Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Going Back to the Installation Basics to Grow My Business

In the past 18 months as Crestron dealers, my company has been doing a lot more lighting and shading than I ever imagined possible, with AV becoming secondary. I’m beginning to miss AV, and that got me to thinking.

Like most custom integration businesses, my company started off small, with big ambitions. Ten years later, and The Source Home Theater is installing Crestron automation and AV systems with price tags in the six figures. But I’m not trying to pat myself on the back. In fact, I want to get back to my roots. In the past 18 months as Crestron dealers, we have been doing a lot more lighting and shading than I ever imagined possible. In fact we are doing predominantly lighting and shading, with AV becoming secondary. I’m beginning to miss AV, and that got me to thinking.

There is a huge market out there in the more budget-friendly jobs, and I’m working through how to either structure my company more appropriately to tackle these jobs or to form a subsidiary to do this type of work. Here’s what I’m talking about:

•Mounting TVs
•Surround sound systems
•Multi-room audio with Nuvo, Denon Heos, OnQ, and Leviton
•Networking with Pakedge and unmanaged switches
•Single-room control systems from URC, RTI, or Pro Control

•Simple safety systems with front door intercoms and cameras from Wirepath or similar brands:

• There have been a rash of break-ins in my town, heightening awareness and the need for these products

•Maximize the demographic changes by providing intercoms for older customers who can no longer get to the door as quickly as they would like

Why would I want to delve back into this market? There are so many reasons, but mainly because it is my passion, and there is a big business opportunity. Think of all the production builders out there who won’t pony up for an automation system but want to be able to market the house as modern with music in every room and with a the great “bones” of a setup in a multi-purpose media room? Or how about all the former clients who need upgrades to the systems we put in 5-10 years ago before all of the streaming content?

So what is the best way forward? As I see it, there are two main options:

Hire more staff under The Source Home Theater and do a broad range of work.

The pros of this approach?
•Leverage brand awareness,
•Leverage marketing spend
•Easier for clients to remember one company name
•Leverage employees – can send teams to two different jobs in a day without having to change trucks and/or clothes

And the cons: 

•May muddy the branding waters. What do we stand for? Who are we? How do we position ourselves in the market?
•Do we become or look too big and impersonal?
•Impact on company image with designers, architects and other professionals
•Higher end clients may come to your website and see lower end work and want to down-scope some of their more profitable work for something less expensive and less profitable (fewer profit dollars)

Create a new business or subsidiary of The Source, with a different name, to serve this market.

The pros:
•Can target our marketing more precisely for both brands with consistent and clear messages

•Easier to track success and profitability of the two market segments

The cons:
•More overhead to run two business (phone lines, websites, trucks, uniforms, etc)
•Client confusion with two different company names to remember
•Lost productivity as teams cannot be as interchangeable

After speaking informally with some solid business minds that I trust and mulling this over for a while, I am leaning toward a possible blend of the two. Something along the lines of The Source Home Automation, and The Source Home Theater. That will mitigate the confusion and may even allow us to make teams more interchangeable, while also keeping separate brands for market and bookkeeping.

Have any of you managed to bridge the gap between these two markets? Have you done it under one brand umbrella or have you set up two separate companies? I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.

+Todd Anthony Puma
is president of The Source Home Theater Installation, Powered by Fregosa Design, in New York City.