For Christmas, my husband gave me a Cricut cutter. It’s a machine that you can use to cut out pretty much any material, from iron-on vinyl to construction paper. It’s mostly a craft tool, but it’s also a fairly impressive piece of gadgetry. To set up your cuts, you hook it up to your computer with a USB cable, or use a phone app and Bluetooth. Then you pick designs out from fairly large library or import your own. Load your material, hit the cut button and it slices everything up for you.
My Dad, who owns a screen-printing company, was impressed with what I can make with my little machine. It wasn’t that long ago, he said, that a similar piece of equipment would have been heavily industrial and cost in the thousands of dollars. Now I can make my own shirts at home with a pretty little machine that fit under the Christmas tree.
In many ways, this is just the way of the world. It wasn’t too long ago that we were all selling our customers expensive video servers to store all of their videos. Now you can get a Roku or an Apple TV for less than a hundred bucks. My extensive CD collection has now been replaced with a monthly subscription to Spotify. There are plentiful options for people who want to DIY their own camera systems or automate a few lights at home.Technological improvements put equipment that never used to be accessible to anyone but the super rich or the super techie in the hands of anyone who has some spare time and patience.
Of course, the new availability of commodity equipment and DIY options also takes its toll on existing businesses. My Dad has seen big changes in the screen printing world. It’s not enough to have the equipment these days. In a world where someone like me can whip up their own onesies at home, you need to provide real value to your customers.
The same goes for the AV industry. How many of us have heard from a customer, “Why should I buy that from you? I’ll just go to Best Buy and pick up a flat screen and an Apple TV?” If you don’t have a quick comeback for that, your long-term prospects are not looking good.
Just because I can make some basic shirts at home doesn’t mean I’m never going to buy another shirt (or in my case, take another shirt from my Dad) again. There are designs that are too complicated to make at home. There are designs with trademarked characters on them that you’re not supposed to make at home. There are things like my work shirts that would take too long to make in bulk with home equipment (besides, my boss wants to order those from a professional).
Similarly, there are systems that would be too much of a hassle for a homeowner to install themselves. There is experience that we bring to the table that can’t be replicated with a google search. There is the beauty of a system with impeccable cable management. There is the sense of security in knowing that someone who knows what they’re doing installed your enormous TV, so it’s not going to fall off of the wall.
Changes in our industry mean that we all need to step up our game. Standards for technology are higher, and I think that’s a good thing. Technology is more accessible to everyone, and I think that’s a great thing. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some ridiculous onesies to make for my new niece.