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Canary in the Coal Mine

I love numbers. Despite being in the word business, numbers were always my first love. So I've been happy as a pig in slop dissecting the results of our Pro AV Forecast 2009 Survey.

I love numbers. Despite being in the word business, numbers were always my first love. So I've been happy as a pig in slop dissecting the results of our Pro AV Forecast 2009 Survey. More than 140 AV professionals weighed in and as many as 115 answered every single question we asked (and we asked a lot). You can see many of the results in this month's feature, "The Road Ahead" (page 26), but I thought I'd share with you here some additional things the numbers appear to suggest.

Brad Grimes

Brad Grimes

As I've mentioned before, it would seem to defy logic that our industry could skate through an economic recession unscathed. Still, recent studies paint a picture of AV pros optimistic about their business prospects.

That's great. Even in our new survey, 61 percent of respondents expect more revenue in 2008 than in 2007, and 58 percent expect more revenue next year than this (a mere 9 percent predict less 2009 revenue). But when we look a little closer, we see some interesting trends.

As you might expect, smaller companies are less enthused about their revenue prospects than large companies. Of respondents who said their firms made less than $1 million in 2007, only half expect a better 2008 and 46 percent expect less revenue this year (companies under $500,000 reported similarly). But what's really interesting is that those same companies think things will get better–61 percent expect more revenue in 2009 while only 16 percent expect less. You might interpret these numbers to mean those AV firms have spent the better part of 2008 (or even 2007) adjusting to difficult economic conditions and have already made the necessary changes to succeed going forward.

But is there a canary in our coal mine that portends harder times? Pro AV also asked end-users of AV systems to weigh in. These folks work in corporations, retail establishments, and more. Only about one-third expect more revenue this year and next. The rest see things flat, down, or unknowable.

That's no surprise, considering the economy. And as your clients go, so goes your business. Preparing for what lies ahead should include reacquainting yourselves with customers and learning how their numbers look. You'll get a better idea of what's coming and maybe even sell a solution that can help.

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



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