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As I Bid You Adieu

It is with some sadness that I write this article, my last submission for this column. I am honored to be one of two of the original columnists who have been with the magazine since it was launched six years ago. One quality of a successful magazine is a commitment to bring in new ideas and new contributors. The time has come for someone else to share his or her experience.

Looking back, I remember when I was first contacted back in 1999 by Kirsten Nelson, then the managing editor, regarding a new magazine they were launching called Residential Systems. She said the focus would be successful management and expansion of systems integration, and that they believed that I would be able to make a valuable contribution. I was both flattered and apprehensive at the same time. Although I had spoken at numerous industry events, I had never written a column, or for that matter, an article. Kirsten was very encouraging, saying that all I had to do was say what I believe, and that she was confident that the results would be useful to others.

I have had the opportunity to address a wide range of topics. Most were fairly innocuous such as opinions on speaker selection, motorization, video displays, and other missives about the nuts and bolts of the systems that we provide. I shared my experience working with builders, architects, designers, contractors, vendors, other trades and, of course, clients. I discussed stealthy integration, cabinetry, acoustics, programming, energy management, convergence and industry trends. I also attempted to tackle some more difficult topics including business practices, maintaining profit margins, our responsibilities to our clients, ethics and underhanded behavior and how we might grow the industry by changing how we approach our trade.

Occasionally when I felt I might potentially cross a line, I would first consult with my editors. I always got the same answer: Write what you feel is important; we are sure it will be appropriate. The editors never directed (or even nudged) me toward or away from any topic. I would be informed of the editorial content for upcoming issues, but then given the latitude to write about any subject I felt appropriate, whether in sync with the other articles or not.

Writing this column has given me an additional perspective on how far our industry has progressed over the past six years. It seems like we have gone from an industry that most people didnt know existed to a visible, growing segment. While many big-box chains are struggling or even downsizing and specialty retailers are trying to re-evaluate their business models, systems integration is growing and thriving. In fact, the custom electronics industry has grown to an estimated $15 billion per year.

I certainly plan to continue to be visible in the industry. I have been elected the next vice chair of the TechHome Division of the CEA, and to participate on the CEA Board of Industry Leaders, which are both tremendous honors. And to top that all off, my company just moved into a new 14,000-square-foot facility, which we are still in the process of building out.

I would like to thank the staff at Residential Systems, both past and present for the opportunity that they have given me and for their unconditional support. I also would like to thank you, the readers. I have received numerous positive responses to my articles over the years. This feedback has gone a long way to encourage and inspire me, especially when I had pushed the deadline as far as I could, and just couldnt come up with the perfect topic for the next issue.

Though this is my last column submission, this may not be the last time my voice will be heard in this magazine. The editors have made it clear that theres always an opening for me in the future if theres a story Ive just got to tell. I always enjoy hearing from readers and I invite you to e-mail me at any time with your thoughts and comments. Until then, may you all integrate in good health.