For the past 13 years, I've stood up for custom integrators, lauding their technological finesse and congratulating them for providing personalized service that hardly any other contractor can match. Yeah, well, enough of that. It's time to highlight the silly things integrators say. Oh, I've mentioned these ridiculous mantras in the past, but have never assembled them. Here we go!
1. They've made the programming too easy, now anyone can do it. This absurd sentiment became popular at the 2005 CEDIA Expo, where AMX, Crestron and Vantage introduced new drag-and-drop programming environments, just as Control4 has done since the beginning. The new platforms can cut programming time in half — or more. Bad news according to many dealers, who have apocalyptic visions of diminished programming revenues. Give me a break! Complaining because a manufacturer has just doubled your productivity and made it possible for you to hire lower-cost technicians?
2. All electrical contractors suck. This is one of my favorite maxims. The theory goes: Electricians only know how to do one thing, and that is run high-voltage wiring. Despite thousands of hours of classroom and on-the-job training, all electricians are too inept to be taught to run low-voltage wiring. However, that doesn't stop them, and they go ahead and run Cat 5 anyway — always parallel to their Romex, of course. I'm not sure how it follows that electrical contractors cannot learn the low-voltage business, yet car-audio dealers and A/V retailers — where most of our industry came from — can in fact learn the trade. (See CE Pro, “Standing Up for ECs,” Sept. 2004.)
3. Cookie-cutter home automation and A/V systems undermine the very fabric of the “custom electronics” industry. I'd say that failure is the only thing that undermines the fabric of the CE industry, and failure is what happens to a lot of companies that create every system from scratch and give every customer everything they ask for. Sure, some integration companies do just fine in the ultra-custom world. However, for the majority of integrators, prosperity comes to those who standardize on systems that work well enough for most of their clientele. (See CE Pro, “Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, Pepsi,” Sept. 2005.)
4. I'll never buy product from XYZ company because they sell through distribution — or worse, retail. I won't get into all the fiscally sound reasons for buying through distribution here. Suffice it to say, they are many. To be sure, buying direct has its privileges, but how many dealers really analyze those benefits with an accountant by their side? Often, buying direct amounts to little more than stroking one's ego and enjoying fabulous dealer trips to exotic locales. (Don't get me wrong, I enjoy them too!) Furthermore, dealers should not categorically write off manufacturers who sell some product through retail. Our industry is too small to rely on custom integrators to generate all of the exposure for categories like distributed audio and automation. DIYers, in any case, are not your customers. (See CE Pro, “Channel Conflicts be Damned,” Aug. 2004.)
5. I'll just give away the structured wiring and make money on the upgrades when the homeowner moves in. Famous last words of e-house and countless others. (See CE Pro, “Revenues Don't Equal Profits,” Feb. 2002.)