TWICE Roundtable: Custom-Installers' Theories Of Evolution

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New competition and new technologies could undermine the traditional way of doing business in the custom-installation industry, and as these changes accelerate, many A/V installers will have to evolve to survive.

To analyze the changes taking place and how installers must cope, TWICE assembled a panel of leading custom-install manufacturers and installers.

In this issue, the panel traces the channel's changes to date and what the industry might look like in the next decade. Topics include the appearance of security and lighting installers in the custom A/V market, whether A/V installers should evolve their businesses to include other disciplines and systems integration, how high-volume chains could affect the business plans of installation specialists, and technology's impact on who sells and who buys.

In part one in the June 21 issue, the panel focused on more immediate challenges including how to manage growth, cope with tight labor markets, raise the business-skills level of installers, and influence the building trades to take the industry seriously.

  • Eric Bodley, owner of Home Entertainment Design, Florida
  • Steve Ekblad, human resources VP, United Audio Centers chain in Illinois
  • Jeff Goldstein, director of Sony's Consumer Integrated Systems Group
  • Eli Harary, brand manager of Infinity Systems Home Products
  • Keith Rich, owner, ISR, a Chicago installer and manufacturer of TronArch
  • Kent Sheldon, sales director, Sonance
  • Frank Sterns, sales VP, Niles

Key Points

Diversify: Some participants suggest that A/V installers consider adding other disciplines, such as lighting, computer networking, and phones to fend off new competition from companies that are expanding from other installation disciplines into A/V.

Gradual Education: A/V installers thinking about becoming systems integrators should go into it gradually, one discipline at a time, or risk getting in over their heads, participants agreed.

Compatibility = Opportunity: Interoperability among various types of products will grow, allowing installers to deliver increased capabilities at a lower cost.

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