And now for something positive …

September 29, 2008 by Dave Haynes

Well, I got up this morning to see despite the DC bailout deal, the Asian markets were wobbling, and that Wachovia just got picked up Citigroup, so I thought a little positivity might be a good thing.

The executive director of InfoComm has sent a note around to members and trade showe attendees casting the AV market (which once can easily attach aspects of digital signage to) as in a reasonably good state.

It is no secret, writes Randal Lemke, to anyone with a television, newspaper or internet access that most of the American business community right now is shaken by the collapse of large financial institutions, the tightening of credit markets, spiking fuel costs and a seesawing stock market. During these challenging times it is necessary to take a deep breath, a step back and evaluate where we, as the AV industry are today, and how today’s events might impact tomorrow.

InfoComm International conducted a snapshot economic survey that returned from the field less than two weeks ago. What we found may surprise some outside the industry. Some of the key findings include:

More than two-thirds of AV systems integrators are doing better financially than they were six months ago. 

Twenty percent have increased staff salaries and benefits in the past six months. Nineteen percent increased staff training budgets. 

Nearly 65 percent of AV companies surveyed report the current lending climate has had little to no effect on their business thus far. 

There is a pronounced increase in demand for videoconferencing, perhaps due to increased travel costs and hassles.

Much of what we learned from this economic snapshot reinforces the findings of InfoComm’s Market Forecast Survey, released in February, and InfoComm’s Dealer Compensation and Benefits Survey released in June.

For instance, 80 percent of industry respondents predicted continued growth this year. Staffing size has also been up for many InfoComm members. Fifty-eight percent of our member companies in North America reported increases in staff size in 2007 and 80 percent expect to increase staff during 2008. The majority of survey respondents awarded salary increases across all categories, but technical staff were reported to be the most likely to receive increases in 2007.

How should we interpret this good news in the context of a larger, more troubling economic climate? First, we should remain thankful that commercial AV has remained largely unscathed by the recent economic news when the residential business and other technology sectors have not been as fortunate. We know of only a few commercial AV projects that have been pulled out from under our members, and some of those involved mixed-use multiple-dwelling units. 

Next, we must prepare for the possibility of changing tides. Investing in employee training today will help you remain more competitive in a more challenging environment down the road. It is a differentiator for your business that can pay dividends in the future. Keeping up-to-date with technology trends will be more important than ever before, if our fortunes start to turn.

Of course, businesses, education and healthcare institutions, along with federal, state and local governments need to continue to communicate. AV will remain an important part of the equation. Those of you that are preparing for both good and bad times will be able to profit as the economy changes. 

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