What I Learned at the NSCA BLC

For the past few days I have had the chance to sit among a few hundred systems integrators as we all learn about the business part of AV. It was the 16th annual NSCA Business Leadership Conference. Commercial Integrator was gracious to invite me to produce some podcasts and cover the event alongside their talented folks. Those will be coming shortly. As this was my first real, hands-on experience with the NSCA, my reactions and analysis may be a bit elementary.

Opening the Kimono

Thursday evening was the opening night. It would also set the stage for the next two days. After dinner the NSCA Excellence in Business awards were presented to five companies for various categories. Then something remarkable, to me, happened. The five winners sat down, microphone in hand, and began talking about their successes and failures. They did so in a real way, pulling no punches. Someone referred to this candid conversation as opening the kimono, and I love that term. It gets to the heart of what these business professionals were doing. They were sharing with a room full of their contemporaries how they were able to succeed in an area of their business. Real, true answers. There were no “well, we changed our paradigm to maximize employee core productivity” B.S. These were real answers from real people and that is what made this event valuable.

Get Into Services People

From the opening session to the “Integrator of the Future” talk it was very clear what a number of successful companies were saying; get into services. This is more than just a call for better or more creative service contracts. This is a call to engage your team, or maybe bring in some new blood, to create software products and services that can create real recurring revenue for your company. If you look at what has happened to margins on displays, projectors, and other AV equipment you know those can quickly vanish. It may never happen to switchers, dsp processors, and touchscreens but you don’t know that, and neither do I. A number of companies are moving to an IT-like distribution model which begins to erode the amount you can make on those products. If you have a stable of services to offer your clients then you have a chance to “margin proof” your business. Meaning, you can weather any changes to what you make on hardware because you are selling software and services as well.

The Economy Is Not That Bad

One of the most engaging economics professors you will ever hear opened Friday morning’s session. Seriously, if my Econ 101 instructor had been this much I may have learned more. Dr. Lee McPheters, from Arizona State University, gave us a rundown of where we have been since the recession and where we are in real numbers. The bottom line is, the economy is not that bad. In fact, we are slowly growing every quarter. What was interesting is that various polls had evidence that more than 50% of Americans still thought the economy was in bad shape. That will slow the economy down; just the general attitude that it is bad, will make it bad. In addition, the major driver of construction has still not fully recovered. There have been “record highs” in corporate profits, GDP, and the stock market which would indicate a strong recovery. We are now just waiting on construction to get in the “record high” club and being driving the economy again. Until then, we will continue to plod along.

Bottom Line

The NSCA Business Leadership Conference was a great experience. During each break you had the chance to connect with your peers, hear what challenges and successes they are having and share your own story. It was a communal learning experience. I would highly encourage you to try to make it to the 2015 BLC which will be in Tampa, Florida. So, that’s not a bad thing.

The podcasts we recorded were a special breed. This week’s episode of AVWeek is the first, but we will also be producing two specials. The first will feature Chuck Wilson, Ingolf Dejong, Dawn Birr, and Tom LeBlanc. The second is with Daniel Newman, Mike Shin, and Josh Shanahan.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Have a great week.

 

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