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Happy New Year?

We end another year with as much economic uncertainty as I can ever recall. Almost all major industries are hurting right now, or will shortly. Perhaps 12/01/2008 7:00 AM Eastern

Happy New Year?

Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, Michael Goldman

We end another year with as much economic uncertainty as I can ever recall. Almost all major industries are hurting right now, or will shortly. Perhaps the worst part of the whole meshugaas — as my grandfather would call this economic mess — is the fact that there really exists no reliable, bedrock forecast to turn to for guidance about how long this slowdown will last.

Still, AV-industry professionals tell me our industry is better off than some because it's so diversified and tied into new technological and infrastructure trends that are currently driving other industries, such as conferencing tools. In other words, AV professionals provide crucial technology and services to help their clients operate more efficiently — an absolute must in this challenged economy. In late 2008, I was still hearing positive news about healthy installation pipelines percolating happily along. As recently as September, InfoComm International's Executive Update report suggested that AV companies and systems integrators were more than holding their own through most of 2008.

On the other hand, many of these same sources and old-fashioned logic dictate the notion that belts will tighten for a while, work in some sectors will slow down, and economic forecasts may need to be reformulated at least for the early part of 2009. As current jobs planned long ago wind down, will there be enough new ones to take their place? Will reliable retrofit and infrastructure revitalization work be put on hold as schools, corporations, churches, retailers, consumers, and just about everyone else feels the pinch? Probably for a while.

We've all heard recent horror stories about the rug being pulled out from under certain high-profile jobs across the nation, and we're all aware the residential market is already taking a major hit. The ongoing banking crisis is bound to wound some of the modest businesses that make up the foundation of the installation industry, simply by screwing up their cash-flow procedures.

However, the nature of our industry fundamentally remains something that the world simply can't do without — no matter the general bounces of the overall economy. Thus, InfoComm's report, and many common-sense sources I chatted with, all say the key to surviving 2009 will be education. Training your people in the newest technological innovations, stocking your facility with the most efficient communication tools, and becoming experts in offering those technologies to clients will be important keys. Diversification will be another. I've heard from some residential-installation professionals who are already evolving their businesses into other market segments.

Thus, I would have to agree with InfoComm's September report conclusion that “even with the downturns, we have the technology and solutions that our customers need to communicate.” There is reason for optimism after all as we enter 2009. In that spirit, I wish you a prosperous new year. We at SVC will do whatever we can in 2009 to help you find the information you need to make that wish a reality.

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