Visualization provides the total package article was originally featured on Inavate on the net, please click here to view this.
Inavate sat down with Nick Pidgeon (NP), managing director, Visualization, and Simon Smith (SS), owner and partner, VUEAV to discuss the recent deal between the two distribution companies, and find out how their approach to working with the AV channel differs from other companies in the same market segment.
How would you describe the Visualization business?
NP We’ve been going a little over 17 years now. Quite uniquely, from day one we’ve been very much a services business. We’ve supported the integration reseller channel, with installation resources, especially with the rack build element we offer. Where we are today is we have added AutoCAD services, and service and support SLA pieces but all purely through the channel.
What does the view VUEAV deal (signed in May this year) mean for Visualization as a business going forward?
NP We’ve always been quite different in how we approach business. We’ve got a lot of the skillsets that an integrator has themselves. We’ve always stayed in our swim lane and supported them rather than doing anything direct. Bringing VUEAV into the fold has allowed us to expand our service offering. But equally, the distribution piece means that we can now support the customers with not only the service, but the product.
What made the Visualization deal attractive for VUEAV?
SS We looked at the synergies between the businesses because you want to have compatibility as well as diversification. Looking at Visualization and its experience with rack building, it was very important to maintain that and build on it, but we were looking to overlay product distribution (with the key component being video) and use the skillsets we have within our group to start developing the pieces in the same way that we were doing. When we looked at the UK distribution market, we all saw there was a bit of a black hole when it came to services, everyone was just interested in making product sales.
AV distribution is crowded and very competitive, what makes Visualization different in the distribution channel?
NP We’ve followed VUEAV’s lead on this. Our focus is not on collecting brands but supporting two or three key brands that can overlap within an application. We’ve done that in projection with Christie and Digital Projection and VUE2, they’ve all got their place in the market, and we’re able to support them as a vendor very well. Equally we can support the customer base to ensure that we’re specifying the right solution. We’re looking to do the same with LED, focus on a handful of brands we can get to know very well technically, and really support both from the vendor point of view and the customer’s point of view, so they know they can work with us to specify and support them on those projects.
SS When we looked at Visualization’s UK business, Nick and his team were servicing a lot of the UK channel with rack building. Adding a few AV brands into the mix has allowed us to tap into the rack build side of things, and to look at projects to see what other value-add we can offer, whether it’s projection, LED, collaboration products, screens, everything on the AV side, backed up with one of the strongest technical services teams in the UK.
What does the recent LG deal in the UK mean for current and prospective customers of Visualization?
NP It means end-to-end support. We talk a lot about the front end in our business, whether we call it specification, consultancy, design. We don’t want to alienate the consultants within the AV community, but it starts at that stage. Most of the Visualization project work is end-to-end. We support the customer right at the very front, we often go in and present with our customers to the end users. We obviously do the product supply, but so far we have always done the installation too. Our standard model is to tie in a service agreement to get that ongoing support. And that model has led our focus for LG whenever we take it into any of the reseller channels to their end users. We want to be more involved as opposed to people bringing us projects and we just quote prices on them.
SS It is very much a consultative approach. In the UK it’s clear LG has some products that are a good fit for what we’re offering. In the Middle East we’ve got other brands, where they’re more inclined to outdoor scenarios because we see a lot of outdoor opportunities there, and a lot more customisation when it comes to LED. LG is a key for us in the UK, we knew we had to sign someone who was a market leader in terms of brand awareness.
Where do you think the strengths lie in Visualization’s product portfolio?
NP I don’t want to bash what other companies do, but when you’ve got eight brands for OLED or projection, how do you add value? Our lives are made easier by having two or three brands. If we look at display, you might want an interactive screen, or one with high brightness. What we’re not going to do is have two or three brands that could fit in any of those applications. We are ensuring our portfolio is small enough that we don’t have a hard decision to make when we see an opportunity, but it’s big enough so we’ve got something to support our customer base.
SS I totally agree with that approach. Working with vendors nowadays is as much the challenge as it is working with customers. There’s a lot of reporting you have to do, a lot of the vendors are using CRMs, and we meet regularly with them to give them project updates. There’s a lot of information that goes back into forecasting, which is key for times where we’ve got short supply and increased demand, especially as we’ve seen in the last six months. It involves a lot of consideration on the very reasons why you want to add that brand in. We have to believe in that brand or believe that product is the right product for that customer. And we either win together or lose together.
Is service a key offering from Visualization?
NP Eighty percent of what we build into a rack is actually free-issued by the customer. On the installation services we’re seeing a bit of a shift, but it’s not unusual for us to be installing an Epson projector that the customer has bought elsewhere. Once we’ve done that service piece they’ll quite often come back to us for design and specification. Any distributor can say they offer value-added support to install a brand they specified, but our customers need support whether we specified it or not. We’re not going to change that mentality, we often do a service piece that’s not related to a distribution piece.
Visualization has started a trainee programme for six technical positions, why did you feel it was important to do that?
NP We didn’t want to go shopping in the industry to build our team. Our customer base is integrators, so potentially we could be taking staff from a customer, or potential customer. We realised we were far better developing our own team. We don’t have enough decent certification career paths into our industry, that’s the reality, but we can sit and moan or wait for someone else to do it, or we can do our bit.