalist” AV firm.  In case you missed it, you can read it here.

As you may imagine, I received a lot of commentary on this blog through the comments, through Linked In, and through Twitter.  Based on those comments, I wanted to eliminate some apparent confusion and reflect on the responses in general.

First off,  the major point of confusion I saw from those reading my piece was to take my comments on a personal level.  By that, I don’t mean most people took them personally (although I think a couple did), but that many applied the term AV Generalist to the individual and not to the business model itself.

I am in complete agreement that the individual generalist possessing general AV skills that bridge across audio, video, lighting, control, networking, and installation is as valuable today as they ever have been. 

In fact, I stated clearly that these individuals would most likely end up working for end-users directly or be hired by other specialty labor and logistics firms that customers are now hiring to support large rollouts of equipment purchased directly from the distribution channel, as opposed to through an integrator.

The large technology company or University that has now made AV a responsibility of the IT department wants to develop their own standards and procures much of their technology through the same channels they procure their computers and software.  They often do their own designs for simple systems and buy some of the equipment on their own where possible.  These companies need individual AV generalists.

Look at the companies doing digital signage rollouts across world. The largest rollouts are being done by IT firms and service companies that specialize in logistics and local labor as opposed to AV integrators.  These companies firms need individual AV generalists.

Other large companies have started specializing in cybersecurity as their USP to gain clients and acquire general AV work.  After all, much of AV is on the network now, so many larger companies want the additional peace of mind of knowing that their AV is being managed properly by a firm that knows data security.  These companies need individual AV generalists.

My analysis was aimed at the AV Generalist firm whose business model relies on selling simple, repeatable systems and making a margin on selling hardware as well as providing basic labor.  If you missed that message, I’d encourage you to read the original post again with that in mind.

This is where I recommended turning your businesses value proposition away from the “We provide and install AV equipment”, and instead tailor that message and business model to leverage the gaps that will inevitably exist as they pertain to audio optimization, live events, large venue installations, global rollouts and support, managed services or specialty labor for all types of contracts and jurisdictions.

I stand by the statement that the AV Generalist firm needs to either embrace specialization and sharpen their staff as it pertains to that chosen specialty or find themselves in a losing battle of competing for jobs with no margin where the end user has trouble isolating your value proposition.  As these firms dissolve over time, their individual AV generalist staff will be picked up by specialty firms and trained on that specialty or hired by the end users they used to support.  The end result is that the current owner may find themselves an employee of someone else unless they can successfully navigate the transition.

One thing I found REALLY interesting was that readers really latched on to the term “Hang and Bang” and used that term extensively in their arguments.  The reason I found this so fascinating is that I never used that term in my actual blog.  To be fair, I DID use it in my headstone image that went with the blog, which confirms that pictures often create stronger impressions than words.  Based on some of the comments, I also drew the conclusion that some may have commented on the post based on the image and other comments alone, perhaps not even reading the post (which would explain a lot).

The term “Hang and Bang” means a lot of different things for different people, but despite what each person thinks it means, there was definitely a commonality… Many have a very emotional reaction to the term in general.

As a final note, it was equally interesting to see the split in the feedback on the blog, especially based on the media platform it was given on.

On the whole, I can say that if you found my blog on Linked In, you most likely disagreed with my premise, but if you found it on Twitter, you probably agreed with me. 

It was honestly an eye-opening split, one I attribute to the demographics of the user bases of both of those platforms.  Linked In is a more mature platform with a slightly older user base.  Most executives are on Linked In whereas fewer executives are on Twitter.  It makes sense that those that have been in the industry longer and have a larger emotional investment in the history of our industry are more likely to disagree with the need to change it drastically in the near future to survive.  Whereas on Twitter, where the demographic is slightly younger and may have more to gain than lose through the prospect of change, people seemed to think I was onto something.  I’ll leave that analysis at that for you to decide if there’s something there or if I’m reaching.

Hopefully, this follow-up adds some clarity to my thoughts, or perhaps it has just muddied the water even more.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.