With the current U.S. economic climate and on the heels of last year’s subprime mortgage crisis, it’s hasn’t been an easy time for integrators who work with new home builders. But if any company can overcome tough odds, it is General Electric, which recently launched its Authorized Integrators Network (AIN), a group of about 125 residential electronics dealers who have been authorized to integrate products from GE Home Technologies and its manufacturing partners.
During this past February’s AIN University event in Sarasota, Florida, members of the group gathered together to learn about developing successful strategies for engaging builders during these challenging economic times. There, attendees found out how they can benefit simply from their affiliation with GE, one of America’s best-known and most highly regarded brands. While it may only be only one component of an AIN member’s business strategy, it’s still a very powerful one, said Stan Matysiak, CEO and president of AIN.
“We are in a position to leverage our muscle in this business,” he said. “GE’s existing relationships with builders includes a 50 percent share in appliances, over 60 percent in lighting, over 65 percent in elecrical distribution, and over 70 percent in finance on the ground as well as vertical. The company has 2000 employees that spend their life calling on builders and developers every day.”
Through AIN, GE Home Technologies has assembled a national network of quality integrators that serves as a valuable resource to new construction builders and buyers in both the residential and commercial marketplaces. Members can present themselves to builders as part of GE Home Technologies, the nation’s first and only national low-voltage program for builders. While membership currently includes 125 integrators, AIN is looking to add as many as 230, total.
The typical AIN integrator is a larger firm that can keep up with volume, while adhering to a strong service ethic, according to Matysiak. “We want professionalism, and we want guys who are going to sign a pretty lengthy agreement that says we will do good work always take care of the customer,” he said.
The concept behind AIN is delivering all of a builder’s low-voltage needs in a single, coherent, cost-cutting package through certified AIN members. Their package not only includes GE’s security products, but a complete collection manufacturers in other product categories, such as Sony for video, Klipsch for audio, H-P Products for central vac, Panamax for power management, Vutec for screens, OmniMount for mounts, Tributaries for wire, and DirecTV for content. Other partners include Escient, Bass Industries, Direct Connect, SCP, and Labor Savings Devices.
“You have to have the number one or two brands and get them in the box and work out a joint venture with them and work on the same program,” Matysiak said. “That’s the product platform that these dealers will use so they all look, taste, and feel the same.”
H-P Products’ vice president/floorcare general manager Greg Calderone said that what attracted his company to AIN was Matysiak’s vision of a cohesive program that utilized the top professional integrators across the country to deliver a comprehensive variety of quality brand-name products to builders and homebuyers.
“This program is remarkable because, in effect, it gives the local integrator the marketing muscle, product inventory, and functional footprint of a national company,” he explained. “Many of AIN’s members have been very successful in their own markets, but it’s always been difficult for them to service national builders who are active in their areas to the builders’ high expectations.”
By joining AIN, Calderone added, these local integrators now have access to national product, marketing, and sales resources that deliver consistent levels of value, service and technique to builders across markets. The builder, in effect, doesn’t see a “local integrator” so much as a local branch of a national network, and because of that, the builder knows that he can expect the same level of service and professionalism in every market.
For Klipsch, AIN dealers have access to the speaker manufacturer’s entire line of architectural products, which currently consists of over 40 products and a variety of price points. The company’s Northeast territory manager Marc Fisher said that when Klipsch works with AIN, it approaches training differently that is would in the specialty retail channel. “Because we’re dealing with installers, our training goes beyond sales and brand awareness,” he said. “We also teach them about installation practices, application theories, execution and troubleshooting. It’s important that they know how our products integrate as part of an entire system.”
Vutec’s vice president of sales Kevin Baisley, said that although the timing of joining AIN is challenging because of the bad economy, there is great promise and potential for the manufacturer. “It opens up an entirely new family of integrators and dealers who we’ve never dealt with before,” he said.
Mike Ralph, president/CEO of Interactive Systems, is one of those integrators. He noted that AIN not only affords his company with the opportunity to promote and sell some of the most recognized low-voltage brands in the world, but it also ties him to a network of his peers.
“As a member of this group we have the opportunity to meet with and discuss virtually any issue related to our individual business with our fellow members,” he said. “This includes both our success stories as well as our failures. The environment that has been created within the AIN GE Home Technologies Group is very unique and maybe even unprecedented in our industry. Although we all represent and operate separate companies, we have a very strong bond and commitment to the group as a whole.
Ralph Gregory, president of Security Force Inc., agreed that the AIN network is a “like a family” where everyone wants to help each other be more successful, but pointed to something else. “The buying power that we have as a group, compared to just one individual company, is reason enough to be a part of this group,” he said. “I think the importance comes to light with the consumer, when you have the ability to offer the best brands in the world with the best name recognition you have a home run. Not to mention the reliability of the best manufactures in the world today. GE, Sony, Klispch, and Dirt Devil to name a few.”
To find out more about joining the AIN team, visit www.aingroup.com.