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5-Minute Interview: Janine Masten

Full Compass, which also offers AV sales, repair, and rental services, recently launched its GearCast Series of podcasts, focusing on AV systems and industry issues. 12/18/2005 8:09 PM Eastern

5-Minute Interview: Janine Masten

Full Compass, which also offers AV sales, repair, and rental services, recently launched its GearCast Series of podcasts, focusing on AV systems and industry issues.

Janine Masten, vice president of sales and marketing, Full Compass Systems, a Middleton, WI-based AV, sound reinforcement, acoustical treatment, and lighting products provider. Full Compass, which also offers AV sales, repair, and rental services, recently launched its GearCast Series of podcasts, focusing on AV systems and industry issues.

Pro AV:Full Compass really seems to mean “full service” — is there anything you don't offer?

Masten: There's very little we don't sell. However, we don't sell musical instruments other than drum sets and electronic keyboards.

Pro AV:With the trend toward nonexistent margins on AV gear and profitability depending on adding value, how does Full Compass add value for its customers?

Masten: Mostly by teaching them what they can use as accessory packs — things that will make the device itself easier to use. The money is really in the accessories. It's what customers often miss when they buy a device. For example, with cameras there are tripods, batteries, rain gear, and cases. Projectors are getting exceedingly more competitive, although we still do well with certain models.

Pro AV:What is the number one problem facing you as a catalog company?

Masten: It's being thought of as simply a catalog company as opposed to a resource center. I'd like to outdistance that perception as the singular view of Full Compass. We offer installation and design services, and a lot of things that mail-order companies don't do. We use EASE programs for our design services. If it's a local project, we'll go to the site and do a walk through. We also have a partnership with Jay Bridgewater at Bridgewater Acoustics where he'll fly around the country and install these products. The major percentage of our business is still in catalog sales, but that's only because one of the things that drives the huge dollars in catalog sales is the education market. A lot of education end-users have their own rigging crews, so we don't have to worry about the gear there. There's a lot of interest in sound in the classroom, so the education market ends up being tens of millions of dollars for us, which is mainly sold through the catalog.

Pro AV:Do you face a threat from manufacturers selling direct through their own websites?

Masten: We do to a certain extent. We sell to a lot of resellers as well, and you face the threat of manufacturers being forced to sell direct. As a reseller grows and gains purchasing power, they're put in a position where they go to the manufacturer and say, ‘If you don't give it to me direct, I'm not going to use the line.' The only way to combat this is to find new business, and steal some shares from somewhere else.

Pro AV:What is your GearCast podcast program, and how popular has it become so far?



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5-Minute Interview: Janine Masten

Full Compass, which also offers AV sales, repair, and rental services, recently launched its GearCast Series of podcasts, focusing on AV systems and industry issues.

Masten: We take isolated products, systems integration issues, and some industry personalities, and put them on our website for people to download at www.fullcompass.com. It's been very successful. We currently do one podcast per month. It started out slowly the first month, but the growth in popularity has been phenomenal. You can actually have the customers learn about what they're interested in. It teaches them about the questions they should be asking us. We tailor our GearCasts based on concerns and questions we receive.

Pro AV:What is the biggest challenge facing the pro AV industry today?

Masten: I think one of the greatest threats is the lessening of price and quality as there's a mad rush to get all of these products from China.



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