Business

New Home Technology Association (HTA) to Push Dealer Certification, Elevate Industry

Home Technology Association launches with tiered certification system for integrators with goal to create better consumer experiences.

·

Read full article.

18 Comments
Posted by jmcdermott1678 on August 29, 2017

So, let me see if I’m getting this straight.  We have organizations like CEDIA who do this already with EST and other certifications, but now HTA is coming in and creating another of what they call a certification and vetting process for the industry.  Am I missing how this is any different from CEDIA?  HTA plans to show consumers in one way or another that these companies are the ones qualified to do their work.  Now all we as integrators need to do is pass their qualifications and then pay them $150 dollars a MONTH to be on their list?  It’s easy to notice that the integration firms quoted are top firms who can afford something like this.  How do small or new firms make their way in the industry if they can’t afford this fee?  Our firm does top quality work and we pride ourselves on that.  With our size, we have been trying to push ourselves into the higher tier of project/client by declining to take some smaller projects and pushing for larger ones.  We have to find new ways to market ourselves and new ways to grow our business.  Now, we have another industry organization that wants to collect money from us or else we look like we don’t know what we’re doing….  In return, we get to be on their “tiered” listing of certified dealers, and we get stickers and marketing material for HTA. 

Yes, the industry needs to be concerned about companies out there that make us look bad.  The issue to me however, does not seem to be that the clients don’t have a place to go to find qualified integrators.  It’s that they want the cheapest ones.  They look for the weakest links, who will sell at whatever price necessary to get the sale.  If the HTA is going to help us educate the consumers on why they need qualified integrators, then I can begin to see the value.  However, I’m curious how this tiered system of certified dealers is going to work, and if it’s just going to be another case of the largest and oldest always win the race.  I read this program as a good thing, but still with plenty of ways for HTA to make money of the little guys and more money off the big guys (with more benefits).  If I’m missing something, which I hope I am, then I do apologize for my rant!

Posted by jmcdermott1678 on August 29, 2017

One more rant:  This line is what I’m talking about, and what makes me nervous: “Not only will the Budget Calculator give them realistic technology budgets in just a few minutes, it will also lead them to the best qualified integrators for that size project in their area”.  It will lead them to the best qualified integrators for that size project…. which to me means, if you’re on the list, but you’re a little guy, you probably won’t get that referral.

Posted by Mrosen on August 29, 2017

JMcdermott-
I believe the whole concept behind HTA is to push clients to good companies instead of them hiring guy that is willing to slash prices because he doesn’t have the technical chops.  If I can get one project a year tipped to me over a trunkslammer, the 150 bucks a month is insignificant.  We DESPERATELY need a weenie line in our industry so kudos to the HTA

Posted by jmcdermott1678 on August 29, 2017

MRosen-  I agree to an extent, but I guess I need to know more about how they choose who falls into what tier, and how that affects what their monthly payment is.  On projects we compete against trunk slammers on, typically small projects, $150/mo would be considered a lot to pay per month to avoid such a thing.  I guess I’m saying I like the program, but I have a bad feeling the smaller companies like ours are going to suffer for it.  We still do projects between $20k and $50k, but we do projects in the $50k-$80k range as well.  We strive to do larger projects and we do high quality work.  I’m not seeing here or on the HTA’s site how they will choose what tier we fall into and how we won’t fall to the bottom of a list under the large, established firms. The program seems designed to squash the unqualified as well as the small firms that do quality work and yet still poise to compete against the larger.

Posted by jhamill1 on August 29, 2017

If an association could raise consumer awareness of our specialized field, CEDIA is already in place to do so; but that recognition hasn’t come. For those of us who don’t follow the politics within CEDIA, maybe someone can explain why it has been so ineffective and why there is a need for a new organization rather than seeking reform within the existing alliance.

As well, it is disappointing how many people from within our field attempt to generate their recurring monthly revenue off of the rest of us, whether they offer web ad services, network monitoring programs, branding schemes or, now, yet another industry association. No one gets into the A/V business to build their fortune. It’s one of two truths about our profession; the other is that HDMI sucks.

Posted by Tom Doherty on August 29, 2017

@jhamill1 - Your observation, conclusion and question in your first paragraph is spot on.  It would take a book or a weekend retreat to provide an answer/context to your question.  It is telling that after nearly 30 years a non-profit that has had over $250M flow through its revenue line that builders, architects, interior designers, much less clients, don’t vet whom they are going to hire/recommend is based on whether the integrator is a CEDIA member or not. That reality I do not see changing, ever.

Tom Doherty
CEDIA Co-Founder

Posted by avexpert2000 on August 29, 2017

Whomever came up with this idea should be hoisted on our shoulders and paraded around CEDIA Expo like a hero.  For far too long I have been dealing with clients that don’t trust me or the gear I sell because they got burned at their last house.  I see builder and interior decorators roll their eyes every time A/V gets brought up because they got burned by an incompetent installer at their last project.  I get clients constantly saying ” just give me some Sonos and Nest stuff.  That last (fill-in-the-blank) system i had was a nightmare”.  All of these uphill battles I fight are caused by guys that have no right being in our industry.  They don’t train themselves, they don’t engineer their systems, they don’t pick up their phone when clients have issues, they treat clients like guinea pigs, and they rely on vendors to bail them out constantly (yes, that 30 minute wait for tech support is caused by bad installers asking really dumb questions), etc. etc,

I see all these other industries that require ACTUAL QUALIFICATIONS to practice your trade.  We have had no prerequisites for starting a company and calling ourselves an integrator.  The “bad installer” problem our industry deals with is a deadly virus that has hurt us all.  The recession weeded out many of the bad companies but since times have been good I see more new A/V vans on the road than ever.  Have no idea where these companies are coming from but I know I am doing more “rescue” projects than ever. 

I know that CEDIA needs thousands of members to run that machine so I don’t expect them to ever be in the position to say “Hire this good company over this not-so-great company”. I also don’t think CEDIA should be an association just for the established companies but one that brings up new companies and helps them get better.

Anyway… Thank you HTA people for doing something to fix our broken industry.  Ignore the armchair critics.  For all of us.. you need to be successful.  Oh and I will be signing up.  Hope I pass the test wink

 

 

Posted by jmcdermott1678 on August 29, 2017

I guess I’m one of the “armchair critics”, and I’m probably exceeding the amount of comments I am welcome to make on an article, but I have had some time to really look into this and I want to alter my opinion slightly.

First, I want to clarify that I love the concept of qualifying companies.  If my concerns wind up being answered, I may even choose to sign up.  I’ve explored the HTA website, and I absolutely love the simple layout and the budget tool.  The website flows very well and the information for homeowners is laid out perfectly.

My concern is still the lack of clarification or distinction between who qualifies to install what systems, and the fact that it seems all members pay the exact same fees.  So, if it is decided, by someone we don’t know (and doesn’t know us) from a hole in the wall, that my company can’t handle systems over $100k, I never get referrals on these projects?  How is it decided who is in what tier?  How do we advance in tier over time, or can we?

Then there’s the fee concern.  If the membership fees are as simple as they are laid out, then a company with a $1m revenue will pay the same entrance fee and monthly fee as a $5m company, but the $5m company will receive referrals to larger projects?  How does that make sense?  I’m not saying that a project should be referred to a company that isn’t qualified to handle it.  It shouldn’t, and that’s part of what I like about this process.  However, the fees should be scaled to the tier of projects they are being referred.

Gaining my support (and others I’m sure) is likely as simple as having tiered membership fees and clarification on how the tiers work.  I can’t find this here or on their website, and I find that very concerning.

Sorry, I hope this is my final rant!

Posted by Julie Jacobson on August 29, 2017

jmc—You have 5 more comments left before the administrators cut you off. I didn’t see this as a rant. I think you raised some good questions. Carry on. We’ll ask HTA to address the comments.

Posted by avexpert2000 on August 29, 2017

JMcdermott-

I am interested to hear what the HTA guys reply with but I don’t see where the disadvantage is to be in a 50k-and-under tier or why you should have to pay less.  Whomever winds up in that tier is going to see way more activity in terms of opportunities.  For every 100k project there are probably 80 under-50k projects.  The companies in that tier will probably reap the most benefit since the lion’s share of the USA will spend in that range.  My ego wants me in a higher tier but my business sense says take the singles and doubles instead of swinging for the fences.  But back to the fee.  The HTA just has to help you sell one extra hour of labor a month to cover the fees.  Seems easy to justify the expense.  On moving up and down the tiers, it seems fuzzy on the website how that works so I hope the HTA guys jump on this thread and clarify. are you listening Josh Christian?  Join the party!

Am I exceeding my daily post limit?  Haha

Posted by jmcdermott1678 on August 30, 2017

avexpert2000- That’s a very good point, and I agree.  I’m not necessarily against paying $150/mo myself.  My concern is that the large companies will pay the same exact amount for what would obviously be larger leads to fit their business.  It’s not “terrible”, it just makes my stomach knot a little bit that this program may be playing too much in the big guys favor.  Agreed though, let’s see if the HTA can calm the concerns all around.  As nervous as I am with what I’ve seen with the program, I am still considering applying!

Posted by JC on August 30, 2017

HTA response - part 1:

@JMcdermott1678 and @jhamill1, thank you for your comments. You might want to grab a cup of coffee now as this is going to be a long reply from a representative of the HTA…

Speaking on behalf of the HTA, I can tell you that it took a full year to create the evaluation criteria. The goal, and admittedly, the challenge, was to make this fair to integrators and to the clients they serve.

The evaluation criteria were created after looking at many different size integration firms, the type of projects they excel in, and why and how they excel. Additionally, we consulted with many vendors, who also spend resources determining the factors that make their best dealers perform successfully, and also the factors that contribute to problem integrators performing so poorly. One of the biggest helps in all of this that must be highlighted was the immensely insightful help from our esteemed Board of Advisors. If you have looked at who our Board of Advisors are (see htacertified.org), you will recognize most, if not all, of these extremely smart people. We debated, revised, debated, revised, and in the end, came up a certification standard we are extremely proud of. In other words, a LOT of thought went into this.

To address some of the concerns brought up in the comments, size of the company does not have much sway over the tier certifications. And, the HTA website in no way tilts results in any way to favor large firms. If you are a great “little guy” company, well then…great! CI companies, as we all know, vary greatly. There are many excellent firms with fewer than 10 employees, who do just a handful of large projects a year, and with “high-touch customer service to go along with it. Then there are large firms that would rather focus on the faster turn projects where their sweet spot is well under $100K projects. And, both of these different business models can and do work great, if the company itself has solid business practices, technical know-how, and cares about customer service. Unfortunately, in the CI industry, there are far too many “tech experts” (quotes for cynicism) that 1 – aren’t experts, 2 – have terrible, if any, customer service, and 3 – frustrate their clients. This is a fail for the client and it hurts all of us who make a living with home technology.

As a CEDIA Certified Outreach Instructor myself with many years of outreach experience and dozens of presentations to specifiers (architects, builders, interior designers, etc.) I can report back with firsthand knowledge that our industry has little respect with the design/build industry. This is sad. Too many botched projects. These professionals look at this industry as a bunch of hobbyists. This point was driven home even stronger when I joined the design & engineering firm Axiom Design as a low-voltage consultant in early 2015. When I walked back into the architect, builder, and designer offices that had known me for many years in my previous career as a low voltage contractor, they suddenly felt at ease throwing the CI industry under the bus in our conversations. While that opened doors for me in my new-at-the-time role as a low voltage consultant, it saddened me that an industry I am passionate is looked down upon by these professionals that hold the keys to so many projects. This has to stop, and creating a real standard, with stringent requirements for certification, is a huge step in the right direction. Believe me, the design and build communities are going to love what the HTA is about. If they can narrow down their choice of companies to ones who have met a high certification standard, why wouldn’t they do so? They have nothing to lose and everything to gain by sticking to vetted companies.

In relation to CEDIA, two comments brought up were “we have organizations like CEDIA who do this already”...and “Am I missing how this is any different from CEDIA?” First point, we are not a competitor to CEDIA in any way, and we have different audiences. CEDIA exists to create education, tools, and support to business owners. CEDIA certifies individuals, not companies. The HTA certifies companies. Since there has been no standard of excellence for company certification in the CI industry up to this point, we set down the long and challenging path of creating a high standard…HTA Certification. The HTA exists to help consumers and specifiers hire the best firms. As you can see, CEDIA and the HTA serve different audiences. So, no, there isn’t any other organization out there doing what the HTA is doing. This is something new and different.

Posted by JC on August 30, 2017

HTA response - part 2:

This point needs to be clear: The HTA supports CEDIA (the HTA is a CEDIA member). The HTA and CEDIA both help integrators, though in different and in our opinion…complimentary ways. We display on HTA Certified dealer profiles if a dealer is a CEDIA member, and what CEDIA certifications individuals within the integration firm may have. CEDIA education helps CI firms up their game, something the HTA is 100% supporters of. We wish that all CI firms would have their techs get CEDIA certifications. And, it is great that CEDIA is creating more courses to help business owners run and manage their businesses better. This is what the industry needs…keep it up CEDIA!

Also, CEDIA is our industry’s voice in Washington DC if there is any legislation that affects the low-voltage industry. Our industry needs CEDIA, and the many benefits that CEDIA brings to integration companies are benefits that the HTA does not offer or compete with.

In a perfect world, integration companies would have both CEDIA and HTA Certifications. Integration firms would have all of their techs get CEDIA certifications, and the company itself would be HTA Certified.

Some of JMcdermott1678 comments I liked:
- “If the HTA is going to help us educate the consumers on why they need qualified integrators, then I can begin to see the value.”
- “I’ve explored the HTA website, and I absolutely love the simple layout and the budget tool.  The website flows very well and the information for homeowners is laid out perfectly.”
- “I’m not saying that a project should be referred to a company that isn’t qualified to handle it. It shouldn’t, and that’s part of what I like about this process.”

Great that you explored the website. Hope you saw the FAQ section, too. The tiers exist for the reason you think they do…to keep firms that do not have experience doing large complicated projects from being referred projects out of their wheelhouse. In saying that, there is some blending between the categories. Too long to get into the details here, but you’ll get a understand what I mean by playing with the Budget Calculator, and step by step, as the budget builds in real time, read the advice given to the consumer in the budget total area below. It changes based on budget range total, though is not as exclusionary as you might be assuming. You’ll agree the recommendations given to the consumer is fair. Again, a LOT of thinking went into this!

Regarding what factors determine what tier a dealer is categorized into, this is somewhat proprietary in order to keep the system from being gamed. It is a mix of company statistics, experience (rather granularly) at various budget levels, ratings from vendors (we do our homework!), checking endorsements, and more. We have a good chunk of homework to do to vet each company. Each HTA Certified company has to requalify every year, so yes, companies can migrate into different tiers.

Another point to make clear, we are in no way delusional enough to think HTA Certification will become a certification with a high degree of consumer awareness. Our industry is too niche, and we don’t need to be a household name for HTA Certification to be valid. I liken it to GIA certification for diamonds. If you are not in the market for a diamond, GIA certification is useless to you, and likely you didn’t even know what the GIA was until a jeweler brought it to your attention. When they did, they were able to back up what the GIA was with a website that listed what it was about, and you were able to quickly discern that the GIA classifies diamonds based on its characteristics. The HTA certifies and classifies integrators, and has the website and consumer education to back it up. Keep an eye out for yet more consumer-centric advice that YOU WANT YOUR CLIENTS TO KNOW ABOUT. If you point your clients to the site and they read the advice, they will most likely spend more and ask for things they should have, such as enterprise-grade networks, design & engineering documents, etc. We are urging consumers to spend the money for this stuff, because they need it.

I can go on and on even more, but this is too long already. Reach out to me on LinkedIn or through the Contact form on the HTA website, I’d love to continue the conversation and answer every question you have.

Keep your eye on our press release, which will also be available on the “Media Kit” link in the footer of our website.

Thank you for reading - Josh Christian

Posted by jmcdermott1678 on August 30, 2017

I’m pretty sure this is my last response…

Josh, thank you very much for the detailed response.  It did help to ease my concerns, and I hope it did for others as well.  I will be reaching out with more questions, as I will likely want to discuss this program with the rest of our leadership team here.  However, for the time being I do feel confident that this has great potential. I’ve gone from very skeptical to very optimistic.  Thank you

Posted by brandenpro on August 30, 2017

Give me a trade group that offers the CI channel power to fight the worthless products hardware/firmware produced by these manufacturers. 

We should not have to chase our tail at our expense.  Whether it costs us money, time or relationships with clients. 

Additionally, this group would fight for better 3rd party integration standards for all over the top control systems and not just 1.

The rest of this HTA looks good on paper but I dont expect much in actual output.  If you really want to get the industry locked down get the IBEW and its lobby spun up.  Otherwise its just farts in the wind.

Posted by Homemedia on September 1, 2017

Hi .. well its about time.  the industry has long needed an objective certification. 

the last 7 years have seen a flood of barely qualified firms. Or in many cases firms taking projects they were not equipped to handle.  I have already referenced our HTA certification to contractors.  I believe it will be yet another valuable sales tool.  Not only can we say we are certified, but we can point out when other firms being considered are not or certified at a different level. 

This also allows us to compete against our peers.  So that proposals will be judged accordingly and not just on budget.  Thus reasons for budget and brand selection differences by non-certified firms can be better understood.

thanks for all the hard work in creating this resource.

Posted by jwhitaker on September 2, 2017

We have our CEDIA certification. It’s all we need. I don’t feel the need to have our “business” certified. We build technology solutions. I snot need someone all up in my business lol.

Posted by hdtvsales on October 11, 2017

yeah! another certification that only means something if you keep paying for it. Oh and bonus they get to pick which projects you can do. cant see anything going wrong with that…
I can see it being useful for small companies wanting to get quick legitimacy and maybe Amazon will jump on board and let you do $150 hang and bangs

18 Comments
Posted by hdtvsales on October 11, 2017

yeah! another certification that only means something if you keep paying for it. Oh and bonus they get to pick which projects you can do. cant see anything going wrong with that…
I can see it being useful for small companies wanting to get quick legitimacy and maybe Amazon will jump on board and let you do $150 hang and bangs

Posted by jwhitaker on September 2, 2017

We have our CEDIA certification. It’s all we need. I don’t feel the need to have our “business” certified. We build technology solutions. I snot need someone all up in my business lol.

Posted by Homemedia on September 1, 2017

Hi .. well its about time.  the industry has long needed an objective certification. 

the last 7 years have seen a flood of barely qualified firms. Or in many cases firms taking projects they were not equipped to handle.  I have already referenced our HTA certification to contractors.  I believe it will be yet another valuable sales tool.  Not only can we say we are certified, but we can point out when other firms being considered are not or certified at a different level. 

This also allows us to compete against our peers.  So that proposals will be judged accordingly and not just on budget.  Thus reasons for budget and brand selection differences by non-certified firms can be better understood.

thanks for all the hard work in creating this resource.

Posted by brandenpro on August 30, 2017

Give me a trade group that offers the CI channel power to fight the worthless products hardware/firmware produced by these manufacturers. 

We should not have to chase our tail at our expense.  Whether it costs us money, time or relationships with clients. 

Additionally, this group would fight for better 3rd party integration standards for all over the top control systems and not just 1.

The rest of this HTA looks good on paper but I dont expect much in actual output.  If you really want to get the industry locked down get the IBEW and its lobby spun up.  Otherwise its just farts in the wind.

Posted by jmcdermott1678 on August 30, 2017

I’m pretty sure this is my last response…

Josh, thank you very much for the detailed response.  It did help to ease my concerns, and I hope it did for others as well.  I will be reaching out with more questions, as I will likely want to discuss this program with the rest of our leadership team here.  However, for the time being I do feel confident that this has great potential. I’ve gone from very skeptical to very optimistic.  Thank you

Posted by JC on August 30, 2017

HTA response - part 2:

This point needs to be clear: The HTA supports CEDIA (the HTA is a CEDIA member). The HTA and CEDIA both help integrators, though in different and in our opinion…complimentary ways. We display on HTA Certified dealer profiles if a dealer is a CEDIA member, and what CEDIA certifications individuals within the integration firm may have. CEDIA education helps CI firms up their game, something the HTA is 100% supporters of. We wish that all CI firms would have their techs get CEDIA certifications. And, it is great that CEDIA is creating more courses to help business owners run and manage their businesses better. This is what the industry needs…keep it up CEDIA!

Also, CEDIA is our industry’s voice in Washington DC if there is any legislation that affects the low-voltage industry. Our industry needs CEDIA, and the many benefits that CEDIA brings to integration companies are benefits that the HTA does not offer or compete with.

In a perfect world, integration companies would have both CEDIA and HTA Certifications. Integration firms would have all of their techs get CEDIA certifications, and the company itself would be HTA Certified.

Some of JMcdermott1678 comments I liked:
- “If the HTA is going to help us educate the consumers on why they need qualified integrators, then I can begin to see the value.”
- “I’ve explored the HTA website, and I absolutely love the simple layout and the budget tool.  The website flows very well and the information for homeowners is laid out perfectly.”
- “I’m not saying that a project should be referred to a company that isn’t qualified to handle it. It shouldn’t, and that’s part of what I like about this process.”

Great that you explored the website. Hope you saw the FAQ section, too. The tiers exist for the reason you think they do…to keep firms that do not have experience doing large complicated projects from being referred projects out of their wheelhouse. In saying that, there is some blending between the categories. Too long to get into the details here, but you’ll get a understand what I mean by playing with the Budget Calculator, and step by step, as the budget builds in real time, read the advice given to the consumer in the budget total area below. It changes based on budget range total, though is not as exclusionary as you might be assuming. You’ll agree the recommendations given to the consumer is fair. Again, a LOT of thinking went into this!

Regarding what factors determine what tier a dealer is categorized into, this is somewhat proprietary in order to keep the system from being gamed. It is a mix of company statistics, experience (rather granularly) at various budget levels, ratings from vendors (we do our homework!), checking endorsements, and more. We have a good chunk of homework to do to vet each company. Each HTA Certified company has to requalify every year, so yes, companies can migrate into different tiers.

Another point to make clear, we are in no way delusional enough to think HTA Certification will become a certification with a high degree of consumer awareness. Our industry is too niche, and we don’t need to be a household name for HTA Certification to be valid. I liken it to GIA certification for diamonds. If you are not in the market for a diamond, GIA certification is useless to you, and likely you didn’t even know what the GIA was until a jeweler brought it to your attention. When they did, they were able to back up what the GIA was with a website that listed what it was about, and you were able to quickly discern that the GIA classifies diamonds based on its characteristics. The HTA certifies and classifies integrators, and has the website and consumer education to back it up. Keep an eye out for yet more consumer-centric advice that YOU WANT YOUR CLIENTS TO KNOW ABOUT. If you point your clients to the site and they read the advice, they will most likely spend more and ask for things they should have, such as enterprise-grade networks, design & engineering documents, etc. We are urging consumers to spend the money for this stuff, because they need it.

I can go on and on even more, but this is too long already. Reach out to me on LinkedIn or through the Contact form on the HTA website, I’d love to continue the conversation and answer every question you have.

Keep your eye on our press release, which will also be available on the “Media Kit” link in the footer of our website.

Thank you for reading - Josh Christian

Posted by JC on August 30, 2017

HTA response - part 1:

@JMcdermott1678 and @jhamill1, thank you for your comments. You might want to grab a cup of coffee now as this is going to be a long reply from a representative of the HTA…

Speaking on behalf of the HTA, I can tell you that it took a full year to create the evaluation criteria. The goal, and admittedly, the challenge, was to make this fair to integrators and to the clients they serve.

The evaluation criteria were created after looking at many different size integration firms, the type of projects they excel in, and why and how they excel. Additionally, we consulted with many vendors, who also spend resources determining the factors that make their best dealers perform successfully, and also the factors that contribute to problem integrators performing so poorly. One of the biggest helps in all of this that must be highlighted was the immensely insightful help from our esteemed Board of Advisors. If you have looked at who our Board of Advisors are (see htacertified.org), you will recognize most, if not all, of these extremely smart people. We debated, revised, debated, revised, and in the end, came up a certification standard we are extremely proud of. In other words, a LOT of thought went into this.

To address some of the concerns brought up in the comments, size of the company does not have much sway over the tier certifications. And, the HTA website in no way tilts results in any way to favor large firms. If you are a great “little guy” company, well then…great! CI companies, as we all know, vary greatly. There are many excellent firms with fewer than 10 employees, who do just a handful of large projects a year, and with “high-touch customer service to go along with it. Then there are large firms that would rather focus on the faster turn projects where their sweet spot is well under $100K projects. And, both of these different business models can and do work great, if the company itself has solid business practices, technical know-how, and cares about customer service. Unfortunately, in the CI industry, there are far too many “tech experts” (quotes for cynicism) that 1 – aren’t experts, 2 – have terrible, if any, customer service, and 3 – frustrate their clients. This is a fail for the client and it hurts all of us who make a living with home technology.

As a CEDIA Certified Outreach Instructor myself with many years of outreach experience and dozens of presentations to specifiers (architects, builders, interior designers, etc.) I can report back with firsthand knowledge that our industry has little respect with the design/build industry. This is sad. Too many botched projects. These professionals look at this industry as a bunch of hobbyists. This point was driven home even stronger when I joined the design & engineering firm Axiom Design as a low-voltage consultant in early 2015. When I walked back into the architect, builder, and designer offices that had known me for many years in my previous career as a low voltage contractor, they suddenly felt at ease throwing the CI industry under the bus in our conversations. While that opened doors for me in my new-at-the-time role as a low voltage consultant, it saddened me that an industry I am passionate is looked down upon by these professionals that hold the keys to so many projects. This has to stop, and creating a real standard, with stringent requirements for certification, is a huge step in the right direction. Believe me, the design and build communities are going to love what the HTA is about. If they can narrow down their choice of companies to ones who have met a high certification standard, why wouldn’t they do so? They have nothing to lose and everything to gain by sticking to vetted companies.

In relation to CEDIA, two comments brought up were “we have organizations like CEDIA who do this already”...and “Am I missing how this is any different from CEDIA?” First point, we are not a competitor to CEDIA in any way, and we have different audiences. CEDIA exists to create education, tools, and support to business owners. CEDIA certifies individuals, not companies. The HTA certifies companies. Since there has been no standard of excellence for company certification in the CI industry up to this point, we set down the long and challenging path of creating a high standard…HTA Certification. The HTA exists to help consumers and specifiers hire the best firms. As you can see, CEDIA and the HTA serve different audiences. So, no, there isn’t any other organization out there doing what the HTA is doing. This is something new and different.

Posted by jmcdermott1678 on August 30, 2017

avexpert2000- That’s a very good point, and I agree.  I’m not necessarily against paying $150/mo myself.  My concern is that the large companies will pay the same exact amount for what would obviously be larger leads to fit their business.  It’s not “terrible”, it just makes my stomach knot a little bit that this program may be playing too much in the big guys favor.  Agreed though, let’s see if the HTA can calm the concerns all around.  As nervous as I am with what I’ve seen with the program, I am still considering applying!

Posted by avexpert2000 on August 29, 2017

JMcdermott-

I am interested to hear what the HTA guys reply with but I don’t see where the disadvantage is to be in a 50k-and-under tier or why you should have to pay less.  Whomever winds up in that tier is going to see way more activity in terms of opportunities.  For every 100k project there are probably 80 under-50k projects.  The companies in that tier will probably reap the most benefit since the lion’s share of the USA will spend in that range.  My ego wants me in a higher tier but my business sense says take the singles and doubles instead of swinging for the fences.  But back to the fee.  The HTA just has to help you sell one extra hour of labor a month to cover the fees.  Seems easy to justify the expense.  On moving up and down the tiers, it seems fuzzy on the website how that works so I hope the HTA guys jump on this thread and clarify. are you listening Josh Christian?  Join the party!

Am I exceeding my daily post limit?  Haha

Posted by Julie Jacobson on August 29, 2017

jmc—You have 5 more comments left before the administrators cut you off. I didn’t see this as a rant. I think you raised some good questions. Carry on. We’ll ask HTA to address the comments.

Posted by jmcdermott1678 on August 29, 2017

I guess I’m one of the “armchair critics”, and I’m probably exceeding the amount of comments I am welcome to make on an article, but I have had some time to really look into this and I want to alter my opinion slightly.

First, I want to clarify that I love the concept of qualifying companies.  If my concerns wind up being answered, I may even choose to sign up.  I’ve explored the HTA website, and I absolutely love the simple layout and the budget tool.  The website flows very well and the information for homeowners is laid out perfectly.

My concern is still the lack of clarification or distinction between who qualifies to install what systems, and the fact that it seems all members pay the exact same fees.  So, if it is decided, by someone we don’t know (and doesn’t know us) from a hole in the wall, that my company can’t handle systems over $100k, I never get referrals on these projects?  How is it decided who is in what tier?  How do we advance in tier over time, or can we?

Then there’s the fee concern.  If the membership fees are as simple as they are laid out, then a company with a $1m revenue will pay the same entrance fee and monthly fee as a $5m company, but the $5m company will receive referrals to larger projects?  How does that make sense?  I’m not saying that a project should be referred to a company that isn’t qualified to handle it.  It shouldn’t, and that’s part of what I like about this process.  However, the fees should be scaled to the tier of projects they are being referred.

Gaining my support (and others I’m sure) is likely as simple as having tiered membership fees and clarification on how the tiers work.  I can’t find this here or on their website, and I find that very concerning.

Sorry, I hope this is my final rant!

Posted by avexpert2000 on August 29, 2017

Whomever came up with this idea should be hoisted on our shoulders and paraded around CEDIA Expo like a hero.  For far too long I have been dealing with clients that don’t trust me or the gear I sell because they got burned at their last house.  I see builder and interior decorators roll their eyes every time A/V gets brought up because they got burned by an incompetent installer at their last project.  I get clients constantly saying ” just give me some Sonos and Nest stuff.  That last (fill-in-the-blank) system i had was a nightmare”.  All of these uphill battles I fight are caused by guys that have no right being in our industry.  They don’t train themselves, they don’t engineer their systems, they don’t pick up their phone when clients have issues, they treat clients like guinea pigs, and they rely on vendors to bail them out constantly (yes, that 30 minute wait for tech support is caused by bad installers asking really dumb questions), etc. etc,

I see all these other industries that require ACTUAL QUALIFICATIONS to practice your trade.  We have had no prerequisites for starting a company and calling ourselves an integrator.  The “bad installer” problem our industry deals with is a deadly virus that has hurt us all.  The recession weeded out many of the bad companies but since times have been good I see more new A/V vans on the road than ever.  Have no idea where these companies are coming from but I know I am doing more “rescue” projects than ever. 

I know that CEDIA needs thousands of members to run that machine so I don’t expect them to ever be in the position to say “Hire this good company over this not-so-great company”. I also don’t think CEDIA should be an association just for the established companies but one that brings up new companies and helps them get better.

Anyway… Thank you HTA people for doing something to fix our broken industry.  Ignore the armchair critics.  For all of us.. you need to be successful.  Oh and I will be signing up.  Hope I pass the test wink

 

 

Posted by Tom Doherty on August 29, 2017

@jhamill1 - Your observation, conclusion and question in your first paragraph is spot on.  It would take a book or a weekend retreat to provide an answer/context to your question.  It is telling that after nearly 30 years a non-profit that has had over $250M flow through its revenue line that builders, architects, interior designers, much less clients, don’t vet whom they are going to hire/recommend is based on whether the integrator is a CEDIA member or not. That reality I do not see changing, ever.

Tom Doherty
CEDIA Co-Founder

Posted by jhamill1 on August 29, 2017

If an association could raise consumer awareness of our specialized field, CEDIA is already in place to do so; but that recognition hasn’t come. For those of us who don’t follow the politics within CEDIA, maybe someone can explain why it has been so ineffective and why there is a need for a new organization rather than seeking reform within the existing alliance.

As well, it is disappointing how many people from within our field attempt to generate their recurring monthly revenue off of the rest of us, whether they offer web ad services, network monitoring programs, branding schemes or, now, yet another industry association. No one gets into the A/V business to build their fortune. It’s one of two truths about our profession; the other is that HDMI sucks.

Posted by jmcdermott1678 on August 29, 2017

MRosen-  I agree to an extent, but I guess I need to know more about how they choose who falls into what tier, and how that affects what their monthly payment is.  On projects we compete against trunk slammers on, typically small projects, $150/mo would be considered a lot to pay per month to avoid such a thing.  I guess I’m saying I like the program, but I have a bad feeling the smaller companies like ours are going to suffer for it.  We still do projects between $20k and $50k, but we do projects in the $50k-$80k range as well.  We strive to do larger projects and we do high quality work.  I’m not seeing here or on the HTA’s site how they will choose what tier we fall into and how we won’t fall to the bottom of a list under the large, established firms. The program seems designed to squash the unqualified as well as the small firms that do quality work and yet still poise to compete against the larger.

Posted by Mrosen on August 29, 2017

JMcdermott-
I believe the whole concept behind HTA is to push clients to good companies instead of them hiring guy that is willing to slash prices because he doesn’t have the technical chops.  If I can get one project a year tipped to me over a trunkslammer, the 150 bucks a month is insignificant.  We DESPERATELY need a weenie line in our industry so kudos to the HTA

Posted by jmcdermott1678 on August 29, 2017

One more rant:  This line is what I’m talking about, and what makes me nervous: “Not only will the Budget Calculator give them realistic technology budgets in just a few minutes, it will also lead them to the best qualified integrators for that size project in their area”.  It will lead them to the best qualified integrators for that size project…. which to me means, if you’re on the list, but you’re a little guy, you probably won’t get that referral.

Posted by jmcdermott1678 on August 29, 2017

So, let me see if I’m getting this straight.  We have organizations like CEDIA who do this already with EST and other certifications, but now HTA is coming in and creating another of what they call a certification and vetting process for the industry.  Am I missing how this is any different from CEDIA?  HTA plans to show consumers in one way or another that these companies are the ones qualified to do their work.  Now all we as integrators need to do is pass their qualifications and then pay them $150 dollars a MONTH to be on their list?  It’s easy to notice that the integration firms quoted are top firms who can afford something like this.  How do small or new firms make their way in the industry if they can’t afford this fee?  Our firm does top quality work and we pride ourselves on that.  With our size, we have been trying to push ourselves into the higher tier of project/client by declining to take some smaller projects and pushing for larger ones.  We have to find new ways to market ourselves and new ways to grow our business.  Now, we have another industry organization that wants to collect money from us or else we look like we don’t know what we’re doing….  In return, we get to be on their “tiered” listing of certified dealers, and we get stickers and marketing material for HTA. 

Yes, the industry needs to be concerned about companies out there that make us look bad.  The issue to me however, does not seem to be that the clients don’t have a place to go to find qualified integrators.  It’s that they want the cheapest ones.  They look for the weakest links, who will sell at whatever price necessary to get the sale.  If the HTA is going to help us educate the consumers on why they need qualified integrators, then I can begin to see the value.  However, I’m curious how this tiered system of certified dealers is going to work, and if it’s just going to be another case of the largest and oldest always win the race.  I read this program as a good thing, but still with plenty of ways for HTA to make money of the little guys and more money off the big guys (with more benefits).  If I’m missing something, which I hope I am, then I do apologize for my rant!