New Year’s Resolutions for the AV Industry

New YearsOK,  so maybe like one of my favorite movie protagonists, Jerry Maguire, on New Year’s Eve

“I ate two slices of bad pizza, went to bed and grew a conscience!”

Only time will tell if what I’m about to write should have been ‘the things I think but do not say’.  (Even the cover looked like The Catcher in the Rye!) 

In reality, many of them are things I have said before with mixed reviews, but for those not up to date on the AVPhenom Anthology, I thought this was a good time to layout what I feel are some ways we as an industry can improve in 2014.


Better Define and Enforce Standards

There has been much ado about standards this year.  New standards came to light, like HDBase-T and AVB, and some old ones like HDMI have continued to evolve.  The problem seems to be that the standards themselves, at least in the case of HDMI to date, really don’t guarantee the functionality of the products in any way, and the vague direction given by the consortiums behind the standards themselves has resulted in a slough of products that should be cross compatible, but they are not.  If these standards could be reigned in and enforced better in 2014, we would see a great benefit as an industry at the manufacturer, integrator, and end user levels alike.


Your Problem is My Problem.

Nothing infuriates me more than the use of the phrase “Someone Else’s Problem”.  I have been on job sites where a client’s problem is treated like a hot potato that no one wants to get left holding.

I understand that as an industry we sometimes get our margins eaten away by Scope Creep in a job and maybe the knee jerk reaction is just to run from anything that was not expressly bid.  I see this as a mistake.  I have successfully navigated several potential Scope Creep issues in my past life as an integrator in ways that allowed us to solve the client’s problem, even if it stemmed from issues created by other contractors or poor construction documents, through cross-trade collaboration and a fair and reasonable change order invoice.

Next time someone else’s shoddy work causes your pristine install to fall on its face, become your client’s partner and avoid the phrase “Someone Else’s Problem”  I guarantee you your troubleshooting and problem solving as an integrator will be gladly paid by your client, both financially and in future loyalty to your firm in years to come.


Embrace Accountability

So I am in agreement that an ISO 9000 type program in AV will have huge cost implications and in many cases be a gross waste of time and energy for AV installs.  I also know that if you talk to any of the many successful integrators I work with in CA, NV, and HI, I can guarantee they will all tell you that being successful is all in the way you finish a job.  We need a way to recognize the firms that consistently finish the last 5% of their jobs and deliver exceptional client experiences.  I have argued repeatedly that InfoComm has the best opportunity to do this through either their CAVSP or AVIQ programs by creating a client report card system that grades integrators based on results., (anyone can fill out a checklist guys. . .nice step, but a small one to say the least.)

I know this idea scares a ton of folks out there, but we as an industry need to recognize the fact that we do have some dirt out there being swept under the carpet.  If we instead hung those same rugs out and beat the hell out of them, our AV house in general would be much cleaner.  Let’s embrace accountability in 2014 and find a way to recognize and differentiate integrators who tackle that last 5% as enthusiatically as they do the first 95%, so they are rewarded with more work and profits as they have earned and deserve.


Provide Value

People buy and are happy with their purchases when they feel they have received more value from what they have purchased than the money it cost them to actually buy it.  Nobody is ecstatic about getting what they paid for, that is the default expectation.  Take the opportunity to learn more about your clients and their businesses and how you can best eliminate pain and provide value to them and their respective firms. 

If you are “selling gear” you will quickly be a victim of my “AV Survivor” slogan:

Out-Bid, Out-Placed, Out of Business

Provide value.  As Anthony Minite, the President of one of my great new integrator clients in CA put it best-

“Good service will NEVER be a commodity.”

He’s 100% right.


Sell the Steak, not the Sizzle

So this goes against all the wisdom of old school salesmanship.  If you have a guy on staff “Selling Ice to Eskimos”, he is probably more of a liability today than an asset.  Don’t get caught up in the marketing of new products and start selling them based on buzz without considering the relevance of the application or goal at hand.

Clients today will eventually find out they over bought based on the vacation plans of their salesperson and we all know that clents have long memories for these type of things, and love to share these stories with their peers.

Sell AV systems that meet the clients needs, provide some flexibility for anticipated future needs, and help them increase their reliability and decrease their liabilities.  Manufacturers are starting to embrace this application based trend as well, selling more and more items that help clients leverage their existing software, OS platforms, etc, as opposed to trying to dazzle them into buying a proprietary box that does more than they need in an effort to pad profits short term.

Manufacturers and Integrators who continue to follow this trend will find more opportunities to make money in 2014, not less.


So what do you think?  Am I nuts?  Is this too hard for our industry to adopt in 2014?  Do you know or work for an integrator or manufacturer that is successfully using these ideas to grow your business already?  If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts and success stories in the comments below.

Happy New Year!

Mark C