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How CEDIA Is Reworking the Business Track Educational Offerings for EXPO

Today's business owners and the professionals who work for them are called on to meet an increasing number of challenges posed by competition, the economy and a changing marketplace. Combine that with the rapid pace of change within our industry as well as technology in general, and you have a formula for a difficult world in which to operate a business.

Today’s business owners and the professionals who work for them are called on to meet an increasing number of challenges posed by competition, the economy and a changing marketplace. Combine that with the rapid pace of change within our industry as well as technology in general, and you have a formula for a difficult world in which to operate a business.

CEDIA members depend on their association’s education programs to assist them in building stronger businesses. As a way of helping members focus on their training and continuing education needs, CEDIA is restructuring its education curriculum. The newly revamped curriculum will help members improve the ways they address employee training through a more up-to-date education program. The new structure, based around career paths, will offer instruction they can apply directly in their careers.

The biggest change you may notice in CEDIA’s education program is the transition from a nine-track curriculum structure to a five-track system. This new curriculum will be rolled out at CEDIA EXPO 2003, where members can begin taking advantage of CEDIA’s new education plan. Beginning with last month’s leadoff article (RS March 2003, p. 34) and going forward with this current article, we will describe the changes by offering details on each new track. This will continue in the months leading up to EXPO, which is scheduled for September 3-7, 2003, at the Indiana Convention Center and RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

This month’s focus in on CEDIA’s Business Track, which is the only segment of the Association’s revised curriculum that did not undergo a complete overhaul. On the other hand, we have made the effort to dramatically alter the track’s curriculum to better address the needs of industry business owners and managers. In fact, more than 50 percent of the business courses planned for 2003 are brand new, while the majority of the returning courses have been either modified or completely re-designed by new, fresh instructors.

Our chief goal in restructuring the track is to focus not on the general business skills that can be learned through your local community colleges and business seminars, but rather on industry-specific knowledge and skills that would be difficult to acquire outside of an industry forum like EXPO. Working closely with the assistant dean of the business track, Jocelyn Stover of Custom Electronics Inc. in Falmouth, Maine, and other industry leaders, we developed a broad curriculum that caters specifically to the residential systems industry. Examples of industry-specific learning opportunities include, “Managing Inventory, Vehicles and Labor,” an operations management course focused on strategies for more efficient asset management, and “Running an Effective and Profitable Service Department,” a course that discusses how to derive additional revenue and profit from our existing customer base.

The other primary objective in restructuring the business track’s curriculum was to address a broader audience. Historically, courses have been targeted toward the “typical” CEDIA member–the owner of a small, yet growing residential systems firm who has been at it for a few years and does not have a formal business education. In reality, our industry is growing rapidly and is now rife with new entrants and industry veterans, even CPAs and MBAs. As a result, we have worked hard to expand the curriculum to attract the interest of a broader range of owners and managers in our field. For example, we are targeting new entrants to the industry with courses such as “Starting and Building a Residential Systems Contracting Firm,” which teaches someone how to successfully enter this growing industry. For those industry veterans who have attended the courses taught previously in this track, we are offering higher level courses that focus on industry and market trends, recession strategies, exit strategies and courses that investigate entry in new business sectors. Even CPAs and MBAs will be attracted to courses that discuss successful versus unsuccessful business models and other industry-specific content that can only be acquired from years of industry experience.

In general, the business track offers something for everyone–from the industry newcomer struggling to figure out how to hire qualified technicians and properly price systems, to the industry veteran seeking assistance in evaluating trends and investigating expansion and exit strategies. Course content ranges from the nuts and bolts of day-to-day operations and accounting to confronting the opportunities and threats facing our industry today and in the future. Either way, the content of the new curriculum presents a new perspective on where we are today and where we’re heading.

You may ask why the business curriculum needs a new perspective. With a thorough analysis of markets and trends, industry leaders understand that this is no longer a burgeoning cottage industry. Our industry is growing and maturing rapidly out of necessity, and large multi-national corporations are not only taking notice, but also taking interest. Let me explain.

The PC and networking industries have saturated corporate America with a networked PC on every desk. The home is the new frontier. Applications driving multiple PCs in the home are not the typical PC applications such as word processing, database management and e-mail, but rather audio, video and gaming. This shift is forcing a convergence with the consumer electronics industry as evidenced by HP’s recent introduction of its Media Center PC.

Because a typical homeowner is incapable of hooking up a basic “digital age” home entertainment system (i.e. HDTV plasma, Tivo, MP3, satellite radio, Internet gaming), professional installation services will be required for years to come. Unless A/V retailers or ISPs surprise us with a sudden understanding of how to succeed at in-home service, CEDIA companies will remain the primary delivery channel for technology in the home, which has now been expanded to include Internet services, PCs, PC networks and their integration with new age home electronics.

While the industry has advanced dramatically these past years, the reality is that we are only in the early stages of a massive growth spurt. The next five to 10 years in this industry will be explosive. Your trade association, CEDIA, is working hard to prepare you for what’s to come. This is a crucial time in our industry. Grasping the opportunities resulting from this explosion will be a major objective for many residential systems businesses.

With a better grasp of our industry’s business operations and market influences, residential systems professionals will be better equipped for meeting the rapidly evolving nature of our business. We need to respond to these changes and meet the increased demand that will come with the growth of residential systems as the delivery channel for change. We must meet these future needs, or we will find ourselves watching the next industry evolution pass us by.

Our industry is calling on us to respond. Change continues to bring us new and difficult challenges, but it also offers us many new opportunities as well. With an eye toward the many tests that await us, we have concentrated on building a more focused business curriculum that will equip our industry’s professionals with the business smarts they will need for survival and success.