Catalyst AV Distributor Group to Focus on High-Tech Products, Training
The executive board of the new Catalyst AV distribution alliance, (from left) Mike Hench, Wally Whinna and Steve Presti, says the group plans to assist integrators with high-tech IT product training and applications.
So while the team at the new 11-member Catalyst AV network that was announced in Dec. 2012 isn’t about to start handing out red roses or banishing anybody to a remote island, they are working on ways to be different from other distributors.
The group’s board of directors - Mike Hench of Electronics Source, Steve Presti of Easy Access Distribution, and Wally Whinna of Allnet Distributing - say there is a major shift occurring in the supply chain for the custom electronics industry. Whereas previously many manufacturers fought going to distribution, today they are relying on them to provide the technical services and training that manufacturers can no longer offer.
“We fill that need,” says Whinna. “We will be offering cradle-to-grave service. Vendors can’t do that. We are selling at the project level with the integrators … helping them put packages together and helping them integrate equipment that we may not even carry.”
“We offer one-on-one relationships with dealers to help them with bids, installations and reducing their service calls,” Hench adds. “We also guide them to new technologies.”
Key Categories; Intense Training
“Integrators need almost professional IT level knowledge these days,” says Whinna. With that in mind, the three key categories Catalyst AV will be pushing are:
- Home networking
- Video distribution
- CCTV security camera surveillance
The group recently announced its first round of vendor agreements, signing Vanco, ICE Cable, Vivitek, PPC and IC Realtime.
“There will be no A, B, and C lines carried by the members,” Whinna says. “And that goes both ways … the vendors must use Catalyst AV.”
If technology guidance is what integrators are demanding, Presti says there is no organization better suited than Catalyst AV. “Dealers need industry professionals with real answers to their questions. We know the channel. We understand specialty distribution,” he says.
Presti bases that on the experience of the group. Nine of the 11 members were previous members of another distribution alliance, namely EDGE Group or Digital Delivery Group (DDG).
Hench say the requirements to become a Catalyst AV member were an on-site training facility, employing people out in the field to assist integrators, and “tier 1” tech support.
“We will focus on application support … actually showing integrators how to do it,” Presti adds. “Products are more sophisticated today. We are all cultured in the level of technology. The members all sell first-tier, sophisticated products. We plan to be a think tank for the industry in the field.”
Part of that “think-tank” mentality will be sharing best practices in the field, posting instructional videos and creating business plans for integrators to adopt. Collectively, the group cites having 10,000 dealer customers already.
Hench says the group plans to meet physically three to four times per year and have regular conference calls. “Everyone is actively giving feedback. We have already shared a lot of benchmarking data,” he says.
In terms of leadership, the group has plans to eventually hire an executive director, but for now the board triumvirate of Hench, Presti and Whinna will be doing the vendor negotiations.
In addition to Electronics Source, Allnet Distributing and Easy Access Distribution, the other members of the new alliance are Audio Video Warehouse, Custom Plus Distributing, Electronic Lane Distributors, Electronic Stockroom, HCA Distributing, Pioneer Music Company, SPD and Tech Source Distributors.