The Buck Starts Here: AV Financing Options

Financing AV

As the AV industry explores how to incorporate an as-a-service model, several firms are rolling out programs designed to facilitate subscription-based sales for integrators. The concept: to provide AV integration firms with the means to offer their customers the option of paying for deployments and maintenance as an operational expense, thus decreasing the sticker-shock that sometimes occurs with capital investments. Here are a few to consider:

Starin

Beginning in March, market development and channel management firm Starin,  is rolling out a pilot for its dealers that conduct Zoom Room meeting space installations. Bobby Swartz, executive vice president of strategy at the firm, explained that the program is designed to facilitate both financing and deployment. “Within an hour, dealers can design a [Zoom Room] project and deliver a quote. Within a day, the end user can have their entire project leased through a provider,” he described. 

Through that third-party finance agreement, Starin dealers are paid almost immediately, he said, with little paperwork involved. “We’ve worked with the lenders to make sure that our channel partners and our integrators have a fast and easy way to offer leasing to their customers. They don’t have to worry about the financials, they don’t have to worry about banking, they don’t have to worry about the  process. It really helps get us to where we can turn AV into what a lot of customers want: an operational expense.”

It also transforms AV investments into purchases that customers are already comfortable with, Swartz noted. “[The customer is saying]: I don’t own my copiers. I don’t own my computers. I don’t own the service that all this hardware uses. Why should I own this hardware and have to spend $400,000 in one fell swoop for something that really, I plan on using for the next three or four years?”

Synnex Corporation

Technology distribution and business process services company Synnex Corporation offers a number of financing options for AV integrators. Aside from its Core Services (think: standard leasing) and Customized Solutions (where Synnex will tailor a solution based on an integrator’s specific situation at the moment), Sandi Stambaugh, vice president of product management at the company, highlights two others that she says are ideal for AV integration organizations.

The first one is Synnex’s latest program: Device-as-a-Subscription (DaaS). As its name suggests, this program lets integrators roll out an as-a-service model, whereby customers pay for deployments on a monthly basis, rather than as up-front capital investments. Customers may scale their deployments either up or down, order early equipment refreshments, or deliver returns early. Payment plans range from 24 to 60 months.

Stambaugh explained that the DaaS program covers items such as handheld and portable devices, and that for the AV industry it also extends to technologies such as digital signage systems and meeting room deployments. Under this program, hardware, software, and services (including those performed by manufacturers, integrators, and third parties) are bundled together. 

[How Synnex's Sandi Stambaugh matches like-minded AV professionals.]

As of press time, Synnex was beta-testing an online ordering platform associated with this program (currently scheduled for launch in mid-2019): “In that tool, [integrators] will be able to enter the end user information, the hardware. They will be able to add their own services, and provide quotes,” she said. What if an integrator needs to quote a product that they don’t purchase from Synnex? “We get that question a lot, and there’s actually the functionality to be able to support our customers and offer that type of financing as well, which I think is unique.” 

Until the official launch, integrators can obtain DaaS quotes by contacting their Synnex rep.

The other program Stambaugh makes note of is RISE, which she explains was established with small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in mind. Based on an integrator’s credit score, they have access to a “virtually” unlimited credit line, and, for a fee, Synnex handles back-office functions such as invoicing and collections.

“[This is for integrators] where things are going well but maybe they uncover that really large opportunity at the end user level—and we know, just being in the business for so long, that those projects can make or break you, especially from a financial perspective,” Stambaugh said.

“This is where Synnex can actually help take on that opportunity—it’s designed with growth in mind for our SMB customers. With our integrators, there’s [often] the concern, ‘I can’t pay you because my customer hasn’t paid me.’ This takes that issue off the table and gives them the opportunity to continue to focus on growing their business.”

GreatAmerica Financial Services

Last summer, GreatAmerica, based in Cedar Rapids, IA, launched AV AMP, a financial program geared toward audiovisual integrators. The company—which traditionally offers financing for office equipment (copiers, printers, telephony, and networking technology) worked with the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) in developing the program, which aims to give integrators the ability to bundle both equipment and services into an AV-as-a-Service offering; the program is available to members of the NSCA, as well as non-members.

“If you’re proposing a $50,000, or $100,000, or $1 million AV project, sometimes that can cause a little heartburn for the customer as far as cash flow, and that’s where we come in,” said Chad Sowers, director of business development—audio visual at GreatAmerica. “We can turn that entire project into a monthly payment. It helps integrators close more sales, overcome price objections, overcome budget restrictions, and ultimately make it a lot simpler.” 

AV AMP encompasses hardware, software, installation, shipping, as well as whatever maintenance, monitoring, and managed services the integrator provides. Sowers adds that the program is designed for small, Mom ’n’ Pop businesses as well as large enterprises, and that GreatAmerica encourages integrators to use this model to streamline programmed equipment refresh cycles.

While some customers may have their own reasons to continue making AV a capital expenditure, Sowers argues that in offering an AV-as-a-Service option, integrators stand to boost their chances of adding more projects to their roster. “If we can help integrators close a couple more sales per month or even per quarter, then that’s a win,” he said. “What we [encourage our integrators to do] is put this on your proposal. Give [the customer] a financing option, and let the customer choose.”