Report From The Heartland -

Report From The Heartland

Publish date:

My day-to-day work as editor of SCN is a lot like that of a switchboard operator. Every day I engage in phone conversations with contractors, consultants, and manufacturers based all over the U.S. and Canada, gathering reports on the true state of the industry. I have also had the privilege of connecting some of these calling parties with business news and other tidbits of information.

In the past, I was happy to filter these insights and use them where possible in the print edition of SCN. But given all that we face as an industry at the present moment, I'd like to share with more frequency the updates that I hear. And so I present the answer to the question, "How's business?" in an ongoing series of blog entries with real-world information on the workload--and pipeline--of our readers.

My first source is Larry Heilman, president of Smith Audio Visual in Topeka, Kansas. In addition to its regular work as an AV integrator, Smith Audio Visual recently introduced its 1TouchDigital courtroom recorder. The success of that introduction has added an extra spark to the existing work that Smith Audio Visual is still lining up.

Despite a few bumps in the road, things are moving right along for the company. "We had a drop in December and January, which I think everybody felt. It was the worst drop I've ever seen," Heilman said. "But we're picking back up, and now we're having a hard time scheduling all the work we need to do."

On the 1TouchDigital side of the business, it looks like the introduction of a niche-specific, problem-solving product is going very well, even in a down market. "We've had a huge response," Heilman said. "I've got several dealers seeking demos, and of course with interest being all across the country, that's going to take a lot of time."

Smith Audio Visual is targeting several markets for the rollout of 1Touch Digital, and the company is also working quickly to establish a dealer network.

Heilman's business outlook does have one hitch, and it's shared by many in the industry. With new government regulations affecting banks, financing is becoming difficult, to say the least. Many integrators are shopping for a new bank, and Smith Audio Visual is among them. "I know being in a small town that the banks are hurting for good customers. The housing market has hit them hard, but not as hard here as in other places in the country," Heilman observed.

On the technology side of things, HDMI is a top concern, especially since it seems to be making other inputs obsolete. VGA and composite inputs listed on flat-panel display specifications aren't always there when the product arrives. "You have to be careful," Heilman said. "You don't know what you're going to get until it shows up."

In the problem-solving department, Heilman mentioned Z-band, which has introduced technology for distributing broadband signals over structured cabling systems in commercial buildings. "What they're doing is they're using existing ethernet in applications like hospitals or schools to push TV signals around," he explained. "You build your headend like a cable headend and you can connect cable into it. So instead of having to rewire for HD, you can run it over ethernet, and you can do multiple channels, you can do all kinds of stuff. There's just a little adapter for the back of the TV set or flat panel and you're done."


Stiernberg Consulting Reports Investment In Design Continues

This is an industry founded by self-proclaimed "tinkerers" whose favorite swag at trade shows is tiny screwdrivers -- or better yet, tiny screwdrivers with bright LED flashlights that make it possible to see tiny screws in dark equipment closets. So it's not entirely surprising that in good times and bad, the innovati

The State of AVI-SPL: A Dispatch From Tampa

by Chuck Ansbacher Tampa, FL—While there must be a family reunion somewhere that regularly posts a 300-plus headcount, it’s highly unlikely that said reunion also comes equipped with its own tradeshow. But then again, most families aren’t AVI-SPL—the integration behemoth with $550 million in 2011 revenues, and so

The Khaki Invasion

by Todd McCandless I’m not one for circling wagons or cloud-based panic so I’ll spare you the impending doom speech because quite frankly I don’t see doom on the horizon—unless it’s in the shape of opportunity and I doubt that’s the case, as the Trojan Horse gambit is well out of the bag and most AV integrators are

The Plow and The Field, Part 1

by Danny Maland In keeping with my theme of “things that Grandpa Maland said...or could be imagined to say,” the farm-boy maxim for this blog is below: “Well sure, you can get yerself a better horse. You could get yerself one of them brand new plows. Heck, you can mortgage the whole farm for some better implements

Five Steps to Safeguard Your Business from Embezzlement

With all the stress of running an AV integration firm these days, the last thing an owner needs is something else to worry about. Right? But there is another important business issue to beware of: employee embezzlement, and unfortunately, I've had personal experience with it.

The Worst Kind of Problem

By Danny Maland So as not not tip my hand too early, I’m going to leave “Grandpa Maland’s Small Town Wisdom” for a bit later. You see, this post is meant more for the younger pups in the shop, and involves a short quiz that may be administered by one or several of the more seasoned pups. (We’re all pups in the end

The Law of Unintended Consequences

by Danny Maland My Dad is the product of a rural upbringing. Even though he “moved to the city,” he still has that small-town tendency of expressing wisdom in pithy sayings. Here's one of this favorites: “The Law of Unintended Consequences is that there are always unintended consequences.” My church and I have bee

Planning In 3D Can Be Worth The Effort

by Danny Maland I have a dislike of being “sold” to. I have an instinctive eye-roll reflex that kicks in whenever someone starts touting equipment or services as a means to “improve profitability, increase client satisfaction, gain better name recognition, jump higher, run faster, and look better than ever before!”