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Killing the Killer Showroom

Ditch Your Design Center For A More Productive Work Space

So if you are like most integrators these days, then you are probably looking for ways to reduce your costs by improving efficiency in your organization to help maintain profit margins in a less-than-rosy business climate. My advice is to look around. No, really, stop and actually take a

Instead of a showroom, invest in a boardroom where you can sell your services and your professionalism. close look at how you are utilizing the physical space for your operation.

How large is your facility, and how is it divided up? How much space have you devoted to administration or general office space and warehouse facilities, including shipping, receiving, and short- and long-term storage? Do you have a dedicated production area for building equipment racks off site? How about a dedicated testing space where you set up and actually test all functions of all systems before they are deployed in the field? Have you separated your space to designate separate areas for administration, systems design and engineering, AutoCAD/documentation, and project management? If you have not, then what’s your excuse? The answer for many will be that you simply do not feel that you have the space for all of this or even the time and/or resources needed to create them.

Why the lack of real estate? I would argue that many of us have wasted our space, time, and resources to create showrooms or “design centers,” when we should have used the square footage for more productive purposes. To be clear, I am not saying that creating a space in your office with limited demonstration capabilities for clients, architects, builders, etc., is a bad idea. On the contrary, I think that it is vitally important. What I am saying is that the days of creating expansive, multi- theater showrooms with significant square footage dedicated to kitchen, bathroom, and home office “environments,” is not only inappropriate and wasteful from a business operations standpoint, but also completely unnecessary.

If we agree that a full-blown design center is truly old school, then what is the alternative for meeting with clients and others from time to time to discuss projects, close the sale, etc. At my firm we have concentrated our efforts on three areas that we see as being vital for a great guest experience: the entry foyer, the boardroom, and the guest restroom. We have oriented these three spaces so that they are in close proximity and allow guests to easily access the restroom without needing to wander to the back of the building. We involved a professional interior designer and decorated these spaces with fine furnishings, custom millwork, and elegant touches reminiscent of a fine home, not an office environment.

In terms of technology, we can demonstrate distributed audio, lighting control, motorized window treatments, automation, and home cinema. However, due to the relatively small size of the total area, it was both cost effective and time efficient to implement.

A single, large flat-panel display and speakers in custom millwork at one end of our boardroom allows us to provide an impressive home cinema experience where we can present a huge variety of high-resolution photography of our work stored on a dedicated PC. This, in a sense,

Richard Millson ([email protected]) is president of Vancouver-based Millson Multimedia. allows us to create a vast and very comprehensive “showroom” of all of the products and services, all showcased and presented in the form of actual completed projects. A single remote control operates all of the systems in the room.

This demonstrates in a powerful and non-verbal way that we are experienced and comfortable with systems integration and that we understand how important a simple user interface is to the client. In short, our facility is designed to sell our firm, our technical competence, and the experience of working with us, not showcase any specific discipline, technology, or brand of product.

If you are a smaller integrator planning on growing your business, then you would do well to forget trying to build the killer showroom and concentrate on dedicating your future space planning to elements that will dramatically increase you ability to do the work, as opposed to selling the job. If you are an established integrator with a sizable showroom or design center, then you may want to consider re-allocating some of that space to give yourself the room that you need to improve your existing business processes and your employees the resources that they need to be more efficient.