SCN: As founder and CEO, what are your responsibilities?
Paul Dexter: After six years, I am beginning to wear fewer hats. Most of my time is spent strategizing, then monitoring the status of those strategies, but I am still responsible for the application's user interface (opens in new tab)—the look and feel. I enjoy that part of the work, and it is much of our character, so I will do that as long as I can. We are small so I am still pulled into a lot of directions managing our various teams.
SCN: How long has Jetbuilt been in business?
PD: We launched at InfoComm in Orlando in 2015.
SCN: You’ve joked that you became an integrator by accident—how has your background prepared you for your role?
PD: I had been a record producer for many years. I loved the work and it was incredibly gratifying. But as I got married in 2003, this life of spending all day and night in recording studios didn’t really match up to a healthy family.
At nearly the same time, two people who I knew from the studio came to me asking if I could make their venues sound like my studio. One was a large modern church, the other was a restaurant. I designed systems for those spaces, and they both performed so well that I started getting calls to design more theaters and hospitality spaces. I never intended to leave record production, but it just happened. The fit was perfect, and I found a nice niche where my company could compete with larger integrators when audio was a priority to the client. I still produce or mix music on the side, but now it is only the passion projects.
[SCN Top 50 Systems Integrators 2021] (opens in new tab)
SCN: What are the short and long-term goals for your company?
PD: In the short term, we are excited about our upcoming Service Ticket module. This will launch at InfoComm 2022. It is the last of our planned group of optional modules that our users have requested, so they can roll their full workflow into a single platform.
In the long term, we are working hard to create a comfortable and powerful ecosystem for end users, consultants, and integrators around the globe (opens in new tab). We see this happening in cells, where a consultant designs a project in Jetbuilt with the input of the end user team at the facility. Then it goes out to bid and the consultant and end user can communicate with the bidders, view alternates, answer questions, and select their vendor, all within the platform. We all know that awarding bids is far more than price. It is critical for the consultant/end user to see the strengths and values of each vendor clearly in an apples-to-apples environment. Jetbuilt makes this easy for projects involving parties around the world.
SCN: How are you addressing the needs of international users?
PD: In the last several months we have added French, Spanish, German, and British English to the application, so integrators can render proposals in their native languages. I am amazed at our number of users in non-English speaking countries. When we chat with them, they say that they would love the application to be in their language, but they are willing to conduct their business in English in order to use Jetbuilt. I take that as a testament to the power of Jetbuilt.
We are also opening a business hub in the U.K. this winter. It will be a remote office at the start, as we evaluate how the pandemic is affecting physical offices. Today, 25 percent of Jetbuilt clients are outside of North America. This not only provides a local presence to our clients there, but also provides the best possible feedback into us improving the application for use in these regions.
SCN: What makes Jetbuilt different from other AV project sales and management software solutions?
PD: Jetbuilt invented dealer pricing integration so that integrators can estimate projects extremely fast, knowing what they pay for each piece of equipment and without having to reference countless price sheets or portals. We also put all of our power into the cloud so that remote teams can collaborate on projects around the world. Once COVID-19 hit, the teams transitioning to remote offices were able to do so in Jetbuilt without missing a beat.
SCN: What is the greatest challenge you face?
PD: My biggest challenge is creating a platform that can be universally accepted by companies of such diverse personalities while allowing each of them to work in ways they need to while presenting their services to clients with their unique values. Companies with one to hundreds of sales reps, sales-centric to engineering-centric offices, commercial and residential. I argue that this is entirely possible, but it requires an enormous amount of intentionality to every detail. This is easily our biggest challenge and we consider it every day.
SCN: Where do you see the Pro AV industry heading?
PD: The vision I mentioned above of consultants, end users, integrators—even manufacturers working in collaboration during the sales cycle—this scares a lot of people. They push back on such thoughts because they fear that everything comes down to price. I argue flat against that. When I was integrating, I won far more systems when I was the high price than when I was the low—because I sold on my design and overall value and assurance. We see this already happening in so many other sectors.
End users are not stupid. They know what a lot of things cost. In the end they need a fair price, but they want to make sure they are receiving the right system and desire a better way to get there. It is 2022, so buying an AV system may not feel exactly like it did in 1982. We largely don’t buy our cars or dog food the way we did in 1982, either.
SCN: How can systems contractors better position themselves to profit from products and/or services you have to offer?
PD: Jetbuilt continues to add more ways to help contractors monetize while providing more value to their clients. We automate the presentation and sale of optional service contracts, for instance. We also automate the selling of options, such as larger displays or whole optional systems. We even have a function that ties our asset tracking into our Funnel Module. Sell an amplifier today and when you install it, you notate the waranty expiration and estimated EOL. Both of those can trigger opportunities in your Funnel (months in advance of the event), so your team can call on the clients and propose a look at those items. Perhaps an entire system upgrade can result. This is good for our client, but fantastic for their client, who doesn’t have to wait until the amp fails to hunt for the contractor’s number and call for service.