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Is He the Next Sam Runco?

To be fair, SIM2 USA VP Alberto Fabiano’s actual words were, “I am no Sam Runco,” after noting how many dealers still cite that particular industry icon as the best service man in the business. Yet Fabiano indeed wants to be known as the same “buck stops here” kind of guy at SIM2 USA that Runco once was for his projec

To be fair, SIM2 USA VP Alberto Fabiano’s actual words were, “I am no Sam Runco,” after noting how many dealers still cite that particular industry icon as the best service man in the business. Yet Fabiano indeed wants to be known as the same “buck stops here” kind of guy at SIM2 USA that Runco once was for his projector company.

Alberto Fabiano

“[Our dealers] always say, ‘When I was a Runco dealer, I always knew that whatever I needed, Sam was there. He took care of me.’ It’s time for a company like ours to get back into that feeling. So I am going to be that man to make that promise. I am no Sam Runco. Sam is a great man who did a lot for this industry but I’m taking charge and making sure that SIM2 USA provides the best, bar none — the best sales, customer and technical support available in the market today.

Fabiano says that SIM2 USA is changing its philosophy to focus less on product specs “one-upsmanship” and more on reliability and service.

“The time of flaunting products has come and gone,” he said.

SIM2, he noted, believes that it must concentrate less on boasting about contrast ratio, a projector’s brightness, or “what the next big thing is going to be,” and find ways to help its dealers stay in business.

“What you need to give us is a business proposition that the product actually does what it promises, that offers a competitive advantage over the other brands, and once I install it I don’t have to be worried because it should be working,” Fabiano stated. “And, just in case in that rare occasion that it doesn’t work we need to be there for our dealers.”

And before anyone accuses SIM2 of putting up a smokescreen to hide from a lack of new products, the CES Innovations winner for “Best 3D System,” is, in fact, introducing a new single-lens 3D projector with active glasses, and is offering any customer with a Lumis projector purchased in the last two years an upgrade to 3D (for a fee).

“There’s not another company that can take their old projector and upgrade it. But that’s the difference between being a manufacturer and something else,” Fabiano said.

In total, the company plans four new projectors in 2011, but among its plans for “putting money back in [its] dealers’ pockets, SIM2 is introducing the Premiere Club (like a movie premiere) for a very restricted number of top-selling dealers throughout the country. And for the rest of its dealers, the company is going to offer the Gem Program, which rewards sales at different purchase levels.

These programs, Fabiano said, are going to give dealers better deals (not necessarily discounts) and better “means of doing business.” Although he was cryptic about the details, Fabiano noted that specifics will soon be announced.

The key, he said, is that dealers and their clients want stability now when it comes to spending money. They want a product that’s as reliable as a high-end projector can be. “If you do something to like pitching a product as the greatest new thing and then only test it out for a month and it turns out to be a disaster, that’s not what this industry needs right now. It’s not what our industry needs at all. It needs stability.”

And, for a company like SIM2 USA, the CEDIA channel is still the place to be. “We need to be focused on our channel, which is CI and not having these ideas like other companies have and going to sell to places like Best Buy,” Fabiano said. “Because when you do that, you’re promoting this loss of identity for our channel. If you can find a SIM2 projector at Wal-Mart would it help our customer base? I don’t think so. Now, on the other hand, there are [non-luxury] brands out there that are single-handedly managing to take our industry down, by lowering prices and saying that their projectors look as good as a $20,000 one.”

Fabiano says that the luxury market is still strong, as evidenced by the success of a company like Cartier, which recently added a new store in New York City. He excuses the high price of luxury goods by noting the amount of time and money it takes to support such brands with their demanding consumers.

“It’s not because SIM2 makes a killer profit from it or that the dealer makes a killer profit from it, but these people need to finance this demanding customer, which if the projector breaks or the receiver breaks or the light control faults, they want you’re there right now to fix it. Is that something that Best Buy or Wal-Mart will be able to offer? So how do you think we’re going to pay for that service if not through a different price structure, which allows these folks to make enough money at the sales stage so they can actually offer those services.”

When asked to comment on the reliability of high-end projectors, in general, Fabiano noted that most brands are the same, frankly, and that high-performance products are always prone “to have a little issue.” But as part of SIM2’s new service plan, the company now tests every projector shipped from its factory in Italy to its warehouse in South Florida, for 48 hours before sending it to the dealer. “From that point the dealer can set up the projector and leave it with the customer with the confidence that that projector is going to perform the way it’s supposed to,” Fabiano said.

But projector technology is also getting more reliable, Fabiano said. “Our big seller is the Lumis line, which is a three-chip projector. It’s a high-end, high-quality unit that we were the first to give the five-year lamp warranty on, and under that plan, to date, we have changed the fewest amount of lamps of any projector in our line, which is two, on the entire sale of projectors we’ve sold in the past year.”

Fabiano points to better cooling designs and better materials as factors in this reliability statistic, which is all part of the company’s new commitment to its dealers. “We’ve realized that doing business is difficult but that if you’re here today, it’s because you’ve done something right. And, if SIM2 has to invest in anything it has to invest in its dealers and that’s what we’re doing. This is our commitment for 2011.”