Today I took a colleague of mine to visit another partner company of ours, GMI Automation. In fact, I currently share some office space with GMI and work together quite a bit. GMI started as a security company that has expanded to be a full-service automation player with a large footprint in both the residential and commercial space and is our go-to security partner. It was very interesting to compare the strictly mid-market residential business of my friend with the luxury, high-budget residential and commercial mix at GMI.
Tour of a Commercial Integrator’s Showroom and Offices
Craig Metzger, the owner of GMI, gave us a bit of history about the company and their office space. Approximately two years ago he had the opportunity to purchase the building in which he was leasing office and warehouse space. With that purchase the company offices moved from the second floor down to the first floor into a space previously occupied by the prior owner, but largely unused. With a strong presence in the NYC Hedge Fund market, Craig wanted the new office space to be both highly functional for the company, but also a showroom that mimics a small hedge fund office.
Historically clients wanted to see the GMI office space, but also wanted to see a set-up similar to their own offices. That often required visiting not only GMI in Central New Jersey, but also driving over an hour to Crestron HQ in northern NJ. Often clients could not devote that much time, especially considering that the Crestron Experience Center was not available after hours. Now, with a fully functioning office that doubles as a showroom, clients can make one visit and see everything they need.
There are the "traders" desks set up in the ubiquitous "T" shape with the head traders at the top and the analysts along the side; the video wall showing BloombergTV, CNBC, MSNBC, and FOXBusiness; the board room with dual monitors for video conferencing; and the huddle room with a single video conference setup. When potential clients enter the space, they are seeing a microcosm of their own office. In addition, clients (particularly the IT team that comes by) can be taken behind the racks to see the equipment, the attention to detail in wire management, and how meticulous the team is. Everything can be done in one visit, reducing the time to close the sale.
I know I have praised the benefits of manufacturer showrooms and experience centers in these pages in recent weeks and I still am a strong supporter of them, but there is so much to be said for having your own showroom space that you can customize and tailor exactly to your client base. The equivalent of what GMI has done in the residential space would be renting an apartment and fully outfitting it with gear or converting your garage to a fully functioning theater with a bedroom and small kitchenette along with office and warehouse space. The commercial market is a bit more conducive to this as the space truly pulls double duty and clients are very comfortable visiting your office, but often less so visiting your home. However, executing a similar strategy in the residential space could be a homerun.
I use my own home as a show space for clients to come see what is possible and I know others in the market who do the same, particularly because it is so expensive to rent dedicated office and showroom space in the NYC market. Rents in NYC proper would likely exceed $20,000 per month and could be as much as $50,000 for a suitable commercial space that could be used a showroom.
How do you use your showroom and office space? What great ways have you customized your space for your clientele and the distinctive needs of your market?