With staff reductions on the rise and referral business leads drying up, it is tougher than ever for a residential electronic systems contracting business owner to find all of the company resources that he or she needs to thrive. As a result, more and more owners are beginning to outsource their installation, programming, financial, and even installation labor to save time and money.
Catering to this growing need, CEDIA recently printed a new directory to help ESC, manufacturer, and distributor members identify appropriate and qualified professional service providers. The 2009 CEDIA Professional Services Member Directory was designed to enable CEDIA members to easily search for, target, and contact one of the association's numerous Professional Service Members to assist with specialized tasks, such as marketing and public relations, sales and business strategies, technical services, or event planning.
CEDIA's Professional Services Members represent a cross-section of independent companies and professionals that are focused on information-based services for the residential electronics marketplace. They offer a wide array of services and consultation programs, including support with marketing and advertising strategies, graphic design, website design, product launches, media exposure, promotional goods, product design and development, hardware and software engineering, trade show management, strategic business planning, and financial and administrative development.
The Professional Services group was formed under the guidance of CEDIA COO Don Gilpin, with action team members, such as Leslie Stevens, Frank White, Coleen Sterns Leith, and Joel Rosenblatt, helping launch the initiative.
"Our goal is to raise awareness that these professional service folks exist within the CEDIA channel," said Sterns Leith, who runs her own PR and marketing firm. "I talked to a gentleman the other day who had worked with a couple of our members on marketing materials, and he said, 'Wow! It's great working with somebody who understands our business.' I think our group creates a better value for the manufacturers, distributors, or dealers who want to work with these professional services within the industry."
Rosenblatt, who considers himself a home theater "audio education guy", acknowledges the self-serving nature of the group that he helped create, but thinks that it's foolish for manufacturers and installation professionals to not take advantage of the services offered within
"It's really great for an industry to have a group of consultants who offer these kinds of services to those who are smart enough to take advantage of them," he said. "You can get knowledge and experience and good advice from these people, and you don't have to do all of these things that so many people don't want to do nowadays, like pay long-term salaries and benefits, and make commitments that go on for years and years."
Frank White, who spends most of his professional time consulting with manufacturers in the ESC channel, acknowledges that it may be difficult to convince a CEDIA member to move his or her marketing services from a local business to someone in another city, just because they're a member of the same trade association. "We have to have realistic expectations of what we're going to get out of this group," White said.
But White likes to make this point with manufacturers: "If you're going to outsource anyway, why wouldn't you use someone from the industry? You have dealers buying from you. If you're going to do business, then you may as well try to do it within the same community."
And for a manufacturer or ESC who has not even considered outsourcing back-office tasks, White offers a dollars-and-cents argument. "What's an hour of your time worth?" he often asks. "If you're working 50 hours a week, and you're running a $500,000 operation, then for every hour that you work, somehow you have to be generating $192.38 in income, 52 weeks a year. Just four or five hours of trying to write copy for a brochure, or having to drive over to get a photograph from an installation really starts to add up. That's when outsourcing that stuff begins to look very interesting."
For more information on CEDIA Professional Services Members and the Professional Services Action team, visit www.cedia.org/psat.