USAV Leaders Emphasize Need to Adapt

Published: 2014-10-01

The continued move of IT into the AV integration space “opens up a new channel of competition,” says Ed Jankowski, president of Liberty AV Solutions during a panel discussion at the 2014 USAV APEX Conference in Westminster, Colo.

“It’s a real threat,” says Jankowski. The good news from the AV side, says Milestone AV senior director of sales Jay Rohe, is “it’s no longer cost-prohibitive to network everything together.” But “it changes the customer you’re calling,” says Kent Cawthorne, VP of sales at Kramer Electronics.

With all of that said, there’s reason to be optimistic, at least among USAV Group’s membership, says Sam Taylor, executive VP and chief operating officer at Almo Corporation. “Change isn’t necessarily bad,” he says. “A lot of you are thriving because you figured it out.”

An example of that, says Cawthorne, is something Kramer has been doing for a while now.


“The companies that are growing right now are the ones that are using IT to monitor their systems,” he says. “It’s an avenue for revenue, rather than jumping from one installation to another.” Part of that is designing systems that can, in fact, be monitored, he says.

“Every time there’s an issue, you’re the one telling them about it and fixing it for them. You become their expert,” he says.

Jankowski sees a couple of ways integrators can increase their appeal.

“Recurring revenue is important, but design-build is the other hook,” he says. “If you don’t have a culture of continuous improvement and change, that’s what’s going to hurt you most. Right now, it’s recurring revenue. Two years from now, it’ll be something else.”

Jankowski likes to launch new initiatives within Liberty with two or three key proponents then watch others want to be part of the action.

“When it starts to succeed, everyone will want to be included,” he says.

Taylor sees a place for both AV and IT integrators in the future, even as AV firms see their IT counterparts moving in on their territories in many ways.

“IT guys need AV,” he says. “IT guys don’t really want to focus on putting in projectors or doing digital signage for the most part.”

The important transition, says Rohe, is the way AV companies talk about what they do in pitch meetings.

“You have to become a solution seller,” he says.

Liberty AV, says Jankowski, has been training its sales force for the last three years to sell solutions rather than products.

Cawthorne took it a step further, saying he advises his sales staff to “leave the boxes in the car” when they’re meeting with customers or prospects and instead “talk to the owner about making them profitable.”

It’s also important, says Cawthorne, to “make an investment in the knowledge,” meaning always learning new skills and new ways of bringing customers the solutions they want.

Taylor points to remote monitoring and digital signage content creation as two ways AV integrators can broaden their skills and make themselves more about solutions than selling boxes and hardware.

“By doing that, you get to really know their business and figure out where you can help them,” says Taylor, who calls consumerization “a much bigger threat in our space than IT.” The idea of consumerization started with Blu-ray players, he says.

Jankowski, meanwhile, sees increasing consumerization as “an opportunity to embrace those technologies and bring them in to the commercial world.” Whatever manufacturers and systems integrators do, he says, “It’s about simplifying the user interface. What are you doing to make the user experience better?”

Looking to the future poses some level of concern for Rohe in a couple of ways.

“The first thing is the people we have key relationships with are probably going to be gone within five to 10 years, so we have to dig deeper in the organization,” he says. “The other thing is I don’t think the consolidation of integrators is done.”

More: InfoComm AVEC Focused on Changing the Future

Posted in: News

Tagged with: Liberty, Milestone AV, USAV

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