NAME: Wes Garrett
TITLE: General Manager of Cloud Electronics USA
COMPANY: Cloud Electronics
OVERTIME: Garrett opened Cloud Electronics’ U.S. office in June, citing the growing success of the manufacturer’s products in the Americas and the subsequent need for dedicated support.
Wes Garrett, Cloud Electronics
SCN: You entered the commercial audio industry as international sales manager at SoundTube in 2000, when that manufacturer was in its initial phases of growth. As you introduced the brand into new markets, what factors were most important to resellers?
Wes Garrett: This was always a subject of much debate. My personal opinion leaned towards the products being fresh in a relatively stale market. I remember going to Germany for ProLight+Sound for the first time, there were rows and rows of black speaker boxes, until you happened upon SoundTube—everyone stopped in their tracks—sometimes to point and laugh, but there was a reaction from everyone. Love it or hate it, no one forgot seeing the slinky tubes for the first time.
The novelty helped, but there was also a strong marketing aspect to the company brought by David Wiener (the founder) and a talented creative team. The products were very polished and professional even though we were a tiny start-up. I like to think that we challenged the industry by creating a product that no one knew they needed.
Since the company was so new to the industry we looked for input from the reps and integrators. That input led to many innovations in commercial audio and heavily influenced the way the technology was presented to integrators and end users. The quick product evolution and a reputation for well-designed products also helped to generate and maintain interest in company.
SCN: In June of this year, you established the U.S. office for U.K.-based Cloud Electronics. What is your first priority in building the brand?
WG: Fortunately for me the Cloud brand is already well established. My role is to generate awareness in North America, and to introduce our values to new customers here. Most importantly, I need to communicate our 30-plus years of British audio heritage and a commitment to quality that has not changed since the founding of the company. That legacy is reinforced by Simon Curtis, who purchased the company six years ago.
Cloud has a loyal following in North America, but most integrators in the U.S. do not know that our carefully designed and U.K.-built products offer solution for common issues encountered in commercial applications. And that these products have been successfully used for decades around the world.
Our brand vision has to go beyond simply providing thoughtful product solutions. We also have to be a partner to our integrators by being better than our competition at being a supplier. One of the many ways to achieve this is by allowing the integrator to stay competitive and still profit by using our products. Strong customer and technical support will also be key to building brand awareness in the U.S.
SCN: Cloud Electronics offers a unique feature set on some essential commercial audio components. How can product development help to differentiate a brand?
WG: Zoning is a critical consideration in designing audio environments today. Leisure/hospitality, retail, restaurants, and education need flexibility and versatility in their systems to provide enduring value. We have focused on providing source routing, paging, and constant voltage amplification into multiple zones for years. Interestingly, there are very few options for independent source and level control in multiple zones unless you have the budget for a control system.
Cloud solutions currently offer loads of remote options, yet we are well aware of the digital trends and are moving rapidly in the direction of digital interfaces mated to the tried and tested quality of analog signal routing. In January at the ISE show in Amsterdam, we will release several new products with ethernet communication and control.
The company is heavily invested in R&D and has a full pipeline of new products set to launch in 2013. The U.S. is driving much of this development and will have a lot of influence over the direction of Cloud in the future. The trend seems to be either you are in the DSP space that has way too many bells and whistles or just the bare minimum. We fit nicely in the middle and plan to continue developing products for this underserved segment.
SCN: As you work to establish a reseller network for Cloud, what are you finding to be the primary business concerns of AV integrators in the U.S. right now?
WG: Honestly, the AV integration market must be pretty good, because I have not heard many concerns. That’s a great place to be in as an industry. The concerns seem to be more internal than external: time, resources, training, and personnel are the only things holding back many AV professionals.
I also see a lot of integrators struggling with whether or not to go headlong into the digital realm or sit back and wait for the dust to settle. I feel that knowledge levels of both integrators and end users are not always equal to the capability of the products. This leads to poorly designed systems that fall short of expectations and ultimately impedes the growth of the industry.
SCN: What has been the most significant change in the AV integration landscape over the past decade?
WG: What a difference a decade makes. There have been a lot of changes in that short amount of time. The event that has the most widespread effect in my mind is the transition of dealers to integrators. This really says a lot about the industry, the focus is transitioning from dealing in equipment and installing it to offering the service of integrating technology and maintaining it.
The traditional dealer of 10 years ago didn’t have to be a systems integrator; he didn’t have to mix IT/networking (which in reality is the control interface) with video, surveillance and security, voice evacuation, and audio. The end-user experience and expectation has moved on at lightning pace. This is the challenge for the systems integrator—understand all the options available and then choose the right solution built around the control interface.
Luckily, Cloud was way ahead of its time and has offered options to allow the end user to hear what they want when they want it—but we will have to evolve along with the expectations of our customers as well. For me this constant evolution keeps me invigorated, challenges me to learn every day, and nurtures creativity. Where else can you find perks like that?
Kirsten Nelson is the editor of SCN.