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InfoComm Director: We Will Support Members Entering the Residential Market

Oct 4, 2005 8:00 AM

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Randal Lemke, Ph.D., executive director of InfoComm International, wrote the following letter to the AV press:

Thank you for all the coverage provided on the activities of our members as well as of our association, InfoComm International. One issue that is receiving more coverage in the AV press is the increasing number of professional AV companies doing business in the residential market. As the association that clearly identifies itself with AV communications, we have watched this phenomenon, and began late last year to take steps to support our members.

As members consider and approach this market, our first step was to produce a Residential Pavilion at InfoComm '05 in Las Vegas. Since more than 25 percent of the attendees at InfoComm have indicated they are involved in the residential market, our goal was to provide them a convenient opportunity to see residential systems at the show. At the same time, the pavilion gave our exhibitors a way to show these interested pro-AV companies their residential products. In addition, we offered a seminar track to further help our attendees understand the opportunities in the residential market.

Recently, Magnolia A/V, a company owned by Best Buy, chose the InfoComm Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) program as the training it would use to educate its employees. Magnolia has participated in InfoComm Academy education for several years and has crafted an interesting training program in which it uses our off-the-shelf Essentials of the AV Industry online course along with the hands-on training that it provides directly to its employees. Employees completing the training can then take the InfoComm certification test to qualify for our general certification.

The association's position in providing training is that we aim to raise the bar for all companies working in AV. InfoComm Academy training is open to anyone who wishes to participate, as is required by federal anti-trust law. The general CTS is a starting point for anyone in the AV industry, and as our certification numbers near 4,000, it is clear that many companies come to us for specialized training to advance employees in their careers.

The position we take on the residential market is that we view it as one of more than 15 markets that our member companies serve. Corporate, higher education, worship, health care, government/military, etc. are some of the largest markets that our members serve, and many now see the potential in the residential market. Our goal is to help them to better understand this market and, if they choose to work in it, we are here to support them — as we have through our trade show and our educational program.

Although we don't know how many of our members will get involved in residential, we hope to support those who do by educating them on the opportunities and, as importantly, on what it may take for them to become successful—before they jump in with both feet. From a business perspective, we know that the residential customer is quite different from the customer in a professional environment. There are many issues to be considered, including different styles of customer service, business process, and installation "fit and finish."

How can the strengths of a current business be leveraged into a new business, and how should one create a business model that fits the residential market, as well as one that works well in the institutional or corporate environment? After such an exploratory exercise, some may decide that they are better off not entering this market today. Ultimately, it will be up to them. Our role as their association is to provide them the tools to help them make good business decisions.

As you follow this trend, we stand ready to provide the AV press with information about how this activity is progressing. As outlined above, our position is about serving our membership using our current formats; we are not out to create a new association or trade show around the residential market.

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