Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Column for AV Guys: The Guillotine

I was sooo excited while watching the SuperBowl coverage earlier this month to see that someone finally, FINALLY, crossed the 4-blade razorblade barrier. The long-overdue 5-blade system has finally made its debut. The oh-hum [insert yawn here] market of the 3-blade and 4-blade systems that has dominated the shaving market with has-been gear like Gillette’s Mach3Turbo and the Schick Quattro has finally been shaken up with the 5-blade Gillette Fusion. I ran out and bought one the very next day.

I couldn’t wait. I rushed home, jumped in the shower and began to stroke the Fusion against my face. It was awesome – so I thought. The shave was close and smooth (as the ads claimed) and, all the while, leaving my face without those pesky neck sores that those “other” archaic 3-blade systems used to do – and with a shave that felt even better than the 4-Blade Quattro system I had been using. Five razor sharp blades wrapping themselves around my face.
Ahhhh.

All was awesome until the moment I stepped out of the shower and began to dry myself off. I noticed a thread from my towel seemed to be getting hooked on something that I thought was all gone: a whisker. How could that be? I just used the all-new, diamond-cut, precision-measured Fusion-Technology of the new Gillette 5-blade system. Impossible. But, it was true.

I ran over to the mirror and was stunned to see that was not one, two or even three of these protruding particles of pesky whisker, but potentially dozens or even as many as a hundred. Ugh!

I immediately jumped in my car and headed over to the University of North Carolina’s Quantum Physics department and grabbed a group of students who were clustered around a titanium model of the new 53,000-seat basketball arena being built thanks to the money made from winning the 2005 NCAA basketball tournament.

But, I digress.

I explained my disappointment to them over the $9.99 all-new, diamond-cut, precision-measured Fusion-Technology of the new Gillette 5-blade system and sent them loose to come up with something that will FINALLY solve this nagging dilemma on behalf over every man who is man-enough to shave with a razor rather than one of those wimpy electric shaver systems that Santa drives around in those annual Norelco commercials we see every Christmas.


The result: The Guillotine (pictured here). The patent-pending, liquid-cooled, scheimpflug-designed, nitrogen gas injected, oxygen-free, 24K gold-contact and plated, spring-loaded 40-blade Guillotine - and it’s without any opposing dielectric forces!



Simply put, the Guillotine: A Great Freak’n Shave.

CEDIA Says: Education at All Levels

I want to address a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and many of those within the CEDIA organization in this - education.

Education comes in many forms throughout life and this holds true in respect to CEDIA Education as well. As many of you know, and more of you will soon learn, CEDIA is the benchmark for education within the residential electronic systems contractors (RESC) channel. CEDIA has made a solid commitment, as part of its ongoing strategic plan, to deliver education to its members at the highest level possible. This has never been more evident with the implementation of CEDIA University “CU on the Road,” CEDIA’s integrated training plan that is being delivered in eight locations throughout North America this year. In addition, CEDIA is providing Installer I and II certification exams at many locations across the country this year. Of course, we cannot discount the comprehensive education that is offered annually at CEDIA EXPO. This will be even more apparent at CEDIA EXPO in Denver, Sept 13th through 17th, in 2006. As time progresses, you will see an increased frequency in educational events with a more in depth and richer offering of curriculum.

Ok, that somewhat covers the CEDIA educational information for our members. Let’s talk about the peripheral educational initiatives that CEDIA is in the process of developing.

CEDIA feels that education shouldn’t stop with its membership. We feel that it is important to address education on a number of different levels. After all, it is our goal to ultimately reach our customer, the consumer. The challenge is... “how do we get there?”

One of the most logical avenues that CEDIA has chosen has been to reach out to the strategic trade community. This would be identified as the builders, the architects and the interior design communities; more specifically through the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

CEDIA is approaching this from a multiple-tiered perspective. Currently CEDIA is delivering Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to ASID and Learning Units (LUs) to AIA through approved educational courses, both in person and online. Both CEUs and LUs are required by each respective association for their membership to maintain accreditation on an annual basis.

Another element of CEDIA’s outreach effort and our newest initiative is the upcoming CEDIA Electronic Lifestyles Forum that is being held in San Francisco from February 23 through 25th. This inaugural event features a combination of high end industry keynote speakers, panels of industry experts, and breakout sessions bringing together builders, architect and interior designers and, our RESC members for an intense networking opportunity (see http://www.cedia.org/el_forum ). CEDIA will also offer its “train the trainer” course which prepares the CEDIA RESC member to deliver CEU’s in their respective markets. This is a “not to miss” event and we invite our members to attend, there is still space available but it is filling rapidly!

As you can see, CEDIA is constantly reviewing, revising and improving its many vehicles to facilitate delivery of education. Please, take advantage of the opportunities. CEDIA exists for its members, from there its up to you!

I hope to see many of you in San Francisco and again in Denver! Until then, good selling and better learning.



--Andy Willcox

President of CEDIA

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Tracking Trends

One of the things we pride ourselves on here at Kayye Consulting is the ability to track trends. We have a fantastic network of friends in the market who regularly report to us what products they are specifying in systems and selling to clients in system applications. This has allowed us, over the years; to assist our clients in what’s happening as the market evolves. For example, we saw the impact of the iPod on the consumer market as something that would trickle up to the CEDIA (custom-install) market thanks to our relationships with a couple of key HomeAV integration firms. Fortunately, we were in a position to point this out to our HomeAV manufacturer clients, pre-CEDIA, and they all introduced iPod integration tools for the home.

Now, I realize the iPod is not something most of you would see as a high-end home product – much less a ProAV piece of gear. But, the proof’s in the impact, and the iPod has become the “must integrate” category for the high-end home nowadays (believe it or not).

Well, in recent months, we have noticed a trend in the ProAV market that you should all take note of: audio gear is going up. No, I don’t mean in price, I mean in amount of gear specified and, ultimately, sold. And, the numbers aren’t small. In comparing 40 January 2005 systems designed versus January 2004 (same system applications, side-by-side) the amount of audio gear is up 36%. That’s a staggering increase – and all the while video gear is virtually the same (3% increase). Maybe that explains Extron’s move into speakers and more audio gear in the past seven months, huh?

In comparing December 2004 with December 2003 and October 2004 and October 2003, the trend is clear – more audio gear. In fact, in the past five months, the smallest differential is 29%.

So, is it the impact of the iPod, new technology in microphone design, a killer new app? I actually thought it must have been so until someone at a major ProAV dealership in New Jersey told me that it had nothing to do with technology and more to do with money. Apparently, while video gear and projection technology margins have slipped into virtual oblivion, audio margins have remained where they were in 1996. Ten years later, the margin on audio is virtually identical – while in that same period the margin for the average projector has slipped from 32% to, in many cases, less than 10%.

Do you hear what I am saying?

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
What’s In a Business Plan and Why You Need One
By John Stiernberg

Frequently, pro AV people (systems integrators, technicians, rental and staging contractors, designers, etc.) plunge into the integration business with good technical chops but without a business plan. Too often the results are disappointment and burnout rather than creative, technical, and financial success.

Can business problems be anticipated and prevented? Can pro AV people learn from the business world and apply lessons without “selling out” or "becoming a suit?” The answer to both questions is yes! Whether you are already making all or part of your living from AV, or just thinking about the possibilities, this article provides fundamental concepts and encouragement for constructing or updating your business plan.

Why have a business plan?

You may have heard the expression “Fail to plan, plan to fail”. Most businesses (AV-related or otherwise) do not have written business plans. They may have revenue, checkbooks, and even budgets. If they do not have a complete business plan, they are at risk, and many fail as a result. There are seven positive reasons to construct a written plan:

1. Road Map. The plan shows you the best route to your goals and objectives.

2. Measuring Stick. The plan includes financial and non-financial objectives and measurement criteria so you can track your progress along the way.

3. Opportunity Management Tool. The plan articulates what business you are in and how you conduct business. This allows you to identify viable business opportunities, and avoid or manage those opportunities that do not make sense for you.

4. Lower Stress. When you have a plan, you spend less time and energy worrying about whether you are doing the right thing. Your plan helps keep you grounded and calm.

5. Catalyst for Your Best Work. A business plan is like a system design, stage plot, or project schematic. It assures that everyone is working from the same blueprint and performing business tasks in the right order—without compromising inspiration or creativity.

6. Competitive Weapon. Relatively few businesses have plans. When you do, you have an automatic edge on your competition. This helps boost your confidence as you build your competitive position in the market.

7. Essential for Securing Financing. At some point in your business, you are likely to need cash for operations or business development -- above and beyond your revenue from regular business operations. Your business plan helps you anticipate cash needs. A solid business plan is a requirement of any worthy financial institution -- even your “rich uncle.”

What’s in a business plan?

A business plan is a written system of documents that puts your business and its market environment in context over the course of the next several years. It describes 1) what you are going to do, 2) how you are going to do it, and 3) what the consequences are.

The main text is 15 to 20 pages long. In addition, it includes financial schedules and supplemental material that are included in the reference section or appendix. The reason for the brevity is simple. If it is too long, few people will actually read and use the document. Here is a brief description of the contents of each of five main sections or “chapters.”

Chapter 1: Description of your company, business, and industry. This is where you talk about the pro AV industry and your role in it.

Chapter 2: Description of products, both goods and services. This is where you describe what you do in detail, plus the features, benefits, and advantages of your product vs. the competition. “Products” are what you get paid for. Examples of products include:

• Rental and staging technician: system set up, maintenance, show management, etc.

• System designer/consultant: pre-design consultation, system design, commissioning, etc.

• Systems contractor/integrator: system installation, end-user training, maintenance, etc.

Chapter 3: Market overview and marketing strategy. This is where you describe the size and growth of target segments, the competitive environment, your promotional strategy, product distribution channels, types of projects, your salesforce, and target client base. The marketing section is a “plan within a plan,” and is the most important section of the whole document.

(Editor's note: We'll include an entire article on "The Seven Links in the Marketing Chain" in an upcoming issue of Gary Kayye’s rAVe).

Chapter 4: Management and organizational overview. This section describes your business experience, history, and personnel needs. This is the place to identify key people, their job functions, and credentials -- even if it is a one-person business. Future needs refers to people who will be added to the business as it grows.

Chapter 5: Financial summary. This section includes $ projections for sales revenue, expenses, sources and uses of working capital (cash) over a three year period. These are summarized briefly in the text of the plan, and shown in full detail in the appendix.

Good business plans also include an Executive Summary. This is a one or two page document that includes the essence of the whole business plan. Executive summaries are helpful when seeking financing, especially when many people are reviewing the plan.

What If This All Seems Intimidating?

You may be a great AV technician, consultant, or integrator, but not necessarily a businessperson. You may find that aspects of running your business are tedious or even scary. That’s OK, but it does not take away the need for a business plan. Here are three key points:

1. Double the planning time and cut the implementation time in half. This is a tried-and-true rule of time management. It’s easier and less costly to do the planning on paper than to learn by the dreaded trial and error. This points to the value of constructing your business plan early in the game.

2. The biggest challenge is competing for attention. We are continually bombarded with information today, and “data overload” is unlikely to change. This points to the value of the marketing section of your business plan in the overall scheme of things.

3. Someone has to handle the business. If not you, find someone who will -- or just do AV for fun. This points to the value of identifying your strengths and weaknesses and building your team as your business grows.

The Payoff

Constructing a business plan is essential for long-term success. Are you thinking about going independent? Your business plan will guide you and help you prevent mistakes and disappointment.

Once you are implementing your business plan, you’ll find that you are spending more time providing great AV systems, bringing quality entertainment and communications to new audiences, and making a good living doing something you love. From my standpoint, it’s worth the effort!

About the Author

John Stiernberg is principal consultant with Stiernberg Consulting, the Los Angeles-based business development firm -- http://www.stiernberg.com

John has more than 30 years of music and entertainment technology industry experience, including eight years as musician and agent, 12 years working for sound equipment manufacturers, and 13 years as business analyst and consultant. In addition to pro AV industry affiliations (CEDIA, Infocomm, NAMM, NSCA), he is a member of IBMA, NARAS, the Folk Alliance, and the American Federation of Musicians. Contact John via john@stiernberg.com.

John's book "Succeeding In Music: A Business Handbook for Performers, Songwriters, Agents, Managers, and Promoters" is published by Backbeat Books. For details, visit http://www.succeedinginmusic.net