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Q&A: Jay Faison of Zobo.tv, SnapAV

Discusses iPad impact and the future of the custom market.


Jay Faison, president of Zobo.tv and SnapAV, says integrating Apple into systems has helped bring in referrals.
CE Pro Editors · April 28, 2010

Jay Faison opened Charlotte, N.C.-based Zobo.tv 11 years ago and quickly built the company into a perennial CE Pro 100 firm.

In 2005, frustrated by the limitations of being a small, private business owner in the consumer electronics industry, Faison opened SnapAV, a direct-to-dealer business. He quickly developed a manufacturing business that now offers more than 800 products in 20 categories.

Why did you, an installer, enter the manufacturing market?
The simple answer is that, as a dealer, I saw the need for a supplier like SnapAV.

Before I started Zobo, I was a Blockbuster franchisee where it was fairly easy to build a big, repeatable business. With Zobo, the goal was to do something similar in the home technology space. About six years ago we were at a crossroads with Zobo: Did we want to open more stores or do we build a company that could share the savings opportunities with other dealers that we had identified in our own supply chain? The value proposition we knew we could provide to dealers was just too compelling to turn down.

What do you now know about the manufacturing business that other installers don’t know?
They are totally different businesses and I can’t begin to list what we didn’t know [as an installer], but have since learned. However, it is the years Craig Craze [his original business partner and current SnapAV COO] and I spent on the custom install side that gives us the big competitive advantage as a manufacturer. We understand dealers because we were one.

You promote turnkey room solutions in standard and premium levels. How is that approach working?
A common complaint aimed at our industry is that the customer leaves the first meeting expecting [a cost of X] and gets a quote two weeks later that is [twice X]. I’ve always been a believer in setting and meeting expectations. That is why we have the package prices on the wall.

Working the store one Saturday I remember closing a $12,000 sale in 15 minutes - from “hello” to signing the contract. They walked in and saw the system they wanted. I had the package already set up in our quoting system. I printed it. They made a couple of changes. I revised it. And they signed it.

That is the way the system was supposed to work, but everyone still has special needs so 15 minutes is pretty unusual. However, having the package as the starting point takes out a ton of complexity; from selling and quoting, to tweaking the proposal, to installing the system.

It’s important to note that our packages are actually divided into sub-packages like “receiver/dvd package one, two and three.” We still go with a good, better, best system like many integrators do. We also always give the customers a taste of the reference systems to pull them up a little.

Where do you think the custom market is going in terms of audio, video, networking and automation sales and technologies?
I think the time has come for custom installers to offer technology concierge type services that include helping customers share music files, fixing or adding wireless networks, lowering energy costs, etc. I know that a lot of dealers are already doing this, but we need to learn how to make money doing lots of little stuff even if customers aren’t buying a lot of gear.

For example, on a personal level, I have an Apple guy that I pay $60 an hour to come by my home quarterly and make sure that I know all the cool stuff I can do with Apple. I love it. If he sold gear, I would buy from him rather than Zobo. I see systems getting built in pieces and updated as you go along.

Apple is changing the game. Zobo just became an Apple dealer and we haven’t figured out exactly where we are going to go with that, but we sold $130,000 of Apple gear last year at no margin. So now we will make whatever they let us make, and make a little on service.

Integrating Apple into systems is a lot of what brings in referrals. The iPad will be huge for us and we need to make sure that we hand that product off to customers fully equipped to get the most of out of the other stuff we sell.

Honestly, that is where we need to improve. Our guys are A/V guys, not computer guys. Also, where do you draw the line with what you are going to provide? Like I said, we haven’t figured that out.




  Article Topics


News · Apple · iPad · SnapAV · Zobo · All Topics
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