Four Questions for… Jeremy Burkhardt

As by far the most visible and outspoken executive within the Nortek/Linear family of AV and control products, Jeremy Burkhardt has been an easy target following Nortek’s Chapter 11 announcement this past September. Never one to shy away from controversy, however, the SpeakerCraft president was willing to answer our f
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As by far the most visible and outspoken executive within the Nortek/Linear family of AV and control products, Jeremy Burkhardt has been an easy target following Nortek’s Chapter 11 announcement this past September. Never one to shy away from controversy, however, the SpeakerCraft president was willing to answer our four questions about this restructuring as well as the latest developments from his own brand.

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Jeremy Burkhardt

1 First, please explain the Nortek Chapter 11 situation, because there’s a sense that it’s like drawing the “Get Out of Jail Free” card in Monopoly.
The real answer is there is no free pass involved. We are responsible, and in the end everyone must pay somehow. Nortek’s prepackaged Chapter 11 provides that certain note holders will receive equity in the company in exchange for their note. Current Nortek shareholders like me who had millions in stock now have nothing and had to give up their equity.

This is an important step in strengthening Nortek’s balance sheet and capital structure. We have a bunch of fundamentally sound businesses operating in established markets that are poised for continued growth and success. The court has scheduled a confirmation hearing on December 4, and we believe emergence by year-end is a reasonable timeframe, largely dependent on court schedules.

Our customers and suppliers have been very supportive, and there have been no disruptions in our businesses. The market will see no changes in the quality, availability, or competitive pricing of our products and services. All deliveries will be made on time, and we will, of course, honor all customer programs and warranties in the ordinary course of business.

The way I see it is if you liked us before, then you will dig us even more after this is over. We will be stronger with new partners, and I hope to invest even more heavily in new products and services.

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SpeakerCraft’s NIRV will be designed to make on-screen programming a must and small high-efficient digital touchscreens, and iPhones, and other handhelds the heart of every system.

2 Moving on to other SpeakerCraft news, what makes your new Nirv concept so different from other AV control products?
The only reason we have focused on control is that we believe the solutions currently available have missed the mark with a great majority of the customers to whom our dealers sell. Programming old-school systems is very labor intensive, but setting up your AV system and 95 percent of lighting and HVAC should be as easy as setting up a character on screen in Tiger Woods Golf.

Nirv is the easiest system to set up, install, and support. We are lucky being a new technology in that we don’t have to work with 20-year-old hardware and software. The technology simplifies system design and installation and allows the dealer to use just the pieces necessary to give the customer the features they want. The software and interface allow every member of the company to be a programmer with very little training. I said that the iPhone would eliminate keypads, and it has. NIRV will make on-screen programming a must and small high-efficient digital touchscreens, and iPhones, and other handhelds the heart of every system. The remote is a clean, minimal-button wand that also can be used as a paging device.

Beyond that, it is the ability of the system to address the needs of everyone in the home individually. As you sign on the system, it recognizes your specific preferences right down to your own EQ settings. No longer will a person have to depend on a generic interface.

3 Yet you aren’t abandoning in-wall speakers, right?
No, we pioneered the category over 30 years ago, and we currently offer the broadest line of custominstalled products in the business. Speakers are, and will remain, at the heart of what we do.

We have just begun shipping the AIM 10, the largest and most powerful in-ceiling speaker available. This is a large-format, high-SPL home theater solution for those who want sound pressure levels and bass response to rival those in their local movie theater or most expensive box speakers.

On the other end, the CRS3 is a three-inch singledriver speaker with the footprint of a can light. Dealers can sprinkle these throughout the house, add a subwoofer, and create an amazing music system.

We also are about to release our new Vital line of freestanding subwoofers that have been co developed with dealers to deliver amazing bass and control in a wireless format, so all you need is power—no need for RCA cables.

4 How often is SpeakerCraft on the road these days with its Mini-Gig dealer training events?
We are planning 20-plus Mini-Gigs this year around the globe, with between 50-120 people at each one. The response from dealers has been incredible. The industry realizes that business strategies and practices are areas where we all can most easily improve our efficiency and effectiveness. Most business owners want to do well, and sharing ideas helps in this endeavor a lot.

This started from my involvement in the CEDIA Management Conference. One year we had two of the four main instructors, so we decided to do management conferences for free around the globe for our dealers. We don’t talk product at all and just ask a few questions for input on the topic. We will also be hosting a full-scale Gig for more than 300 people in May, in California, to focus on management, design, and sales topics. Oddly enough, when you help dealers get better at what they do, they tend to be more loyal and buy more product. This is a compassion play and isn’t a fast ROI. But it does help everyone evolve.

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