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Attention is Good?Thrive on It

When I picked up the telephone recently to talk to Marty Schaffel and Chad Gillenwater, the executives leading the newly merged AVI-SPL, about the deal that brought their companies together, it was immediately obvious we were onto something exciting?Marty was calling in stateside, while Chad patched in from Cairo.

When I picked up the telephone recently to talk to Marty Schaffel and Chad Gillenwater, the executives leading the newly merged AVI-SPL, about the deal that brought their companies together, it was immediately obvious we were onto something exciting—Marty was calling in stateside, while Chad patched in from Cairo. When we were done chatting, I came away with the distinct impression that AVI-SPL was something more than a combination of AV integrators.

Basically the impression is this, and it's no feat of detective work: Whereas AV was once a local application (the conference room, the sanctuary), it's now national, if not international. If you accept that AV and IT are merging, AV applications are not bound by walls. Mix in Internet protocol and bandwidth, and those applications span multiple locations, requiring resources in farflung offices. Recognizing this is one thing, appreciating its impact is another.

AV projects are suddenly far, far bigger than before. Firms like AVI-SPL, which has offices overseas, and some others can begin to handle expansive projects and in doing so draw attention to the AV integration industry as a group that includes the most qualified, expert designers, engineers, and installers for large-scale AV projects. If the industry doesn't rise to that attention, someone else may swoop in. There was a time when defense contractors like Lockheed-Martin and Northrop Grumman didn't have their own IT divisions. Now they do and they compete with traditional IT firms for big business.

Drawing attention is also about sales and marketing, and recent NSCA studies indicate many AV integrators don't or can't devote enough effort to selling themselves. My favorite insight from Jeanne Stiernberg's look at the most recent NSCA Market Intelligence Briefings is that AV integrators prefer to talk about what they can do, not how they're better than their competition (see “The Missing Pieces,” page 60). But again, as AV and IT merge, it's not just AV pros you're likely to compete against. As clients turn their attention to you, you need to articulate why you as an AV integrator can do the job right.

Finally, a quick note on Jeanne's story. That cool installation we used to illustrate the article wasn't actually missing any pieces itself. The project by Audio Advisors of West Palm Beach, Fla., was named the Best Overall Themed Theater in last fall's CEDIA Electronic Lifestyles Awards. Great work in AV.

Brad Grimes, Editor
e-mail: bgrimes@hanleywood.com



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