Emerald to Acquire AV-IQ

Emerald Holding, Inc. (NYSE: EEX), today announced an agreement to acquire AV-IQ, effective November 1st. For more than 20 years, AV-iQ has been the leading product database and integrator service provider in the Commercial AV Space. AV-IQ provides a central database to serve the commercial AV community with a platform for integrators and end users to research, plan and connect with AV brands and their channel partners.

“We started down the path of a partnership, but as we explored the opportunity more it became apparent that the benefits for each brand and the respective channels were greater if we were working with our combined internal teams and other resources. We are all very excited to make this official,” says Ray Lyons, VP & publisher of Emerald’s Connected Brands Group.

This further expands Emerald’s commitment to the AV Market, adding a new resource to the current portfolio that includes Commercial Integrator, TechDecisions, CE Pro, Designwell, CEDIA and Total Tech Summit. Work is in progress to launch a residentially focused version of AV-IQ in January 2022. The combined resources, databases and content will provide for an unmatched resource within the AV industry in both the commercial and residential spaces.

From a single portal, www.av-iq.com, users can find everything they need — from detailed product information to news, videos, case studies and now webinars and training content. Registered users of AV-iQ enjoy a common format that allows for detailed product comparison and project list creation to inform their decisions. From this central database, AV-iQ has been able to create custom catalogs and provide data feeds to integrators across the industry, so their customers and teams have access to preferred brands directly on the integrator’s own website.

“The exciting part about this marriage is that it happened very organically,” says Mark Loftus, owner of AV-IQ. “It started several months ago with a simple conversation about cross-marketing that evolved into the idea that we could create a Residential version of AV-iQ together, while also strengthening the current commercial AV-iQ.

“In the days since our alliance was announced we’ve been working on executing on that vision and it became even more apparent that we’re aligned on what AV-iQ is, and more importantly, what it can be. This shared vision brought us to the realization that we should jump in with both feet forward and have Emerald take full ownership and put all it’s resources behind this brand. I couldn’t be happier to have AV-iQ join the Emerald portfolio, and I’m excited to be able to continue the work to create a platform that makes businesses in our industries more successful,” says Loftus.

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Trojan Horse Strategy May Help Integrators Sell More Projectors, Home Theater Tech

Today’s newest AV products create lots of opportunities for integrators to get the attention of the AV enthusiast in the home. But the growing home décor trend and the national obsession with HGTV and similar DIY networks make concerns about AV “blight” in the home a greater obstacle than ever. How can integrators accommodate multiple components, high-quality projectors and a big screen into more homes and not intrude on the décor of the home? The answer is what AV furniture manufacturer Aegis AV Cabinets calls its Trojan Horse Strategy, which is essentially when an integrator uses one purchase as a way to more attractively sell other key components.

In the case of Aegis, this comes from first showing the benefits of an AV cabinet, which can hide an ultra-short-throw (UST) projector in a slide-out shelf, as well as an area for the projection screen to be stored. In essence, the strategy combines the décor needs of the customer with the AV desires of the customer.

The company’s family of cabinets can provide cooling as well as temperature-controlled racks, as well as the option to have the left, center, and right channel speakers built right into the doors. This again allows for the cabinet itself to be the main selling point while also adding in AV-friendly features that help bridge the gap between a room cluttered with technology and a room completely devoid of AV equipment.

Aegis’ Andromeda cabinet can house a full suite of AV technology without it distracting from the décor.

Here’s the point: These clever Aegis cabinets hide all the gear needed for dramatic big-screen entertainment until the client wants to use it. The rest of the day it’s simply a sleek cabinet up against the wall. The screen doesn’t block the view through their windows or take up wall space unnecessarily, yet it contains what is needed for big-screen theater. It’s called the Trojan Horse Strategy because these pieces of AV furniture hide all the gear so well. And as many AV enthusiasts know, a happy family is key to a happy life, so finding a compromise between AV tech and home décor is critical.

Interior designers are on board with the strategy too, with several sending comments to Aegis regarding what it was like working with integrators who chose to adopt its Trojan Horse Strategy.

“We love exciting home theater set-ups,” says one designer. “But we hate how they intrude on the room décor. The ability to hide the electronics and actually hide the 120-inch screen is absolutely genius.”

Another designer was particularly struck by how easily and effectively AV-focused furniture could be incorporated into their designs, saying, “These cabinets open the door to our creativity in home design. With gear finally being hidden, we can fulfill our design and décor vision for clients with a cabinet finish to complement the plan for the room. And they still get the theater of their dreams.”

AV Furniture Could Create Breakthrough Opportunity for Integrators

It’s no secret that AV technology obsessions come in waves. Looking back through the history of consumer technology you can find certain products that created breakthrough selling opportunities for savvy integrators. For example, Kloss’ Videobeam brought ultra-large video into the home, while CD technology made high-quality audio available to the masses.

All of these were catalysts to selling larger amounts of consumer electronics to consumers that appreciated the new solution. Now Aegis and other AV furniture companies are looking to do exactly that for large screen home viewing, especially now that larger screen TVs have taken a foothold as the preferred screen size for many consumers in recent years.

By taking advantage of AV furniture and the Trojan Horse Strategy, integrators can now solve customer concerns, provide great value and remove the issue of equipment intruding into their lifestyle.

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Is Now the Time to Sell Your AV Integration Business?

If the “buy low, sell high” mantra of stock market success holds true for the custom electronics industry, does that mean now is the right time for integrators to consider selling their company as part of an exit strategy? 

Indeed, it seems prices are as high as they have ever been in so many facets of business. So is the value of a custom installation business at its peak also? High valuations certainly seem to be the case in the housing market currently, where supply and demand are so unequal that prices have skyrocketed to astronomical heights. 

Likewise, high prices are currently being paid for many other goods and services, from automobiles to food to gasoline. Where does that leave your business valuation? 

More Possibilities for Becoming a Seller Now 

For many integrators, the thought of selling the company that you built from the ground up with a lot of blood, sweat and tears is something you would never even consider. And in fact, according to CE Pro data, 52% of integrators say they do not have any sort of exit strategy plan in place. Another 21% of integrators report they plan to sell or give the business to family members or partners when they are ready to hang up their toolbelt. Only one in five CE pros reports they plan to find an outside buyer for their custom installation company. 

However, that still leaves nearly half of integrators thinking about cashing out in some fashion. The majority of integrators got into this industry because they love it. Indeed, many are simply AV enthusiasts or techies who probably never intended to build a substantial custom installation company that would someday become sellable asset. 

But for many integration companies, the prospect of selling your company that has built value over the years until it has become a highly prized resource that can be sold for a profit is now a reality versus a myth. Or is it? 

According to CE Pro data, 52% of integrators say they do not have any sort of exit strategy plan in place. Another 21% plan to sell or give the business to family members or partners.

For what seems like a decade or more, there were virtually no buyouts of custom integration companies. Then in 2008, Best Buy acquired AudioVisions in Southern California. The thought at the time was that big buyout was the first salvo for major retail players like Best Buy, Circuit City and Tweeter to start gobbling up some of the leading integration companies. But it didn’t happen. Why? 

First, most integration companies simply aren’t large enough to attract possible suitors. In a panel discussion at the first-ever Total Tech Summit (which was dubbed the CE Pro Valuation Summit back in November 2007), the national players declared that custom integration companies needed to be a minimum of $10 million in gross income before they could even be on the radar for acquisition. 

Second, the housing crisis hit soon afterwards, spiraling the revenues for the average custom installation firm by 51% in 2009. That difficult economic recession might have actually been a stroke of luck for some integrators, especially if they had been acquired by Tweeter or Circuit City, neither of which survived the turmoil. 

Fast forward to 2019 for the first time in many years, the industry has experienced several mergers and acquisitions led by AVDG/Guitar Center and Bravas, two players that are looking to establish national footprints for this industry long known for its local roots. In the past several years, Bravas has expanded well beyond its original 15 companies with several organic launches in new cities, as well as acquisitions, including:

ProStream Digital in the Dallas/Fort Worth market to join the teams from AV Innovation, Home Theater Technologies and Smart Systems as part of Bravas DFW.Bravas Philadelphia added the AV Environments team to its existing Audio Video Hi-fi Sales group.The acquisition of Twilight Solutions in Walnut Creek, Calif., to join its Bravas San Francisco location with The Homeworks Group Bringing in Residential Systems in the Denver area for Bravas Colorado.

Meanwhile, Guitar Center’s AVDG Group has been quiet recently, which is to be expected given its parent company was forced to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a result of the pandemic’s hit on its retail store foot traffic. But prior to that time, the company had been active, acquiring AVDG in the Bay Area, TVTI in Chicago, and Maverick Integration in New Hampshire. The company has also started two other branches organically. 

Add to those other one-off mergers and acquisitions have taken place in across the country, such as Desert Valley Audio Video in Scottsdale, Ariz., making the move into California with the buyout of Audio Concepts, and ETC in West Palm Beach, Fla., changing hands under new ownership. 

The bottom line is that for the first time in many years, there is vibrant M&A activity in the residential integration space.

What Are Buyers Looking For? 

According to Doug Carnell, vice president of business solutions at AVDG’s parent company Guitar Center, one of the keys to being on the radar for acquisition is a unique market angle or area of expertise. For example, the original acquisition of AVDG by Guitar Center was due to the company’s expertise in commercial installations. TVTI is proficient in the MDU space, while Maverick Integration has developed honed operational processes that build strong margin. 

“We’re looking for companies that are already running well, that are already profitable and have the reputation [as leaders in their markets].” 

Ryan Anderson, president, Bravas

“Overall, our goal in looking at a company is really about understanding the business, understanding the ownership of that business and where their backgrounds are, what we think that can play it out for us in the long term, and what features and qualities they have versus what we already have,” he said speaking during a recent webcast held by the Home Technology Association (HTA)

Ryan Anderson, president at Bravas, says profitability and reputation are the two key criteria he looks for in a prospective acquisition. 

“We don’t want fixer-uppers or companies that are damaged and broken that require us to come in and change everything and fix everything,” he says. “We’re looking for companies that are already running well, that are already profitable and have the reputation.” 

Anderson says the ideal target is one in which the company owner is still highly engaged in the business and wants to remain with the business even after the acquisition. That CE pro would remain working with sales, design, installation and operations, but free up back-office functions like HR and accounting. 

Carnell agrees, noting, “If you’re in this business because it’s a hobby and the P&L is not important to you, then selling your business is probably not that important to you either.” 

He says CE pros that are building “lifestyle businesses and then think somebody out there is going to offer them a big check for the business … it’s just not going to happen.” 

Ensuring Ease of Transition, Accounting Up to Speed 

“If I’m buying your company, it’s because we’re interested in growing a marketplace; it’s far easier to do that than to create an organic workplace,” says Doug Carnell, vice president of business solutions at AVDG’s parent company Guitar Center.

Carnell also looks for companies in which the owner is not seeking to ride off into the sunset after the buyout, but plans to stay and help build the business with the AVDG leadership. 

“If I’m going to acquire a business and the founder wants to retire, that business has little or no hope to succeed unless that business has really thought about the post-acquisition,” he says. “It’s got to be a win-win for both the owner and us as a company. If I’m buying your company, it’s because we’re interested in growing a marketplace; it’s far easier to do that than to create an organic workplace. 

“To the same degree, I need you as a founder to set up your business in a way that I can be successful in that purchase as well. I’m going to pay a higher multiple when I see the transition is just as easy for me as it is for you as the founder to succeed,” he notes. 

Another important element for integrators looking for an exit strategy is to clean up the books beforehand. The auditing process during due diligence will flag any revenues and expenses that are not properly assigned. 

One solid piece of advice from David Welles of TVTI, which was purchased by ADVG, is for integrators not to think too much about selling their company. “If you are a business owner, don’t worry about who might want to buy you,” he says. 

“If you are successful, the opportunity will come to you eventually. If your business is good, somebody is going to want to purchase you.”

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Google Renames Smart Home Initiative, Now Officially Called Google Home

The website Chrome Unboxed is reporting that during the recent Google Smart Homes Developer Summit, the giant tech company announced several things, including the renaming of its smart home platform, which is now Google Home.

According to the website, Google’s goal in bringing everything under a single umbrella is to make it easier for consumers to understand and integrate their smart devices. The website states that along with the rebranding of Google Home, Google is launching a Google Home Developer Center that will provide everything needed to learn and build smart home devices, along with incorporating automation elements for integration in Google’s newly relaunched platform.

“We’re bringing all of this together, and announcing a new, but familiar name, for our entire smart home platform and developer program, that helps users and developers do more with Google,” says the company in a recent blog post. “By bringing our platform and tools under the same roof, it gives us a simpler way to show you why and how integrating your devices with Google Home makes them more accessible and helpful across the Google ecosystem.”

Chrome Unboxed points out Google’s new smart home efforts include a complete redesign of the developer website and developer console that will unify these resources all within a single location that includes self-serve tools. The Chrome Unboxed website notes the developer website will feature tools for Android apps, as well as tools for building Matter devices, and options for creating automations, routines, monitoring, testing, certification and analytics.

The website states that Matter is an open and universal smart-home protocol that is said to make it easy for developers to build, buy and set up smart home products.

Reportedly, Google will update Nest and Android devices to support Matter once the new standards are launched.

In addition, Chrome Unboxed says that some of Google’s other announcements included a new smart home director on the web, along with mobile, native Android support via Google Play Services, and a new Google Home Mobile SDK.

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How Integrators Can Sell More Products Via the Art of Presentation

If you want to sell Jeeps, you don’t attract people with technical details like fuel economy and cylinder configuration. If you want to sell Jeeps, you show people what their life could be like if they had one. The intrigued buyer will then be motivated to look at the technical details.

In the world of AV integration, if you want to sell more projects, you need to enhance your presentation.

Here’s a good example of what I mean: In my early days of designing and selling AV systems I quoted and proposed a project for a large church. It was one of my bigger projects at the time and I was at the limit of my expertise in designing for the size and scale of this audio system. Still, I put together a system that I knew would perform well.

My marketing and graphic design background was always front and center in my AV presentations. My proposal was clear, visually appealing, included quality photos of previous projects, and it highlighted quotes from very satisfied clients.

I broke the system down into three or four smaller categories, such as the speakers themselves, the mixing system, and the lighting system. Smaller bite-size pieces, each with their own description of work and line items.

So rather than, “The system will be capable of X dB and is going to be X megahertz to X quadrilaterals”, I said, “The listener will be able to enjoy the energetic sound with clarity, with very few areas in the room experiencing muddiness or low frequency unevenness.” My technical details were there for any interested party in the back of the proposal.

Project Proposals Are About More Than Creating the Perfect System

The client put my proposal against others they had gotten. They called me back for a follow-up meeting and showed me a proposal from the main competitor they were comparing me against. I recognized the person who designed the system. They were very well respected, and they had designed what would be a fantastic sounding system.

But, it was as if they hadn’t made it past middle school English. There were typos and sentence structure issues that signaled a lack of detail. Also, they wrote in purely technical terms, so these pastors and laypeople had no idea what they would actually be getting.

To make matters worse, their numbers weren’t even correct. For example, they had presented good, better and best options, and for the “Best” system, the line items totaled $150,000. However, they accidentally typed an extra zero, skyrocketing the system to 1.5 million dollars!

Their “Better” system was arguably as good or better than the system I had designed and for less money. But if you were that client, which AV company would you trust?

I won the project because my system was presented well and they figured that a company who cared that much about the presentation of the proposal would probably care that much about the installation of the project.

Software Can Help Create Better Project Presentations

So I definitely believe big in the power of presentation, which is why the picture of the car sells more cars than the spreadsheet listing all the items in the car.

Throughout my AV career, I continued to design with the highest level of excellence that I could, while also proposing my projects with the highest level of presentation I possibly could. I provided real clarity and used terms people could understand.

I also spent a lot of time looking for a sales platform that could help me do this more easily, which is part of what led me to develop Jetbuilt. Jetbuilt can help integrators create a well-crafted proposal like the ones I used to spend days putting together for my clients.

After all, being a top AV system designer and being a top AV system presenter are two different things.

Paul Dexter is the founder of AV business software company Jetbuilt.

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Parasol Introduces Parasol+Program for Dealers

Parasol has announced its Parasol+ program aimed at helping its dealers grow. The company explains the newly announced dealer support program is the result of dealers asking for more Do It For Me (DIFM) services in recent months as installation workloads increase and excess time to implement new initiatives is scarce.

“We’re excited to offer our dealers turnkey marketing, sales, billing and back office development solutions,” says Ted Bremekamp, co-founder, director of operations, Parasol.

“We want to send a clear message to our dealers that we hear you loud and clear.”

Parasol+Program Dealer Features

According to the company, Parasol dealers can now choose from a menu of commonly requested services, provided by a carefully curated group of industry experts that include: 

Marketing: Through its exclusive relationship with MC Group, Parasol boasts that it is taking the guesswork out of building out a killer RMR marketing engine. Dealers can subscribe to MC Group’s lineup of consulting, marketing collateral and ongoing accountability check-ins aimed at taking them from ‘0 to profitable’ in as little as 90 days.

Business Process Improvement: Parasol is partnering with IntegrateU to enable dealers to sign up for an onsite or virtual visit by experts aimed at developing a plan to improve business performance to drive their RMR generation efforts. All offerings include weekly or monthly check-ins ensuring plans don’t sit on the shelf and collect dust. 

“We were struggling to find the time to implement our Parasol program in-house,” comments Jeff Harris, CEO of Hive in Tampa, Fla.

“Thanks to Parasol+, we’re now building out our subscription portal with a solid implementation plan in place thanks to IntegrateU.”

Parasol adds that its new dealer support program is completely a la carte and voluntary with new and existing dealers welcome to bring their own solutions to the table. To learn more about the program click here.

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What Is an Integrator’s Role in the Future of the Workplace?

Once upon a time employees went to a physical office five days a week, all at the same time, worked from identical computers and filed the same paperwork day in and day out — it was homogenous. Today’s landscape and the future of work as we know it is far from that.

Unified communication technologies allowed work to continue in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and left an impact on the future work — even tech giants like Microsoft say the future of work is a combination of both in-person and virtual.  

“Hybrid work means that more people will combine working together in person with being distributed across different locations, whether in another office, at home, or fully remote in other cities or countries. Technology is going to be key in enabling meaningful interactions amongst a more distributed workforce,” says Carla D’Alessandro, vice president of product extensions at WeWork

“I think the pandemic showed the importance of technology investments and digital infrastructure investments,” says Peter Miscovich, managing director, strategy, and innovation at JLL consulting.  

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are ushering in a new automated age. PWC has projected the economic value of AI activity to reach $13 trillion by 2030.  

The impacts of automation and AI cannot be underestimated. “It’s been slowly building over the last ten years,” says Miscovich. “In the next 10 years, certainly post 2025, we’re going to see considerable scaling, and it will have a very significant impact on how we work, where we work, who we work with, and then the skill sets, and capability sets that we will need as human beings to work in this new human plus machine evolving environment.” 

WFH and Remote Work are the Future

“We’re needed probably beyond our capabilities today to help innovate, to help problem solve and to be creative,” Miscovich says. “I think from a talent perspective as machines take over more and more of this routinized and repetitive type of work, the skill sets required for the workforce will change.” 

“Visits to the office have become more intentional, with our members looking to the office to be where they connect and re-engage in-person with their colleagues.”

Carla D’Alessandro, vice president of product extensions, WeWork. 

“I think we’re going to see an interesting harmonization between place and the office as a means of a place to work, or a place to collaborate, and socialize, and maybe the place to build culture versus all of these other ecosystem options that are evolving as a result of the pandemic, and as result of the hybridization of work practice,” he says. 

“The future of work is hybrid, and the purpose of the office is shifting,” says D’Alessandro. “People have more choice about where and how they work, and now more than ever, offices need to serve a clear purpose and be a place employees want to be. We are prioritizing optionality and flexibility when redesigning and reconfiguring our spaces and how people can access them. Visits to the office have become more intentional, with our members looking to the office to be where they connect and re-engage in-person with their colleagues,” says D’Alessandro. 

“Moving forward, we see offices as being designed less for heads down work at a “sea” of individual desks and more designed for people to safely work together, discuss ideas and collaborate. For example, active areas like WeWork’s ‘collaboration hubs’ promote idea sharing and collaboration, whether brainstorming or educating. These areas include formal meeting rooms, sprint and presentation spaces, and semi-private, shared breakout spaces designed to spark conversations and socialization among coworkers.” 

“I don’t think place is necessarily going away, but I do think it is getting re-prioritized. If progressive organizations want to be successful, they will need to attract digital talent in the future. Those organizations will need to engage to some degree hybrid work practices to attract that talent and to also retain that talent, as well as to help that talent manage a lot of the complexity that we’re seeing in terms of both cognitive fatigue mental health and mental wellness,” says Miscovich.

The Future of Meetings Involves AI Technology

Meetings have never been more complex, and AI is going to be a key part in enabling the meeting experience moving forward. The pandemic has changed how organizations look at video, how users interact with video solutions that they need to join and the thought of inviting other guests into meetings. According to Forbes, 62% of companies use three or more video calling platforms.

“The meeting of the future is still a meeting, but a video meeting,” says Jordan Owens VP, architect at Pexip at Enterprise Connect. “The meeting is just a meeting. It should be discussing the work we are doing, working on the projects we are leveraging, whatever it is that we need that meeting to be, but it should just be a meeting, not a complex technical environment,” he says.

Complexity needs to be removed from the meeting of the future. The future of the meeting should be the user and how one interacts with the tools for the meeting. Users shouldn’t have to download anything to join a meeting, they should be able to join from any device. Flexibility is going to be key.  

AI is important before the meeting, during, and after. Nobody has time to stop and switch to a new application for every meeting. 

“The work has become more complex from a device standpoint and the app must adapt to that experience not the other way around,” says Owens. “All of these features can be leveraged by using AI in the pre-meeting experience. The system can understand when it’s recognizing I’m hitting a roadblock and suggest I reach out to someone for some help. The system should understand when I join a meeting what’s the right camera, what’s the right microphone, what’s the right way to join into that meeting,” he says. 

“The system should understand if I have the right apps to support the meeting and If I don’t what are the things, I can do without installing them. The system should be able to pull that friction away from that pre-meeting experience,” says Owens. 

The ability for users to move from meeting-room to meeting-room within seconds and still have high-quality audio and visuals is important for collaboration to happen. 

AV integrators and manufacturers that can meet the new hybrid threshold requirements in the next five years are projected to win big. 

The Role of Integrators in a Hybrid/Remote Workplace

The future of work is virtual and it is here to stay. The pandemic has proved that work can still be done in a hybridized manner. “It’s also highlighted the fact that many individuals do want to collaborate and work in person in workplaces and that will probably be moving forward in a world that will be hybrid,” says Miscovich. “I think the diversification of work practice and workplace behaviors will only increase overtime and I think we’ve just begun that journey as a result of the pandemic,” he says. 

Integrators will need to help bring people together in person and remotely. 

“Where we stand today, won’t work two years from now, won’t work four years from now, and I would argue won’t work six months from now,” says Owens. “As we return to the office from this COVID-19 experience, a meeting will be different, and in the that new normal only with AI can we drive up the utilization of meetings, drive up the productivity of meetings, and shift the burden of the end user onto the technology to drive the meeting experience today,” he says. 

According to Miscovich, our next great challenge is the “ability for people to perform at new levels and the ability of organizations to support human performance. How we work, how we live, and how technology and AV technology can support our day-to-day lifestyle and work style engagement will be significant. Workplace experience is going to matter a great deal. The AV sector is going to play a big role in that. When employees go into a corporate conference room, they will need to experience delight versus frustration.” 

This article originally appeared on our sister publication Commercial Integrator‘s website.

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Retractable Hose Systems are the Future of Central Vacuums

Retractable hose products are the answer to one of the few complaints consumers have about central vacuums – managing the hose. H-P Products offers the largest selection of central vacuum hose management solutions including Chameleon®, Vroom Retract Vac®, Spot® and Vroom®. Each provides convenient whole-house and quick clean ups for homeowners, at a good profit for installing dealers.

All of H-P’s retractable hose solutions were designed with dealers in mind. They offer easy installation, modularity, and easy use and service.

Chameleon valves feature an automatic lock and patented dual seal system. The patented dual seal is independent of the door and tolerant of uneven wall surfaces. It also includes features like reduced friction on the hose, magnetic door closures and automatic turn-off. Hoses are offered with and without hose socks in lengths from 30’ to 60’. Valve doors are available in white, almond and black to complement any décor.

Vroom Retract Vac is the first retractable central vacuum hose system designed specifically for a garage. The Vroom Retract Vac brings central vacuum power and convenience to garage and shop spaces for both quick clean-ups and more thorough vacuum jobs. Most installations can be completed within half a day or less.

Spot is based on the same technology as Chameleon and powered by a central vacuum. Spot stores up to 15′ of retractable hose in the wall for fast and easy on-the-spot cleaning. Spot is easily installed in new construction and existing homes in areas where daily messes occur.

Vroom offers quick cleanups of daily dry spills and messes in high-traffic areas of a home. It easily installs in cabinets or closets and turns any central vacuum system into a powerful, quick-clean appliance. It is perfect for everyday use since it offers up to a 24′ reach and is instantly accessible for frequent cleanups.

From quick clean-ups to thorough vacuum jobs, central vacuum owners will love the simplicity and convenience of being able to pull out a hose, vacuum the mess, and then retract the hose back inside the tubing system. Integrators will love the opportunity to add more dollars per rooftop with products that provide high customer satisfaction.

To experience and learn more about H-P’s retractable hose solutions for central vacuums, visit www.smartcentralvac.com.

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Global Wave Integration Blazes Wellness Path, Serves VIP Clientele with Ultra-Efficient Team

You could say being a trailblazer is in the genetic makeup of Global Wave Integration president Kyle Steele. Indeed, his father Larry Steele, was an actual Trail Blazer, as in a member of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, where he spent the entire 1970s playing nine seasons including the franchise’s lone championship (1976-77) team. 

And just like his dad, Kyle Steele is blazing a path as a key member of an elite squad, in this case as an integration company that is an early adopter and evangelist of cutting-edge technology in wellness/biophilia, aging-inplace/ home health and even residential projection mapping. Burbank-based Global Wave Integration recently bought its showroom building and uses the location as a showcase to perform at a high level catering to luxury clientele in the highly competitive Southern California market. 

As president of Global Wave, Steele can also lean on Larry Steele’s lessons from his head coaching days for the University of Portland men’s basketball team, which spanned the mid-1980s to mid-90s. Kyle Steele has instilled the kind of team play and innovation from Global Wave’s staff that would make both his dad and Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsay (now deceased), who guided the Trail Blazers’ title team, proud to see succeed. 

By perfecting business processes that make everything run smoothly, Global Wave is able embrace new technologies that allows the team to take on large-scale, six- and seven-figure projects and cater to elite VIP customers. 

Audio Engineering Background Pays Off 

While Steele’s own basketball career did not reach the NBA, he did spend time on the practice squad playing hoops against guys who would later make the pros during his college days at the University of Arizona, where he studied digital systems engineering. Like many integrators, Steele started out in the industry on the installation side, as a Crestron programmer, but it was not a straightforward route. 

Also like many integrators, Steele, a drummer, has a passion for music and dabbling in the professional music business proved to be a segue into the custom industry, sort of. In the early 2000s, he and his college roommate started a band, moved to a 400-square-foot apartment in Los Angeles (along with his then-girlfriend, now-wife) … and got “signed and dropped” by famed producer Babyface, as Steele tells it. 

Led by president Kyle Steele, Global Wave Integration’s staff of 15 stays nimble and has perfected its processes to all sizes of luxury custom home projects.

While the band life had its ups and downs, Steele answered an ad for a job that seemed like it might help him crack the music industry by working in the production/postproduction recording studio side. 

“They were looking for an audio engineer and it sounded like it was a recording studio, and I said, ‘Oh that’s my passion.’ I thought it was going to be very sophisticated, and that was my background, my education. No,” says Steele, noting it was more like whole-house audio than house audio engineer. 

“My first day on the job I was crawling underneath a house on the beach pulling Cat 5 and was like, ‘This is not what I thought it was.’” But Steele trusted entrepreneurial owner Jeff Colen and the vision for his business, called A Sharper Home. 

“I was his first full-time employee and he came from a ‘Big 5’ marketing company and had an MBA from Stanford,” Steele recalls of his initial experience with the one-man shop. “And he basically told me, ‘Look, if we can get in the high-end residential niche market, in 10 to 12 years we’ll be sitting in a really good spot.’ And I’m in.”

Steele was entrusted to build the business, which he helped grow — thanks in part to getting the integrator to adopt Crestron — while he also split a big house with a half-dozen roommates in upscale Manhattan Beach at the time. One time, an elderly woman neighbor asked Steele to sit in for a meeting she had at home with a security company that was making an alarm system pitch. Steele remembers Security Alarm Specialist owner Scott Sand delivering an impressive walkthrough and when his neighbor asked for his thoughts, Steele asked Sand if he was hiring. 

Getting Global Wave Rolling on Its Own 

That was around 2005, he says, and things started taking off as he joined SAS and commuted to jobs in places like the Hollywood Hills for a client roster that floored even someone who had been around star athletes. “FBI agents were on some jobs because they’re such high profile,” Steele recalls. 

It was Steele’s court vision this time that set the table for Global Wave Integration, which incorporated in 2008 and now serves the same demographic with an expansive technology portfolio that underscores the company’s origins and DNA. 

“He was really just doing alarm, but all of his clientele were just titans of the industries and A-listers, and I thought, you’re really not doing AV and automation — you’re leaving money on the table,” Steele says. 

He proposed to start and manage a sister integration company that would upsell those clients into larger-scale systems beyond alarm and surveillance and eventually, after Global Wave incorporated, act as referral feeders for each other’s business. 

This room’s feel can be completely transformed via customized lighting profiles, including a galaxy-esque blue and purple style and the more natural lighting style shown above.

“We’ve really helped each other grow our own companies, and we’re just a shared resource now,” Steele explains. 

The name Global Wave Integration stems from Steele’s studies and fascination about the “golden ratio,” mathematic/science behind why people are drawn to aesthetics, architecture, music, etc., though we may not really understand it in ourselves. 

Also in math/sciences, waves are all around us, and he liked Rogue Wave as a name, which is a type of tsunami, but thought “rogue” might have a negative connotation. Still, in context with radio waves, sound waves and the like, rogue waves resonated and epitomizes that team atmosphere that’s been building at what became Global Wave. 

“The whole idea around rogue waves are if we bring our energies together we can create that bigger wave and move the most sand and have the biggest impact … that’s what we’re about as a company,” he says. 

Sounds like wisdom that might have been stated by Larry Steele’s legendary teammate and Grateful Dead superfan Bill Walton. “But rogue wave sounded like maybe we wanted to rob you,” he adds, and he settled on Global Wave. 

Small Squads Tackle Tough Projects 

Speaking of his staff, Steel emphasizes, “We’re truly a team. We all work together and there are specialists, but it’s just a cohesive team and we can do these massive projects we’ve been doing… like 60,000-square-foot homes or going to the Middle East to do a palace because we’re a small, nimble team.” 

Global Wave likes to deploy small squads among the company’s 15 employees “to live on a project and then come back and do the next one,” Steele says. It’s how the integrator has tightly honed its processes and techniques, kept morale high and fostered top-notch service for its VIP customers, to the tune of roughly $5.7 million in custom revenues in 2020.

The collaboration and cross-training of everyone embody that rogue wave spirit, and the democratic nature of Global Wave’s operations could be considered another way the integrator has been blazing its path forward. Steele borrowed the business model from a large industry supplier but says it’s not something he sees in the CEDIA channel. 

“It’s this Tiger Installation squad we talk about — you know Sony’s a huge corporation, but they only have four guys as their AV team,” he says. “So Sony would send these four guys to a stadium; they’d finish and come back and get the next project and go back to work. We’re kind of modeling the same thing, which is very unique as an AV company because you think of engineering departments or sales … and we don’t have any of that.”

He says recently Global Wave hired a “rockstar” CEO — chief experience officer — Kelsey Gallery, whose industry experience includes Lutron and Sonnen, who marveled at the lack of traditional departments. 

“We have specialists, like our Savant programmers; we have an in-house Crestron Master CAIP [Crestron Authorized Independent Programmer], which is rare for an AV company,” he adds. 

“But at the same time, when we go on these projects it’s all-hands on deck, we’re all wearing multiple hats and we just help each other out.” The squads tend to be grouped together on projects, creating that familiarity of working together that naturally improves efficiencies over time. 

Diplomatic Approach, Scouting Personalities Benefits All 

Another rare and diplomatic approach Global Wave employs, Steele adds, is that everyone in the company has the same commission structure. It’s led to a very different manner of end-to-end project sale to completion. 

“Even the sales team,” he says. “They’ll sell a job and see it through — instead of selling a job and giving it to engineering, and then to a project manager. No, they have ownership. They sell a project, they see it through, they manage it, make sure we execute, get paid, close out and move on.” 

For a project the company submitted into the CEDIA Awards program this year, Steele says the team lived a good chunk of time at the Florida site for almost four years. 

“We flew out, we considered it subbing it out, but no — we just took ownership of the whole thing,” he says. 

One strategy that has paid off in positively impacting operations and perfecting the teams, Steele notes, is that Global Wave implemented personality profiling in its hiring practices. Like a great pro basketball team, great scouting goes a long way and establishes the foundation. 

“We know how to structure our teams and they work very well together because we know their personality types, and I think that alone goes a long way,” he says. “Clients tell me they love how ‘we can call you, we can call your project manager, we can call your office … we can call anybody on your team and get that same response we’re looking for.’ And to me, that just says everything.” 

As someone who is actively engaged with the integrator community attending tradeshows and conferences, participating in online panels and peer-to-peer networking groups and more, Steele says he tries to spread the word about Global Wave’s approach to hiring and piecing together his groups. 

“We know how to structure our teams and they work very well together because we know their personality types, and I think that alone goes a long way.”

Kyle Steele, President, Global Wave Integration

“It’s the biggest thing, and I preach it wherever I go: it’s personality types,” he says. 

A lack of traditional formal titles for most of the company can give employees the opportunity to have some fun with their roles too. 

“We all have business cards, but to me it’s just a title. I tell everyone, you can put whatever you want on your business card, what sounds cool to you,” he says, as a staffer whose title reads “Lighting Vibe Curator” chuckles in the background during a Zoom call with CE Pro. “I love that, because he likes doing lighting control … but across the board we just kind of refer to ourselves all as systems integration specialists and it encompasses everybody at that point.” 

Steele adds that among Gallery’s initiatives since she’s joined Global Wave has been to spearhead an “all-in” effort to implement a business operations strategy called “Traction,” which the company learned about through Azione Unlimited. 

“For the size of company and revenues we have, this operating system is perfect,” he says. “Once we hired Kelsey, it was her task to roll out Traction as this is how we do business, this is our meeting rhythms, this is how we set goals and “rocks” [small attainable goals in the system]. Everyone in the company has their own goals and rocks and every week we check in to see are they on track or off track.” 

Steele says Global Wave can attest that the commitment over the past year to the OS has produced noticeable efficiencies improvements leading to more revenues and profitability. 

Tech Testing in Global Wave’s ‘Living Lab’

On the technology side, Steele has been equally excited to share his company’s experience as an early adopter, which often comes hand-in-hand with clients who can afford cutting- or bleeding-edge tech. He has joined industry webinars and education sessions on incorporating wellness solutions at events such as CE Pro’s own CE Pro Summit last fall. 

Having a practice court, so to speak, for beta testing emerging technology is one reason that spurred Global Wave into recently buying its showroom building. The interior is now decked out with Ketra human-centric and colorful lighting, Barco projection mapping/digital canvases, aging-in-place tools and more alongside high-performance home theater, automation and other showcases. 

“We look at this showroom building as a living lab, because with new technologies we bench test everything here,” Steele says. He adds that Global Wave employees’ houses have also taken that role as home living labs, also fueling its “Imagination Driven” tagline. The company can more easily grasp how solutions will fit into its customers environments. 

“That was one of the biggest motivators in buying this building was really just having a place where we can build and create and test. I don’t know how many AV companies spin their own bread boards and build their own middleware software. We do this truly all in-house, and we’re creating new products.” 

He cites a project for a customer in the Land of the Ozarks that included asking Global Wave to renovate an old LED sports ticker. With the company’s portfolio now, Steele lights up with ideas like using two projectors to do a projection-mapped display and Ketra chandelier, “and we’ll do a custom sports ticker for him. Stuff like that we absolutely love, and I think our clients appreciate that.” 

Within the showroom lab, Global Wave outfitted areas with high-performance luxury types of products benefitting its clientele. 

AV includes step-up components such as a new Barco Nord projector, madVR’s video processing and home theater audio from U.K.-based TPI as one of its first dealers in the U.S., for instance. Another room features CINEAK zero-gravity chairs. For an in-demand solution like voice control with AV/automation integration, Steele can ask Josh.ai to “show” the TPI speakers that are hidden in the ceiling and walls of the theater, for instance. On command, color-lit LEDs outline where the speakers are located. 

A Ketra demo area includes the tunable lighting as well as biophilic materials like the paint selection and flooring, Steele notes. Meanwhile, Global Wave Integration’s dive into wellness enabled the company to be part of a recent nearly $24 million “wellness estate,” as the architectural magazine Dwell describes the Santa Monica property listing. 

Suppliers such as Ketra enable Global Wave to dazzle designers and architects with color- and temperature-changing lighting possibilities. Sleek chairs from CINEAK and other aesthetic and biophilic touches adorn the ‘Living Lab’ showroom.

Among the myriad features in that spec project are circadian lighting facilitated by the Josh.ai-controlled lights/ shades, air and water purification, and a “resort-level spa/ wellness center” that includes an aromatherapy shower among other goodies.

Global Wave is also working with the International WELL Building Institute on certification for its showroom building. He says the company has received “innovation” points with its clean air/clean water solutions, and is working to try and earn credit for using Sonnen’s intelligent battery storage/ backup as “clean power.” 

“We’re working with them to get that actual part of the standard, because we have solar and we want to showcase the whole [sustainable] chain where we have solar, battery backup, energy automation tied into our giant Crestron display dashboard of air quality, how we’re managing the power, how we’re off the grid,” Steele explains. 

He adds that when it comes to wellness and solutions like HCL, even in trendy Southern California the company is still working on the pitch to consumers and other trades. 

“Circadian rhythm? Don’t say that, they don’t know what it is,” Steele says with a chuckle. He says recently an architect came to the showroom and was blown away, unaware of what was possible or that an integrator can sell something design-related like high-end shade fabric. 

“Talking to a lot of architects, integration is still new to them. So to talk about wellness … it’s still early on, but I definitely feel that it’s going to have traction.” 

Home Health Tech Next Untapped Opportunity 

Beyond wellness, Steele believes the custom industry is very well positioned to impact the aging/living-in-place category. He says the initial interest came from a client walkthrough of an 8,000-square-foot, award-winning project in which Global Wave had decked out a custom Crestron panel with various widgets popular at the time like monitoring traffic and weather and early voice capabilities. 

“She said, ‘It would be really cool if this touchpanel could give me insights on something like my health,’” Steele recalls. “I thought, wow, that’s really powerful.” 

The wheels started turning on combining voice commands, automation, sensors, alerts and the like to facilitate today’s increasing demand for aging-in-place health tech that he feels is a huge untapped integrator opportunity. 

The overall effect of embracing emerging tech could help Global Wave grab some of that money other integrators are leaving on the table. Steele can envision sister companies focused on each as one potential method the integrator can address these growing opportunities and feed a central core of service and RMR. FutureCare, a name for the home healthcare sister company, would take a path Steele is familiar with having taken it to creating Global Wave, and he sees three others including wellness and education. “All of these companies will have the same kind of structure, and that core is key,” he says. 

These rogue wave integrators are disrupting the industry, and that’s also something Steele can relate to since defensive peskiness was the hallmark of his dad’s play (“When I was a ballboy [in the ’80s, future Hall of Famer] George Gervin told me my dad used to give him nightmares,” he says). Kyle Steele says his dad’s career is just a testament that someone from a small Midwest town can live his dream job with the right effort. Global Wave might not be a professional recording studio, but it’s turned into a dream career.

Click here to see more detailed photos of Global Wave Integration’s showroom!

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Research Finds Single-Family Housing Starts Level Off in September

After seeing a reasonable uptick in single-family housing starts in August, new research from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau finds single-family housing production held steady in September as strong demand helped to offset ongoing building material supply chain disruptions. Meanwhile, declines in multifamily production helped to push overall housing starts in September down 1.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.56 million.

The September reading of 1.56 million starts is the number of housing units builders would begin if development kept this pace for the next 12 months. Within this overall number, single-family starts were essentially unchanged from the previous month at a 1.08 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, and are up 20.5% year-to-date. The multifamily sector, which includes apartment buildings and condos, decreased 5.0% to a 475,000 pace.

On a regional and year-to-date basis (January through September of 2021 compared to that same time frame a year ago), combined single-family and multifamily starts are 28.9% higher in the Northeast, 12.1% higher in the Midwest, 18.6% higher in the South and 22.6% higher in the West.

“Single-family construction continued along recent, more sustainable trends in September,” says Chuck Fowke, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a custom home builder from Tampa, Fla. “Lumber prices have moved off recent lows, but the cost and availability of many building materials continues to be a challenge for a market that still lacks inventory. Policymakers should continue to work to improve supply-chains.”

Overall permits decreased 7.7% to a 1.59 million unit annualized rate in September. Single-family permits decreased 0.9% to a 1.04 million unit rate. Multifamily permits decreased 18.3% to a 548,000 pace.

Looking at regional permit data on a year-to-date basis, permits are 19.6% higher in the Northeast, 19.9% higher in the Midwest, 22.9% higher in the South and 25.0% higher in the West.

“Builder confidence increased in October, which confirms stabilization of home construction at current levels,” says Robert Dietz, chief economist, NAHB. “The number of single-family units in the construction pipeline is 712,000, almost 31% higher than a year ago as more inventory is headed to market. Multifamily construction has expanded as well, with almost a 6% year-over-year gain for apartments currently under construction.”

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