AV Industry Consolidations – How Does This Affect the Buyer of AV Technology?
I suppose it is an indication of audiovisual industry maturation that mergers and acquisitions will occur more frequently. For several years now the local regional companies that typify our industry have been gobbled up by larger companies and local markets became larger and larger regions. With the interest rates so low for so long, the deep pocket people need to invest in something, and technology due to its impressive growth presents a good choice. And the AV Technology market is showing no signs of slowing down.
Companies are acquired because a larger enterprise wishes to expand into new market areas or because of a beneficial synergy between the companies. Oftentimes, the more attractively-priced companies to buy are the ones in trouble. To an outsider, the thinking is that a better-capitalized organization can add efficiencies in overhead by consolidating, thereby adding to the net profits. To a seasoned insider, this is an erroneous assumption and a very dangerous one at that. The insider knows that the lion’s share of the cost of sales, besides merchandise, is the direct labor. To terminate staff is to lower sales, a self-defeating outcome. Whether a company is large or small, only the companies with well-defined processes are profitable, and that’s all about management and leadership.
The sad fact is that the AV industry is still struggling to deliver quality to the AV Buyer. Proof? When was the last time you experienced a job that was delivered on time, exactly as ordered, and with no defects (no “punch-list”)?
Will consolidation help? Absolutely not! It makes it even harder! The regional companies will inevitably have their own loosely-defined tribal procedures with little or no consistency, and “my way is better than yours” impedes processes to integrate. The industry is still struggling with how to define meaningful lines of responsibilities with the almost life-saving freelancers that pervade the industry. With consolidation, and a growing use of freelancers, how can you assure quality when there is little agreement in expectations between parties, poorly defined processes, and nonexistent criteria-based training programs? Everyone knows that the larger the organization, the more difficult it is to maintain quality.
Our “AV culture” is in lag to the rapid changes in technology, to begin with. Re-work dominates. Profits are elusive, although there is no shortage of work.
With all these changes, it may seem hopeless for the AV Technology Buyer who struggles with poor quality and nonperformance regularly. Yet, nothing can be further from the truth! The fact is that the AV Buyer has the power to correct things and make it better for the Buyer, and even more profitable for the Provider. How? Through the power of the language of their RFP’s.
Since the AV9000 Standard was introduced, more AV Buyers have either shortened or reduced the punch lists altogether, turning over rooms to production faster. Placing compliance to the AV9000 Standard as a requirement for payment applies the requisite discipline to make it happen. And the AV Provider will thank you!
The AV 9000 Standard addresses actual procedures, which is the key. The Standard provides auditable metrics for every major milestone in the development of the typical, and atypical, AV project. The checklists that are furnished with the Standard clearly define the completion of an AV project milestone, something that is crucial to managing AV projects.
Thus, even enterprises with tribal ways of doing things can all agree what would be meant by “Engineering Review”, “Site Ready”, “Staging”, and “Commissioning”, for example. Developmental training programs have something to focus on as the teams develop. How a team attains a milestone can vary, depending on the training and experience of the individuals that make up the team, the efficiency resources they use, and so on, but the milestones are defined by the AV9000 Standard.
Consolidations, and the use of freelance technicians, engineers and programmers will undoubtedly continue to spread throughout our industry. The AV Buyer is well-advised to use the AV9000 Standard as the Quality Assurance language of their RFP’s, insist on their vendors being trained and certified in its application, and maintain the discipline to make it easy for the vendors to follow it. The AV Provider can use the AV9000 Standard as a common language for project completion that can guide completion of a project despite ever-changing personnel.
Only then will the AV Users get better quality systems, punch lists be eradicated, the profits return, and the inevitable lowering of prices that can occur as the vendors strive to increase their market share.
There is a free copy of the recommended language to include in RFP’s, including the current Staging and Commissioning Checklists, available on the “Free Resources” page on the AQAV website: www.aqav.org.
Also check out “Screening Questions to Ask Prospective AV System Providers”, also on the “Free Resources” page.