The influence of AVIXA’s Diversity Council has fueled thoughts of mindfulness, acceptance, and increased awareness of the variety of individuals, organizations, and perspectives that make up the AV industry. Support of diversity is not just about inclusion of different races, religions, genders, or preferences; it is about finding a common ground where everyone can relate, appreciate the similarities in one another, and respect their differences.
No matter the background, interest, or role that is being represented, the Diversity Council encourages interaction, understanding, and the acceptance of all members despite different beliefs, makeup, and abilities.
How can we apply the values of the Diversity Council to the business aspects of the AV industry?
One of the challenges that is common within the AV industry is the struggle to think differently. Because of the decades of success that the industry has experienced as a whole, receptiveness to change and new ways of doing business have been the exception rather than the norm. By assuming that what worked in the past will continue to yield the same result in the future, new ideas will be discounted, warning signs will be overlooked, and opportunities for growth will be limited. To think that success is permanent and change is optional is shortsighted.
Forward thinking and the ability to pivot toward new opportunities are critical to the long-term success of both the members of the industry as well as the industry as a whole. Whether it’s the products or services being offered, the way of doing business, the advent of new roles, or simply the acceptance of fresh ideas, practicing diverse ways of thinking yields opportunities for different and potentially better results.
Here are some industry shifts that indicate a diverse mindset and offer opportunities for the industry to flourish:
Focus on Solutions and Relationships
AV solutions providers that focus on solutions to clients’ needs and offer supportive relationships, rather than purely selling hardware or systems, represent an example of a new approach to AV. Although equipment and systems may be involved in the solution, it is the ability to differentiate the offering by demonstrating an understanding of the clients’ environment, challenges, pain points, and priorities that sculpt the solution and lead to a successful, valued relationship.
Do What’s Best for the Client
Selecting equipment that is the best fit for the application or client need rather than focusing on specific brands or most appealing pricing will lead to outcomes that perform better, demonstrate greater reliability, reduce overall costs, and result in increased client satisfaction. While one-stop shopping has its benefits in the form of convenience, manufacturer discounts, and perceived ease of integration, willingness to stand up for what is the best solution for the need is an action that is in the minority nowadays. In the end, the driving force behind a project should be doing what’s right rather than getting the job done. Although critical to business survival, profitability should not be the driving force behind solution. Taking care of the client will go a lot further, in the long run, then maximizing profitability on a project.
Don’t Let Tradition Limit Opportunity for Better Results
Like other aspects of life, the AV industry is steeped in traditional roles. Historically, the following hierarchy and delineation of responsibilities is typical: consultants identify needs, design, and specify solutions. Manufacturers sell hardware to integrators. Sales reps support manufacturers and integrators. Integrators maintain the relationship with end-user clients and implement all aspects of a project including engineering, installation, audio configuration, control system programming, system commissioning, and project management. Technology managers support end users relying upon the expertise and support from AV service providers to address ongoing needs.
Recent industry changes have not only resulted in dramatic shifts in the characterization of these roles and responsibilities, they have caused disruption in careers, business models, and relationships. Those who are open-minded and receptive to change will benefit from these shifts while others who have remained set in their ways and obstinate in their thinking find themselves on the outside, seeing the industry pass them by.
Examples of these shifts and non-traditional approaches are end-user organizations that prefer to do their own design and installation and work with independent contractors for the a-la-carte specialty services outside of their expertise. Furthermore, consultants who are offering project management, content development, programming along with integrators focusing on concierge support, monitoring, staffing, or design services indicate the blurring of the lines and trend toward new ways of doing business.
Empowerment of End-User Organizations
Open mindedness to supporting end-user organizations in their quest to be more self-sufficient and empowering technology managers with the knowledge that they need to take responsibility of doing in-house projects represent a new way of thinking. As stated earlier with regard to overcoming the boundaries of traditional roles, those who embrace and adapt to this change will increase their relevance and value. Those that don’t practice acceptance and new ways thinking may find themselves on the outside looking in with an uphill battle to do business as usual. The erosion of traditional opportunities is inevitable. It is those AV professionals who find ways to reinvent themselves, reposition their skills, knowledge, and experience, and offer new value propositions that will survive and thrive.
Consider Alternative Options
The acceptance of smaller businesses and niche service providers is yet another area of the industry that comes into focus when considering diversity and new ways of thinking or doing business. Whether it is a boutique integrator, a specialty consultant, or independent service providers, each entity faces challenges in breaking through the traditional industry hierarchy, overcoming bias, and gaining acceptance as an underdog.
While going bigger may be better for certain types of opportunities, there is a place for all types of firms in the industry. Smaller, specialized firms can offer more personalized attention and adapt to more unique needs while larger firms tend to promote more availability and confidence to tackle larger projects. The importance of considering the best fit for the need or situation should drive the selection rather than defaulting to safe choices of the more visible and dominant providers. Additionally, the value or influence of AV firms should not be limited by their ability to buy, sell, or specify products. Despite the growth of independent service provider companies, they are often overlooked as a vital part of AV ecosystem.
Being aware and accepting of different members of the industry, ways of thinking, or approaches to doing business is vital to the ongoing to success of the industry and its constituents. These lessons taught by embracing diversity provide opportunities to lean into change, support new methodologies, and become a thought leader rather than clinging to the status quo. Although being unique, acting differently, or having unconventional ways of thinking can be uncomfortable, it is what you do outside of your comfort zone that can make the biggest impact. Kudos to the AVIXA Diversity Council for bringing acceptance of differences, open-mindedness, independent thinking, and change to the forefront of the AV industry.
Steve Greenblatt, CTS, is president and founder of Control Concepts, a provider of specialized software and services for the audiovisual industry.