Riding the Rails

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During the Great Depression in 1930s America,it was not uncommon for a down-and-out person to hop on a freight train and travel from town to town in search of a day’s labor to fee himself, IMAGE HERE and perhaps a family back at home. With the increasingly dire state of the U.S. economy I have begun wondering what it will take to bring our country to the same dire circumstances that the world faced before World War II.

As unintentionally comical as the vision of any of us becoming boxcar hobos may be, there’s no debating the fact that we are now, officially, in the midst of a big-time economic slump that has sent shock waves throughout the rest of the world. Is it time to pull up the proverbial stakes, hit the metaphorical rails, and move on to another business? Absolutely not. If you are in this industry for the right reasons, you should stay in it, and do what you do better than ever before.

I would argue that during our current economic downturn, it is critical that we all pause and take stock of what we do best and focus on making our core competencies the best that they can be. It is important that you not dilute yourself by trying to be all things to all people. Find ways to improve your efficiency, learn everything there is to know about the products that you sell, and get rid of anything that does not serve your business.

Improving the state of your business certainly means putting your financials in order, but it also means getting certified and licensed if your state requires it. If we learned anything from the ridiculous series of Joe the Plumber-themed presidential stump speeches last month, it was that it can be pretty embarrassing to say you are a pro in a trade, only for the world to find out that you don’t even have a license to do that work in your state. CI standards do vary from state to state, but CEDIA is pretty clear about its membership requirements. Yes, CEDIA and other IT and AV certification programs can cost you money, but there’s no debating the positive effect that these certificates can have on reticent clients who, during these tough times, would like some reassurance that they are spending their money on a qualified company. The less cynical argument, of course, is that you might actually learn something new from the certification process that makes you better at your craft.

The recent news that CEDIA is expanding its University brand beyond its own events to include the EHX trade show next spring in Orlando, provides you with one more place where you can complete this process. Though on the surface it seems like CEDIA has already tried this relationship and failed, these are different times. It seems logical that the industry’s leading trade association would want to broaden its reach in the market and to improve the overall standards of the industry with a program that has become a huge investment. CEDIA has long emphasized that it is more than just a trade show, and this move is the organization putting its money where its mouth is.

After a light turnout at CEDIA EXPO in Denver, and what looks to be a pretty disappointing showing for EHX this month in Long Beach, the economy will prove a tough test for any trade show, no matter what it is offering attendees. I,like many others, chose to skip the fall show, but look to the spring as an event still worth covering. Maybe I’ll have to hop a boxcar to get down there, but here’s hoping our country is back on track by then. IMAGE HERE