Published in March 2009

Opportunities In Challenging Times
InfoComm delivers actionable insights.
By Randal A lemke, PhD

Are you ready to get off this economic rollercoaster? It seems that every day brings troubling news from Wall Street to Main Street. It’s enough to have even the most seasoned business professional searching for solid ground. With fluctuating moods, what is the best way to handle the pending economic uncertainty?

The best thing you can do for your business is to surround yourself with facts regarding your specific situation, rather than focusing on the hyperbole of gloom and doom. Enveloping yourself with negativity can make failure a self-fulfilling prophecy. Keep a close eye on cash flow and inventory. Your relationship with your banker will be of greater importance as the credit market continues to be tight. Continue to reach out to partners and existing customers.

AV Specifics

At InfoComm International, we hope to give you AV-industry-specific statistics on an ongoing basis on which you can rely. In September 2008, we issued the first InfoComm International Economic Snapshot Survey of the AV industry. One of the key goals of the report is to determine how respondents perceive their company’s performance and overall health. We structure this survey in this way because perceptions are often a better indicator of company performance than a balance sheet.

The Economic Snapshot Survey employs a tool called the InfoComm Performance Index (IPI), which assesses company performance of the past six months and expected performance over the next six months. Performance is rated on a 1-10 scale, where 10 represents “record growth and profit” and 1 conveys “bankruptcy.”

Our follow-up January survey showed a modest dip in the IPI over the past six months to 7.08. In September, survey respondents forecast this number to be at 7.10. Looking six months into the future, the 2009 respondents predicted an IPI of 6.46. This would put the IPI into the high end of the “fair” range.

The report is far from predicting doom and gloom. Just below 75% of all respondents indicated that their company is in the same or better financial health as it was six months ago. Independent design consultants predict a good financial performance in the next six months for their segment of the industry, with a predicted IPI of 7.13. Systems integrators are also hovering around the “good” range in their predictions, with an anticipated IPI in six months of 6.54.

Manufacturers ‘Less Stellar’

Manufacturers are predicting a less stellar run for their sector. They have changed their expectations for the next six months from good to fair. Rental and Staging responders have the most negative perceptions of the next six months, with just over half of respondents predicting a fair or weak six months ahead. Upon further examination, however, we found that many of the larger Rental and Staging companies did not fill out the survey, and some integration firms with sagging rental business identified themselves in this category.

I encourage all of you to access a full copy of this free report at and draw your own conclusions on the findings. InfoComm also held a webinar on this report in February, which included an overview of the report and insights from Bill Sharer, CTS, President of Exxel Management & Marketing Corp. This webinar is archived on our website. In the coming months, we will be releasing additional Economic Snapshots, along with a 2009 Financial Survey based on responses to a detailed survey completed by member company finance officers. Times Are Challenging: Now What?

Being the best at what you do will help get you through these challenging times, and InfoComm is here to help, with new free programs and discounted training. If training for staff is something you were postponing until your employees were less busy, this is the time to do it.

First, InfoComm is going to invest thousands of training dollars in our members. For those renewing their 2009 membership at their previous rate or higher, or joining as a new member, InfoComm will double the allotment of EduBucks. For example, Silver Level Commercial Members paying in US dollars would get double the normal amount, or 1500 EduBucks, instead of 750, whereas Gold Commercial members will receive 3150 EduBucks instead of 1575, and Platinum members will get 5200 EduBucks instead of 2600. The rules for redemption have not changed, and you may continue to use them at InfoComm, in our classroom courses and via the Academy Online. Plan to double your training activity this year as one way to prepare for the economy ahead.

Next, InfoComm started a series of free webinars on Wednesdays in February aimed at providing important information to key segments of the AV industry. The Wednesday Webinar series is open to everyone and includes topics specifically chosen for business owners, human resource directors, general CTS exam candidates and CTS holders seeking renewal units. All webinars are offered on Wednesdays from 1:00-2:00pm ET, and will be recorded and available on InfoComm’s website. Those who register can receive free CTS Renewal Units for most of these sessions (see our website for details). If there is sufficient interest, InfoComm will continue this series in the second half of the year.

InfoComm is planning more regional training and networking opportunities. InfoComm is expanding the popular free Regional Roundtables, designed to bring AV professionals together to learn more about industry issues and facilitate networking. This year, 17 will be held, in locations including Toronto, Denver, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, New York City, Omaha, Atlanta, Dallas and Washington DC.

On April 24, InfoComm is hosting its first regional RU event in Baltimore, aimed at educating CTS holders and allowing them to earn six RUs in one day, for only $25, which includes breakfast and lunch. Tony Warner, CTS-D, LEED AP, RTKL; Mario Maltese, CTS-D, CTS-I, Audio Visual Resources; Pete Putman, CTS, ISF-C, ROAM Consulting LLC; and Paxson Laird, CTS-D, RTKL, will conduct sessions on LEED and Green AV, Systems Commissioning, DTV and the Media Revolution, and Working with Architects. They will be joined by InfoComm Staff Instructors Paul Streffon, CTS-D, CTS-I, and Andre LeJeune, CTS, who will lead sessions on Analog, Hybrid and Digital Designs; Power and Grounding; Rental and Staging; and Digital Signage. InfoComm Senior Vice President Duffy Wilbert, CTS, will cap off the event with a session on the AV Market and the Economy. InfoComm will continue to provide you with resources related to the economy. InfoComm ’09 in Orlando FL will feature an Executive Business Symposium designed to provide you with the insight you’ll need to keep moving forward. Jeff Dietrich from the Institute for Trend Research concludes the session as he discusses the “Economic Outlook and the State of the AV Industry.” This Super Tuesday, one-day event, led by both industry experts and new faces from outside the industry, includes concrete tips to help you with finance, accounting and control; employee retention; using social media to build your business; and using project management to enhance profit. There will be several education sessions throughout the show addressing the economy, marketing, and business practices and solutions.

As always, InfoComm will continue to conduct the market research needed to determine how the AV industry is faring. Please continue to visit to keep up with important developments, access free streamed education content and take advantage of complimentary and low-cost training opportunities. InfoComm has supported the industry for the past 70 years, and we will continue to stand behind the industry, whatever the future brings.

Randal A. Lemke, PhD, is Executive Director of InfoComm International, based in Fairfax VA.
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