Like most custom integration companies nationwide, members of the Azione Unlimited buying group are riding the crest of a wave of high demand. The group, which now boasts 253 dealer members, was cumulative up 41% in revenue in 2021 earning more than $1 billion in equipment and labor last year. The first three months of 2022 are not any different, with Azione members up 37% over and above the inflated 2021 revenue figures.
“It’s Christmas every day,” quipped Richard Glikes, president and CEO of Azione as he spoke to members gathered in New Orleans for the group’s spring 2022 in-person meeting, its first meeting since the announcement of its merger with the massive Nationwide Marketing Group. The New Orleans event had about 45% of Azione members in attendance, down from the group’s normal 60% attendance percentage.
“They are just too busy to get away,” says Glikes, noting one member replied when asked why he was unable to attend, “You should live in my shoes for a day.” That hectic pace in 2022 is what is keeping many integrators not thinking about the eventual slowdown that could occur. Glikes believes that will begin next year.
“2023 won’t be a pleasant experience,” he predicts. “I think next year will be tough. Many dealers are still busy this year because they are fulfilling orders with equipment that was backlogged. Many dealers are very stressed. When the economy dips, there will be a shakeout of dealers. On a positive note, that will solve the employee labor problem.”
To help its members look forward, the group unveiled its four-part Azione Accelerator program designed to empower the foundations of the business in terms of mentorship, marketing, partnerships and experiences. The four parts of Azione Accelerator are:
Connected Clusters Cubed — Working with a professional facilitator, groups of 10 to 12 non-competitive dealers will attend two-hour monthly meetings for a price of $1,200 every 6 months. These sessions will be aimed at providing feedback, expanding perspectives, and empowering the business to thrive.
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Among the topics of discussion will be maximizing vendor relationships, recurring revenues, hiring and best practices, mapping software and processes, measuring your business with Key Performance Indicators, evaluating brands and selecting the right clients. The Connected Clusters Cubed will be proctored by Jason Sayen of LK & Associates, Stacey McKibbin of Consilio, and Chris Smith of The Co-team.
Marketing Made Easy — Using PriMetrix, the web analysis system from Nationwide Marketing Group, this program will pinpoint specific zip codes with advertising campaigns using social, search and display ads that will drive customers to custom landing pages on their websites. Dealers are asked for $1,000 per month for these campaigns.
Influential Introductions — This program will formally connect Azione members with local Nationwide Market Group members, who are large retail appliance dealers, over lunch. The idea behind the connection will be to help the companies possibly establish partnerships that can mutually benefit both. Azione is targeting 170 connections.
Electrifying Experiences — Azione will take 11 to 12 members to Napa in June for strategy meetings and driving Porsches. The program will reward the top sales, top growth and next wave and two board members.
The event was also a chance for dealers to network with each other. The group’s board of directors — Nick Declemente of Elevated Integration; Ryan mcDaniel of One-Touch Automation; Paul Ostrin of Unlimited Integration; and Kyle Steele of Global Wave Integration — had an informative panel discussion on key topics such as labor rates and the future of video distribution.
According to Steele, the days of hardwired residential video distribution systems are numbered. He believes that category will not exist in 3 years. regarding rates, the group advised dealers to raise their labor rates immediately. Ostrin has an hourly rate of $237.50 and Declemente is at $250 per hour. Both said they received no pushback from clients at all.