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More Training, Less Pitch

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Manufacturers Respond To Changing Dealer Needs With Targeted Educational Programs

Technical and business training in the residential electronic systems contracting business has come of age. Staffing reductions and a challenging economy have created more demand for innovative business approaches and efficient installation techniques from manufacturers and distributors, yet there is less time for ESC business owners to get that training accomplished.

While CEDIA’s University curriculum is gaining acclaim as an educational standard, manufacturers and distributors still serve essential roles in increasing the knowledge

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On-Q recently overhauled its installation training programs. The result is On-Q University, which enables each installer to get the exact training that they need to execute their specific job. base of their dealers through specific product training and business classes. Many of these companies are now offering more creative and effective options, such as self-paced online options, hands-on “boot camps,” and regional road shows. Product sales pitches that were once inaccurately branded as “technical training” are no longer tolerated by time-crunched dealers, nor are one-sizefits- all classes that are too broad to satisfy both veterans and newcomers. Through training programs, manufacturers and distributors are becoming business partners with their dealers like never before.

A HANDS-ON APPROACH
On-Q recently overhauled its installation training programs after soliciting suggestions from its dealers on how to make the trainings as efficient and effective as possible. The result is On-Q University, which enables each installer to get the exact training required to execute a specific job, whether in sales or installation.

“Both our sales and installation training curricula offer a hands-on approach to reinforce learning and engage the student,” explained On-Q/Legrand director of training Terry Baker. “Whether it’s roleplaying a sales presentation to a homebuyer, or terminating cable and configuring a system, students of On-Q University will get the practice and interaction they need to ensure their success.”

On-Q also offers a complete online training curriculum to demonstrate techniques and allow installers to learn at

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their convenience and at their own pace. At the end of each training module, the student takes a brief quiz on the information that they have learned. Upon passing the quiz, the student is then eligible to receive accreditation through CEDIA, BICSI, and NBFAA, as well as state-specific certification.

Panamax likes to "bring the lab" to its dealers through on-site demonstrations, testing competitive equipment onsite, and allowing dealers to get the Panamax power management products experience for themselves from the comfort of their own showroom or sales floor.

Panamax also prides itself on being a small and agile company that is easy to work with and partner with. "We provide online training videos and webinars to allow the dealer to get the kind of training they need and deliver it when they want it," said Marshall Currier, the company's national training manager. "Manufacturer representatives conduct training out in the field or assist dealers with webinars that are hosted from the corporate office with somewhat of a tag-team approach. Customers can always contact me for virtually any training need. Training materials are also available via our website at www.panamax.com/Training.

THE DEALER'S PERSPECTIVE
Steven Rudler has experienced enough training from various manufacturers in his six years as lead tech for amnet Technology Solutions in Stamford, Connecticut, to know a good class from a bad one. Having taken the Programming 1 and the Installer courses from AMX, he has come to the conclusion that a class is only as good as the person teaching it.
“If the trainer can’t relay the information in a way that is understandable, then it doesn’t matter how much training you get, it just won’t sink in,” he said.

Rudler, like most integrators, also learns best when offered a hands-on technical environment in which to apply his new skills. “I feel that having a good test system to work on while learning is key. My AMX class offered a mini set-up with a touchpanel and the Ni-3101, a keypad, and a Cisco switch.”

AMX University director of training Paul Bohnsack proudly acknowledged that he often has students tell him that trainer in his program was the best they’ve ever had. “That creates a fun challenge, since a student might have a different trainer for their next class,” he said. “We all try to keep the students engaged regardless of their background, make the class interesting with realworld application stories, and still teach them what they need to be successful with AMX.”

A TRAINING EXTRAVAGANZA
It may be the time of year, the state of the economy, or a combination of the two, but suddenly new manufacturer training program schedules seem to be cropping up every day.

Crestron recently launched its North American DigitalMedia training tour, with three instructors traveling across the continent, visiting 13 cities on 13 dates. Each of the 60 half-day sessions will include educational presentations and interactive demonstrations on the company’s new product. Students are given resources to take home as supplements to classroom instruction and online videos also can be viewed and downloaded from the Crestron website for quick review, or to share with colleagues who could not attend in person.

NuVo Technologies’ new education and service offerings include a nationwide training tour with advanced classes for established NuVo dealers and enhancements to its web-based training. The NuVo Know HOW Hands-On Workshop Tour 2009 began in Columbus, Ohio, on March 24, and ends on June 17, after visiting 21 metro areas. Attendees may earn CEDIA CEUs (continuing education units) and are offered hands-on experience with real NuVo products.

CEDIA CEUs, a requirement for maintaining “Certified Professional” status in the trade association (see sidebar), have become a popular “value-add” for many manufacturers in the channel. Universal Remote Control Inc. (URC) recently announced that all of its training options—inperson training, live web-based training, and 24/7 self-paced online training—now qualify for CEDIA CEUs.

“In this difficult economic environment, educational options for custom electronics professionals should be both time-efficient and relevant,” said Mitchell Klein, URC director of business development. “Thanks to CEDIA’s embrace of approved manufacturer trainings, like ours for its CEU program, URC installers can now gain the valuable training on our products they need, while maintaining their CEDIA certifications in the process.”

TAKIN’ IT TO THE STREETS
Though their approach is more product “lineshow” than actual technical training, ELAN Home Systems and sister companies Sunfire, Home- Logic, and ATON, have responded to dealers’ concerns regarding cutting down on travel expenses and show attendance by launching a 50-city “Takin’ It to the Streets” North American road show. The group will award more than $30,000 in product prizes as an incentive to attend the free event, which is designed to be the stage for one of the biggest product rollouts and new sales promotions of the year for the company.

Now in its fifth year, Control4’s 2009 In Control Tour begins on May 13 in Fremont, California, where the focus is on how to survive the recession and put the building blocks in place to grow a business once economic conditions improve. In addition to teaching dealers about Control4 products, the
As with many manufacturers, training programs are the core to the success of Control4. The company’s free Tech 1 training is offered in four locations around the country and four training modules are available online. company offers a half day on how to run a successful business through effective finance, quoting, sales and marketing, and project management.

“Training programs are core to Control4 and its dealers’ success,” said Control4 president Glen Mella. “We’ve adopted a format that doesn’t require a huge time or cost commitment. In addition, we get valuable feedback from our dealers to improve our dealer support and product offering.”

Control4 event attendees are eligible for 2.0 CEDIA CEUs, and the company also has added online training modules, including a Large System Design Course, which focuses on serving the highend customer. Control4’s free Tech 1 training is offered in four locations (Salt Lake City, Charlotte, Chicago, and York UK) and its Tech 2, Sales 1, and Sales 2 certifications are provided online and can be taken at the pace of the participant.

THE DISTRIBUTOR’S ROLE
Distributors have definitely gotten in on the training act as well. ADI has revealed its next level of free dealer training through the ADI Expo Series. Free to all industry professionals, the ADI Expo offers a range of training seminars, a chance to demo the latest technology, and an opportunity to interact with leading manufacturers and local associations.

“In this economic environment, it is imperative that we provide our dealers with new programs, solutions, and education to help diversify their product offering and increase revenue,” said ADI vice president of sales John Sullivan.

ADI’s Shifting Gears tour, which will visit 39 cities across North America, kicked last month in Orange County, California.

On April 9, AVAD will launch its second-annual Vend-O-Palooza tour from its national headquarters in Van Nuys, California. With dozens of vendors scheduled to participate, each of these events, held throughout the year at local AVAD branches, is expected to draw hundreds of dealers who have the opportunity to see product demos, ask questions of AVAD vendors, and attend a series of workshops focusing on topics such as business management and training sessions.

D&H Distributing, the North American computer products and consumer electronics distributor, is strengthening its commitment to customers with enhanced programs, resources, and financing for dealers, installers, and retailers. Offerings include a Business Assurance credit program, which will amount to $38 million in new credit for D&H customers; the “Better Business” seminars at
the distributor’s 2009 trade show events; and educational tools like the “D&H TV” online “webisodes.”

Electrograph Systems Inc. led off its own Display Technology Experience (DTE) complimentary reseller program series late last month in Dallas, offering a full day of training sessions, networking opportunities, and new product showings.

“Continuing education and networking is vital in a down economy, especially when there are fewer trade shows and other events to bring us together as an industry,” explained Electrograph Systems president Sam Taylor. “Our focus for the DTE 2009 program is on the commercial and residential business essentials—digital signage, retrofit installations and ways to prosper in both markets during tough times.”

Kicking off in Seattle on April 19-21 and continuing through November, Capitol Sales is partnering with CEDIA On The Road for its Learning Institute Regional Outreach events. All Capitol Sales class attendees are, therefore, eligible to receive CEU credits through CEDIA University.

“We have always viewed education as the best weapon in a challenging economy, which is why we are offering an expanded version of our acclaimed Dealer Education and Technology Showcase,” said Capitol Sales president and CFO Curt Hayes.

Jeremy J. Glowacki (jglowacki@nbmedia.com) is editorial director of Residential Systems.

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