CE Pro 100 Tackle Challenges Head On

We asked the 2016 CE Pro 100 to share thoughts on their biggest challenges, opportunities, growth strategies, hot technologies and more.

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We're almost at the midpoint of 2016 … do you have a good idea how it is shaping up for your business?

In compiling the annual CE Pro 100 rankings of top-revenue integration firms, we also asked respondents to give us their takes and projections for this year’s challenges and opportunities. The wide-ranging replies and topics addressed appear to pretty accurately reflect the current state of the industry, whether you’re a company near the top of the CE Pro 100 or one that just opened the doors to doing business this year.

Not to serve up any spoilers, but you likely don’t need to be Sherlock to guess that continuing obstacles cover areas of personnel, business operations and competition; tech opportunities suggest 4K, home networking and security will deliver greater impact this year.

What’s working well for you, and where can you improve? Read on and see if your areas of focus align with what’s driving some of the industry’s most successful integrators.

What Are Your Biggest Challenges in 2016?

Finding, Retaining Qualified Personnel

“Talented installers. We look for a good chassis (attitude, character, interpersonal skills and as much relevant experience as possible) and then train them starting in rough and trim, progressing to networking and security, simple systems and then automation. It is a process.” —Tom George, iWired

“Finding quality installers. We are working with the local voc-tech high school to bring in graduating seniors for internships.” —Greg Simmons, Eagle Sentry

“Continuing to find and develop top-echelon talent capable of providing exceptional service as we continue to grow.” —Dale Wilhelm, Bekins

“The struggle to find technicians possessing a good work ethic. We offer on-the-job training and still struggle to find persons that want to work. The labor pool has dried up completely.” —Dee Straub, Structured Cable of VA

“We have a great solid team of field techs that have been with us for 10+ years. We find new, young talent in this field is hard to find. We are proactively working with the local tech schools and trade schools to see if there are any young adults interested in this specialized field.” —Kimberly Bucholsky, All Systems Audio & Video

Fighting the Competition & Internet

“Our biggest challenge in 2016 will be competing with the new and smaller companies. Many of these companies sell at extreme discounts on products and labor to gain new projects. These companies have low overhead and lack the business experience to understand their true financial position. Fortunately, these companies often come and go quickly!” —Robert Haecker, TriPhase Technologies

“Without question, our biggest challenge for years and continues to be competing with online pricing from unauthorized resellers who offer no service and create a false impression regarding pricing for many products, even top tier brands in the industry. Tackling this challenge head-on has been an incentive to constantly develop new opportunities.” —Eric Smith, Intech

“Recent upsurge of independent one-man shops and their access to product from bandits on the Internet. Business has been strong the last three years and it flattened out at the end of the year, which is always disconcerting.” —Bob Cole, World Wide Stereo


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Presenting the CE Pro 100 of 2016


“Dealing with the DIY market to obtain these customers away from doing it themselves. We will market several YouTube videos that educate customers on what you can really do with a professional installation company installing your automation system  vs. a DIY system that requires an app for this and an app for that. We will call our system offerings an APP manager for all of your automation needs.” —Buddy Hughes, Crown Audio Video

“Many integrators are competing by discounting, and as always clients are going to the Internet for pricing. We cater to people who value our service.” —Michael Silver, Audio High Improving Operational Efficiencies

“The biggest challenge we face is to keep costs of business as low as possible. In 2016 we will be more efficient than ever. With overhead costs rising each year, we will create an action-oriented plan to be more resourceful and then work with our team on implementation.” —Joseph Akhtarzad, Just One Touch/Video & Audio Center

“Consistent training, and retaining installation standards and uniformity between our two locations; implementation of new CRM, inventory company-wide; new office/warehouse space for desert location; scheduling ‘on the job’ and ‘in-office’ trainings. We intend to organize monthly ‘joint management roundtables’ for both locations to tackle these and other issues.” —Todd DeAngelis, Signals Audio Video

“Managing efficiency and continuing to put procedures in place for accountability and well-executed projects. Finding more profitability as a company at this size — we were very profitable smaller, but now double in revenues, our profits have been cut in half.” —Shawn Hansson, Logic Integration

“Changing to a new CRM; it’s a necessity for proper communication, but it’s a major distraction from day-to-day operations.”  —Ty Meyer, AVDinc

“Improve our billable hour per employee; reduce our through-put time; improve our staff skills; hire additional talent.” —Ron Rimawi, Digital Interiors

“Maintaining smart growth while preserving profitability is one of the biggest challenges I think all system integrators face. We have a strategic plan for implementing more service-based opportunities, while continuing to streamline operations.” —Scott Fuelling, Phoenix Unequaled Home Entertainment {pagebreak}

Meeting Increased Demand

“Hiring enough capable technicians to keep up with the growing housing construction market. We’ve brought on an additional administration person to handle ads, phone interviews, in-person interviews and all the necessary documentation and employee screening that is required. Also we’ve revamped our training process to get our current staff and new hires trained more efficiently and get them ready for the field.” —Guy Ross, Synergy Florida

“Biggest challenges will be the opening of our new Little Rock, Ark., location. We will hire more technicians in the area. Biggest opportunity will be exposure into central Arkansas with the opening of our new location.” —Ryan Heringer, Sound Concepts

“We are expanding into more commercial this year, but we also are dealing with our largest ever residential installation, to be followed by an even bigger one afterward, and possibly a third even larger project. We’re very excited, but it’s definitely something that will be a challenge as well.” —Jeffrey Homan, Wired Technologies Group

Incorporating New Technologies & Offerings

“We continue with the challenge of improving our offerings to remain competitive in the marketplace through our knowledge and the services that we can provide. The range of connected products now available to consumers from a multitude of suppliers presents challenges in sales training, installation and customer education, as consumers are becoming more and more aware of what is available to them. We are continually looking for innovative ways to display and demonstrate these new technologies to our customers and to help them understand how they can enhance their lives.” —Doug Bravin, Bjorn’s Audio Video

“Continued competition in the marketplace and advances in technology to remain competitive. We continue to advance our product adoption and implement new services to meet the changing demands of consumers.” —Richard Yobbi, Guardian Protection Service

“The rise of the 4K and HDCP 2.2 technology and properly implementing it into our customers’ systems. We will continue to follow market trends and adapt to the changes the manufacturers provide.” —Chris Porter, Peak Audio & Video

What Are Your Fastest Growth Categories in 2016?

Home Automation & Controls

“Intech feels that clients have finally embraced home automation. Integrating a whole-home automation system should be our fastest product segment for 2016. It was in 2015, and we will continue to educate consumers on the benefits of whole-house control. Our marketing plan includes selective social media to specific audiences, holding private events in our showroom and carefully placed print advertising.” —Eric Smith, Intech

“Home automation is our focus right now as a standard to all clients. We have a multi-pronged approach.” —Craig Curran, Smart Systems Technologies

“Automation has become more mainstream and more affordable. We are educating our developer partners about the benefits of putting in some form of automation in all of their projects. Once we get the base in the home, buyers add on to the systems and so far it has been working for us.” —David Welles, TVTI


Free Download: Presenting the CE Pro 100 of 2016


“We have found that lighting systems and motorized window treatments is really making up a large part of our annual revenue. We are doing our best to utilize the showrooms that are available to us in order to learn about the newest products and technologies available.” —Gina Romanello, Innerspace Electronics

“Lighting and shading — raising the awareness by demonstration, through trade partner training, and targeted marketing.” —Ron Rimawi, Digital Interiors

IT, IoT & Home Networking

“Networking and streaming. We have added staff in our IT department to strengthen the engineering of networks and deal with increasing demands placed on the networks we are installing.” —Bill Maronet, ETC

“Lighting and shades, enterprise-grade networks. We are training our staff and recruiting graduates from technical schools.” —Franklin Karp, Audio Video Systems.com

“DIY and the IoT [Internet of Things] is creating quite the buzz. With it brings a mass of confusion and the need for experts to be able to put all the technologies together in one simple and concise solution.” —Chris Porter, Peak Audio & Video

“IT; building our IT department and hiring new employees with IT backgrounds.” —Russell Radke, Premiere Systems

“The Internet of Things is continuing to explode. We are training all of our employees on IP-based products and their applications. Integration or multi-connected devices are interesting and challenging. The idea of app controlled is not only hot, but becoming expected with our clients.” —Thomas Callahan, Sawyers Control Systems

Audio & Video Upgrades

“Outdoor living — landscape lighting, outdoor audio and outdoor theaters. We have opened up a separate branch of our company dedicated to meeting the needs of those customers.” —Guy Ross, Synergy Florida

“Outdoor audio. More and more people are spending a great deal of time and money on their outdoor spaces. We have really started to embrace this trend and even added a demo area at our showroom.” —Bryan Naquin, Acadian Home Theater & Automation

“We believe the fastest growing segment of the home audio industry will be wireless streaming and multizone distribution. We offer the most recognizable brand — Sonos — as well as Heos by Denon, with more to follow. We plan to increase our online advertising and mobile advertising in this area.” —Joseph Akhtarzad, Just One Touch/ Video & Audio Center

“4K HDR & OLED video — [we created a] strategic 4K Ultra HD area within the store to highlight newer technology and customer experience.” —Bill Hettinger, HiDEF Lifestyle

“After years of being teased by all these so-called ‘4K’ TVs, 2016 is the year there is finally content to watch. We’ve never pushed 4K onto our clients until just recently because not only the content, but also the industry standards of HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 had not been widely adopted by manufacturers until recently.” —Brian Richards, Precision Media Solutions

“Avoiding the allure of run-of-the-mill connectivity to content. Sell the experience; High Res Audio through great sounding speakers, thundering subs and theater experiences featuring best-in-class video and sound systems.” —Roy French, MHS Technologies

Security & Associated Solutions

“Interactive alarm monitoring and entry level home automation. Offer entry-level, affordable packages, and educate customers to the benefits of the technology.” —John Prince, Five Smooth Stones Audio Video & More

“Surveillance and access control. Educating buyers that we offer these products now.” —Ryan Heringer, Sound Concepts

“CCTV has been a rapidly growing segment, along with enterprise-grade networks. We believe we are in the ‘delivering new technology to market’ business, and we feel that the amount of new technology geared toward the residential market is not going to slow down in the near future.” —Scott Sullivan, SoundVision

“Card access and camera systems for houses of worship.” —Alan Guyes, Audiotronics

Read It Now: Inside the CE Pro 100 of 2016