It’s that time again when we all start tallying up wins and losses for the year and thinking about the next 12 months. If you’re not thinking about where your company is heading as we move into 2024, now is a good time to get going. Here are some industry trends and guidance to consider as the year comes to a close:
Lighting and Electrical
Events Iike Lightapalooza and venues like ProSource’s Lighting Technology and Learning Center are validating the CI push into all things lighting. Consider jumping into this exciting category by identifying the types of projects you’re passionate about. Whether it’s outdoor lighting, linear lighting, or fixtures throughout the home, there are myriad opportunities to learn more and partner with electricians, or even bring it in-house.
Whether or not you bring high voltage in-house, consider developing programs to become an ambassador to electrical contractors who crave adding labor to their own scopes of work. While CI businesses count on 30 percent of their revenue mix for labor, electricians expect closer to 70 percent. If you can show a homeowner, builder, or specifier the difference amazing lighting makes, the next step will be to demonstrate your ability to partner with the electrician and put them at ease. Engaging resources like Light Can Help You on the front end will ensure you have a solid design and engineering foundation that can guide the electrician through the process of installing the fixtures you sell into the project. This may involve you cutting them in for a piece of the action, or they may just be happy to have more holes in the ceiling to wire.
Also by Henry Clifford: Rethinking Specialty Training
It probably sounds strange to reference commercial projects in a publication called Residential Systems, but diversification of revenue is vital to withstand the shark’s teeth of economic boom and bust cycles. The low and middle markets in the residential vertical have eroded substantially in the past 18 months, and while high-end luxury projects are still out there for the taking, this could represent a substantial loss of revenue for integrators too heavily reliant on production home builder business. Thankfully, there are ample opportunities for integrators looking to diversify their offerings through easy projects like conference rooms, huddle spaces, and access control. Try differentiating by offering proactive technology planning services where you forecast the lifecycle of the system and start talking about upgrades three to five years out as part of the initial sale. No one likes surprises, and your clients will appreciate your efforts at being proactive.
Memberships in professional networking groups and the development of relationships with the project management practices inside commercial real estate firms can create project pipelines similar to the way homebuilders feed the funnel on the residential side. It takes awhile, but the key is to hang out where the commercial players play. In other words, it’s no different than when you first grew your residential side. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll start connecting with the ball. Don’t expect it to happen overnight.
While the middle market may be getting hammered due to high interest rates, those with cash are doing just fine, as evidenced by the number of huge homes and luxury multifamily residences coming out of the ground or being renovated. Now is a perfect time to refresh your builder, architect, and designer relationships by stressing your expertise in luxury technology solutions. Consider approaching your clientele as a concierge, leaning in heavily on the idea of listening for pain points and providing a one-stop shop for their project, offering to project manage other subcontractors while becoming the proverbial “wringable neck.”
While dedicated theaters may be in decline, the recent wave of direct-view LED video walls running upward of $1 million is more than enough to offset any lost revenue. In addition, the advent of art as more than a static image means that there’s a whole category of moving content only viewable on high-resolution displays. Consider looking into vendors like Blackdove and Planar to better understand subscription art and video wall options.
If there’s anything in your lineup that doesn’t offer an opportunity for security monitoring, 24/7 remote support, or extended warranty attachment, seriously consider dropping those products. 2024 is a perfect time to begin the march toward covering 100 percent of your operating expenses with services revenue. Imagine never having to worry about payroll again and whether or not you need to take on a potential client full of headaches…
While ChatGPT, Bard, Grok, and Claude aren’t going to magically save your business, 2024 will be a breakout year for AI. Expect to see the first jobs eliminated (entry level at first), and AI will become truly multimodal (able to see, hear, and speak) in ways that will surely see large language model AI engines connected to our voice-assistant-enabled homes. It’s your job as a technologist to understand these innovations; expect your clients to have a ton of questions about how these bots should be integrated. Use this opportunity to plan for more and more home technology to become part of the network using mesh technologies like Matter and Thread.
Also by Henry Clifford: 5 AI Tools You Should Be Using in Your CI Business Right Now
Your 2024 is a blank sheet of paper right now, and it’s going to get filled up with work no matter what. The big question is, are you going to plan it out proactively or just let it happen reactively?