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AiN Group Conference Attendees ‘Live & Learn’

This year, AiN’s four-day conference was held at the Naples Grande Beach Resort.

(from left) Russ Cersosimo, CEO, Guardian Protections Services; Tim Whall, CEO, Protection1; and Joe Nuccio, CEO, ASG Security—moderated by Michael Barnes, founding partner of Barnes Associates, St. Louis, MO 

Earlier this year, more than 350 AiN Group dealer members and partners gathered in Naples, FL, for face-to-face time with consumer electronics experts, a surprise performance by TV/film star and stand up comedian Henry Cho, and hands-on product demonstrations from manufacturers.

The Authorized Integrators Network (AiN) Group/GE Home Technologies buying group was built by and is made up of consumer electronics dealers serving the residential and commercial building industries.

This year, AiN’s four-day conference was held at the Naples Grande Beach Resort. Attendees included 350 guests comprised of more than 30 manufacturing partners and service providers, such as Bose, Klipsch, ADP, Dirt Devil, and UPS. Twenty- five dealer members were recognized for their outstanding business performance in 2016 during the Farewell Dinner and Awards Ceremony.

“As in past years, the accommodations were lavish and the content was rich,” said Stan Matysiak, president and founder of AiN.

“At every one of the Live & Learn conferences, there are a lot of one-on-one conversations,” added Grant Copple, U.S. sales leader at Interlogix and a member of AiN Group since its inception. “It’s a great place to be able to capture all of our best customers in one location. It’s relatively unusual that you would have the sharing of information [between members] like you have at a Live & Learn Conference.”

Wednesday night special guest Henry Cho took the stage for a surprise set of stand-up comedy

Day one kicked off with a cocktail reception and a poolside welcome dinner at 6pm; earlier for those who teed-off at the championship golf course—Naples Grande Golf Club—located on the resort. The formal dinner opened with remarks by Matysiak, who addressed the guests and the board of directors about a rebound in new residential construction in the U.S. in 2016. Then, special guest Henry Cho took the stage for a surprise set of stand-up comedy.

After dinner, dealers had the chance to sit one-on-one with specific manufacturers, fellow dealers, and vendors to exchange ideas. “The most impactful event is this one,” said Bob Fallert, vice president of sales at Legrand, “You bring disparate dealers from across the country together, some of whose markets overlap or share, there is a little apprehension. What do I share? What don’t I share? Over time, watching it as a vendor, the sharing, the collaboration has increased a thousand- fold. That’s been the greatest thing to watch.”

Day two began with opening comments from Matysiak, followed by the Alarm Company Acquisition Panel, featuring Russ Cersosimo, CEO of Guardian Protections Services; Tim Whall, CEO of Protection1; and Joe Nuccio, CEO of ASG Security—moderated by Michael Barnes, founding partner of Barnes Associates, St. Louis, MO. The panel provided a security industry overview, covering the topics of security transactions and company performance metrics. They also addressed how leading companies handle alarm/security company acquisitions by “assessing potential target companies” and the best approaches to ensure “the deal is a win-win for both companies.”

Keynote speaker Roy Spence, co-founder and chairman of GSD&M, presenting his mantra “Don’t Do Mild.”

Keynote speaker Roy Spence, cofounder and chairman of GSD&M, a leading marketing communications and advertising company, next took the stage. Following his mantra, “Don’t Do Mild,” Spence spoke about what it means to be part of a purpose-built company, and how purpose gives people the drive and tools to be successful in work or life.

“When you have purpose on your side,” Spence said, “when you know you’re serving customers, when you’re caring, community, and convenience, and you’re involved with the American dream, people feel it and they want to do business with you…not for what you sell but for what you stand for.”

Michael Barnes presented next with a 2015 Security Industry Overview. He noted that total U.S. revenue for the alarm monitoring/service and systems integration companies have increased five percent to $52 billion; total U.S. installation revenue increased four percent to $27 billion; and total U.S. alarm monitoring/service revenue increased eight percent to $25 billion.

The night concluded with the Product Showcase & Cocktail Reception in the Royal Palm Ballroom, where attendees got hands-on with the latest home technologies from manufacturers like Legrand, Klipsch, Dirt Devil, Pioneer, Qmotion, and ipDatatel. In addition, $30,000 worth of trips, products, and gift cards were given away.

“It’s hard with all of our travels and all the demands we have on our company to get our general manager and myself in front of this many customers in such a short period of time,” Fallert said. “To me, that is one of the greatest values [of AiN]: the face time I get.”

John Begeny, VP of marketing for AiN Group, discussed new marketing tools for 2016 that, according to him, “are exclusively available to dealers at 70 percent less than the cost of a high-end advertising agency. These tools include over 50 customizable marketing collateral materials that have been tested by other integrators in the marketplace, such as showroom displays, event graphics, and existing customer marketing.”

Kirk Harris of Interlogix demonstrates Advisor System during product showcase

Begeny also suggested several ways that dealers can build and maintain brand relevance with more home buyers, such as branding each of the smart home technologies they install with a decal displaying their company’s logo, name, and contact info. He also advocated engaging in “unexpected behaviors” with customers; for example supporting the homeowner’s local fundraiser to “get the customer talking about your company.”

On day three of Live & Learn, Barry Rutenberg, the past chairman of the board for the National Association of Home Builders, and Bob Fallert of Legrand, were up first with the 2016 Builder Forecast. Fallert remarked, “The gateway to the home is really going through the router setting. Homeowners don’t know how to do it, the service providers do. It’s the new frontier. You can’t offer home control without interfacing with the data network. You have to ‘own’ the network if you’re going to deliver streaming content and other functions to a homeowner in the future.”

Fallert was asked why homeowners should choose a professional installer when they can simply buy a DIY solution.

“Forays into DIY security have been, for the most part, a failure. Cheap price. A lot less than having a guy in a truck pull up to my front door,” replied Fallert. “But let me ask you, would you want to be on the hook if you didn’t set [the DIY security system] up right and then something did happen? What’s your real motivation for buying the product in the beginning anyway? You had a concern about your security. Wouldn’t you rather hand that responsibility over to a professional?”

Legrand’s Steve Baker flips the switches for AiN dealer Ricky Marks Matt Meade, co-chair of Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney PC’s Cybersecurity and Data Protection Group, was the next keynote speaker of the day. Meade spoke about recent high-profile data breaches, state data security laws, best practices to protect and secure customer and employee data, and steps to help create a culture of cyber security compliance.

“If the inevitable data breach happens,” Meade said, “prepare yourself, prepare your employees, and you can tell a good story to any regulator or party that’s investigating what happened in connection with that data breach.”

Following Meade’s presentation, Frank DeFilippis of DISH Network introduced AiN Group dealers to a new trial partnership with DISH. Details on this partnership will be announced upon completion of the pilot program.

The final speaker of the day was retired US Navy Captain and author of It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, Michael Abrashoff.

“Leadership isn’t about being liked,” said Abrashoff. “It’s not about affection from our people. It’s about staying safe in tough times and giving our people a vision as to why what they’re doing is important and how they can make a difference.”

Day three concluded with a farewell dinner and the AiN Group Live & Learn Dealer Awards. Guardian Protection Services received the Grand National Dealer Award; and Phoenix Systems, DataSmart Home Technologies, iWired, and Dynamark were honored with National Dealer Awards.

Day wrapped up with a breakfast and breakout session conducted by all AiN Group manufacturing partners started and ended the morning and final day of the 2016 AiN Live & Learn Conference at the Naples Grande Beach Resort.

“This is a family organization, and I look at my relationships with the group as very personal,” concluded Sean McDermott, founder of Current Audio. “[The Live & Learn Conference is] not a business deal to me. It’s not about getting a good deal. It’s not about getting a good steak. It’s about doing business with people you want to do business with.”

The 2017 AiN Group Live & Learn Conference will take place at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, AZ, on January 25-28.

AiN dealer awards lined up for presentation  AiN Group Award Winners

Grand National Dealer Award: Guardian Protection Services

National Dealer Awards: Phoenix Systems, DataSmart Home Technologies, iWired, Dynamark

Dealer of the Year Award (Midwest Region): Ranger Technology Solutions

Best Supporting Dealer Award (Midwest Region): ProCom Enterprises

Dealer of the Year Award (Western Region): KPS

Best Supporting Dealer Award (Western Region): HomeRun Electronics

Dealer of the Year Award (Florida): HabiTech

Best Supporting Dealer Award (Florida): Crime Prevention Security Systems

Dealer of the Year Award (Eastern Region): Quantum Security & Innovations

Best Supporting Dealer Award (Eastern Region): Silent Guard Security

Rising Star Awards (Eastern Region): Republic Elite Integration and Trinity Wiring Solutions

Rookie of the Year Award (Eastern Region): Xssential