This is an especially challenging time to be running a custom installation business, but somehow Joseph Akhtarzad, president of Just One Touch/Video & Audio Center in Southern California, has found the magic formula. The company is one of the few that proactively markets custom installation through consumer media channels like TV and radio, while creating an efficient team structure with cross-trained technicians across all product categories.
So what makes Just One Touch/Video & Audio Center one of the perennial fixtures in the CE Pro 100 list, coming in at Number 5 for 2022? Akhtarzad, along the Tom Campbell, corporate director and chief technologist for the company, sat down with CE Pro to discuss how they meld custom installation division (Just One Touch) with retail (Video & Audio Center).
The original Video & Audio Center retail location opened in 1981, and has now expanded to five locations throughout the Los Angeles area.
“I was always looking at technology and seeing it getting more complicated. It is becoming more of the centerpiece of every room and I knew eventually people would need a custom integrator to integrate everything in the home. I saw it coming. I knew it would not just be about TVs, Walkmans and mini-disc recorder. I knew eventually the TV and home theater would be central in the household,” he says. So, in 1999, Just One Touch custom installation was started.
“We started Just One Touch to help consumers in both their homes and their offices be able to integrate the systems they want, no matter what it is,” he says.
Campbell says Akhtarzad is a “visionary” due to his ability to predict trends. Among the keys to the company’s sales process is customer education.
The sales team is trained to dig deep into the needs of the clients by asking important questions about their lifestyles and desires. From there, Just One Touch builds showcases for home theater supported by home automation.
“The homebuyers don’t really know what home automation is until you show them,” he adds.
Another key element to the company’s success is cross training its team.
“Everyone needs to know everything we do, just in case a customer asks,” says Akhtarzad.
“We do have a specialist within each team available if the technician has questions and they can just call to get help,” he says.
An example of a Just One Touch specialist technician might be one who is more highly skilled in surveillance cameras, but Akhtarzad believes it is important for everyone on the team to have a solid knowledge about every type of system.
The company’s operational helped it withstand the supply chain crisis, but it has not been totally immune. Akhtarzad anticipated the shortages last year by filling his warehouses, but he certainly did not think it would be such a prolonged situation.
“I’m suffering right now,” says an exasperated Akhtarzad. “I was able about a year ago to bring in enough lighting modules, switchers and dimmers. At one point we had a lot of issues trying to get AV receivers. Now it is control systems. I’m very surprised the control manufacturers cannot get up to speed to get us what we need.”
He said the company is currently in the midst of two projects — one is a $30 million home and the other is a $20 million home — and the Just One Touch team is waiting for products.
“We don’t have the lighting modules; we don’t have the keypads. It is a disaster. I mean it’s to the point that the customer is asking us to take the system out and switch to another system,” he exclaims.
Fortunately, Akhtarzad is working with the clients to allow his team to do only some key portions of the home knowing they will have to come back in later to finish it off.
“The pain is still there. Why is it everything else is getting back to normal, but the control system companies cannot get it right,” he says.
Hear more from Akhtarzad and Campbell by downloading or viewing the podcast episode above. Find past episodes of the CE Pro Podcast by subscribing to the CE Pro YouTube channel or our Apple and Spotify podcast feeds.