Education Opportunities at E4 Experience

Not long ago, I did a little promo video on LinkedIn poking fun at the travel expenses and hassles associated with going to a “big” trade show and extolling the virtues of the Exertis Almo E4 regional trade shows. If you know me, I’ve had some travel hassles over the years.

Tom Kehr Linkedin E4 travel videoHonestly, if you can attend an E4, there’s no better bargain on the planet, especially now that we’re not just Exertis or just Almo, but Exertis Almo, with more lines and services than ever available to support the audio-visual integrator.

There’s a lot that has been written about hybrid meetings and meeting equity and all that, but nothing tops meeting face-to-face, shaking hands (or fist bumps if that’s more comfortable for you), discovering new contacts, and having a conversation around good food. It’s what a friend of mine, Stuart Weiser, calls, “Meet, eat and greet.” Despite all of our 24/7/365 electronic connectivity, you can’t beat the one-on-one that the E4 Experience offers. Sometimes our best connections happen quite by accident and when we don’t expect it. We just “happen” to meet someone, strike up a conversation where interests and goals mesh and it becomes the beginning of a long-term profitable business relationship.

E4 has extended the show floor hours to 4:00PM (in some cities), so you won’t have to feel so rushed to get it all in – breakfast, Keynote, exhibits, sessions, lunch, and education. Did you see food mentioned twice? Even before I joined Exertis Almo, I always remembered that E4 always did a great job with meals. Food and coffee are the fuels of AV.

But, although we are often driven by our stomachs, E4 is so much more. More vendors and exhibits than before, but also the same great education that has become a hallmark of E4. I have the privilege of doing two sessions, but I’m not alone, as Gary Kayye and Tom Stimson will be presenting as well. In addition, Melody Craigmyle will be leading a roundtable on DEI. As always, our education provides RUs for your CTS renewal.

Great people, great manufacturers, great education, and great food. The only thing it will cost you is a day out of the office and the potential for missed opportunities. No expense report necessary.

Want to know more?
Attend the 2023 E4Experience in a city near you, and take one or both of Tom’s courses on “Conducting a Needs Analysis” and “Conducting a Proper Site Survey” to earn up to 2 AVIXA CTS RUs.

Check out his “Project Questions & Needs Analysis” post.

Did you find this post helpful? Engage with us over on LinkedIn.

Tom Kehr

About the Author

Tom Kehr

CTS-D, CTS-I, Network+, LEED Green Associate, ISF-C, ATD Master Trainer

In-House System Designer and Trainer

Supported Applications: System Design

E4 Experience Blog #2: Expansive Services Offering

This blog is reposted with permission from Commercial Integrator.   Author: Dan Ferrisi

Rob Voorhees explores Exertis Almo services and how they benefit integrators, as well as his passion for diversity, equity and inclusion.

During this month’s E4 Experience, Commercial Integrator had a chance to learn more about Exertis Almo’s services offering. We could have no better guide than Rob Voorhees, CTS, CTP, CTNS, DSCE, business development manager with Exertis Almo. After all, apart from overseeing the HARMAN vendor relationship, Voorhees manages the connectivity portion of Exertis Almo’s audiovisual services. During an expansive half-hour discussion with CI, Voorhees touches on Exertis Almo’s recent acquisition of Caddrillion Engineering & Drafting, LLC, as well as how the market-enablement company commits itself to lowering integrators’ barrier to entry for moving into services.

Entry into Exertis Almo Services

Voorhees starts the conversation with reflections on his arrival at Almo more than six years ago. Services were, in fact, his entry point into the organization, and he describes his initial impressions as pleasantly surprising. “At a lot of distributors and integrators, the term ‘one-stop shop’ gets thrown around very, very loosely,” Voorhees acknowledges. “One of the comments I made very early on in my career here,” he recalls, “was this: ‘This worldwide distributor really talks the talk and walks the walk.’”

In particular, Almo’s service mission — Voorhees summarized it as expanding integrators’ reach without increasing their overhead — impressed him. “It’s all about you knowing that you can fulfill a project or customer need without having to hire somebody new…without having to train somebody and dedicate those resources,” he adds.

When industry observers look at today’s Exertis Almo, they see a market-enablement company whose services portfolio is remarkably broad. Indeed, the organization’s offerings range from design and blueprinting all the way to DSP programming.

Voorhees, however, calls back to the foundational three Exertis Almo service offerings: labor, content creation and connectivity. Over time, the company presciently expanded on that foundation, with Exertis Almo responding, in real time, to emerging customer needs and partners’ desire to fulfill them.

Stepping into the Connectivity Arena

Right now, for example, the organization is leaning into its already-available cybersecurity services. As it is, Voorhees observes, some integrators are reluctant even to step into the connectivity arena because they are unfamiliar with the intricacies of bandwidth, streaming, etc. “Cybersecurity takes that to a multiplier of 10,” he notes. “It’s an even more difficult conversation.” But that’s precisely why integrators would want Exertis Almo as a service partner and consultative advisor.

As noted, Voorhees leads the connectivity portion of Exertis Almo services, and he shares some insights into it. “Our connectivity services allow us to partner and provide services from all the major ISPs in the country,” he explains. Indeed, Voorhees cites Comcast and AT&T as just two examples. Laying out an opportunity for recurring commission, he continues, “We allow our partners to provide those services to customers.”

One might think that dealing with ISPs falls outside integration businesses’ scope, but that would be wrong. After all, having sufficient network bandwidth is the single biggest key to a successful AV-over-IP deployment. “That’s why Exertis Almo got involved in something like connectivity services,” Voorhees states. “Because we saw where the industry was going.”

Caddrillion Acquisition Boosts Exertis Almo Services

In response to CI inquiring about Exertis Almo’s acquisition of Caddrillion, Voorhees explains that the organizations, in fact, had partnered for a couple years. Specifically, Caddrillion was a trusted resource for Exertis Almo with respect to systems design and engineering services. With expertise spanning systems design, systems engineering, project blueprinting, systems programming (e.g., AMX, BSS, Crestron, Extron) and remote programming, Caddrillion quickly proved a valuable partner for the market-enablement company.

“Over the time of building the partnership with them, [we determined] it might make sense for both parties to bring this in house,” Voorhees relates. The acquisition went into effect this past January 1.

It was a smart move for Exertis Almo, as it bolstered its services offering in the most impactful way. “AV design services have been a huge need just over the last year alone,” Voorhees declares. “That’s why [we’ve filled] that void in house now.” Moreover, he heaps praise on Caddrillion CEO Justin Gregory and his team, underlining once again their strength in engineering, drafting and programming. “They have just done a phenomenal job for our customers,” Voorhees enthuses.

Filling the Gaps

It’s clear that, in building its services offering, Exertis Almo is committed to filling the gaps in AV projects. Equally, however, the organization seeks to lower integrators’ barrier to entry so they can seize on service-oriented business opportunities. Voorhees remarks that today’s commercial AV industry is all about selling an experience. “And I consider [selling] services a big piece of that,” he declares.

But Voorhees remains mindful that not everyone natively “speaks the language” of services, nor are services everyone’s core competency. “[That’s why] any call or one-on-one meeting that I have with a partner to discuss ISP services — or anything else, for that matter — it’s all about going in to make it not as attractive as possible, but, instead, as simple as possible,” he stresses.

And Exertis Almo’s guidance frequently produces revelatory moments for partners. For example, Voorhees cites integrator conversations pertaining to his role with Exertis Almo’s connectivity services. He recalls integrators attesting that they frequently recommended internet-service suppliers but otherwise were uninvolved. However, when integrators learn about facilitating connectivity services through Exertis Almo and earning a commission, he says, “It’s like you’re reintroducing the wheel to them.”

This education about available opportunities frequently takes place during what Voorhees refers to as “discovery calls.” These conversations with integrator partners — as well as, sometimes, with end users — are incredibly useful for teasing out customer needs and elucidating the reasoning behind recommendations. “[It’s] not just about signing somebody up for something,” he declares, expressing a business integrity that is refreshing.

Embracing DEI

As passionate as Voorhees is about Exertis Almo services and serving partners well, he has equal passion for DEI. Part of it stems from having a teenage daughter on the autism spectrum. He states firmly that he wants to ensure his daughter never faces any barriers to entry as she pursues her dreams.

“Awareness and education are key,” Voorhees opines, crediting Exertis Almo as an organization that’s truly enlightened on diversity issues. “Getting to work for a company that addresses not just neurodiversity but also diversity and inclusion of all kinds is very comforting not only as an employee of that company but also as a parent,” he says. Although too modest to describe himself as a leader, Voorhees is an expositor of the message; he’s an active member of the AVIXA Diversity Council.

“It’s very, very powerful to feel comfortable and be happy as yourself,” Voorhees declares. Thus, it’s incumbent on AV industry organizations to proactively discuss and address these issues — not sweep them under the rug — and recognize that even small accommodations (e.g., noise-canceling headphones) can be transformative in empowering team members to deliver their very best. “More attention to little details is the key,” he advises.

Clearly, Exertis Almo pays attention to all the details of both its services and its inclusive company culture. And with powerful voices like Voorhees’ helping show the way, the market-enablement company’s future looks brighter than ever.

Connect with Commercial Integrator and Exertis Almo on LinkedIn.

E4 Experience Blog #1: Leadership Transition

This blog is reposted with permission from Commercial Integrator.   Author: Dan Ferrisi

During the Exertis Almo E4 Experience, CI learned about the meticulously planned leadership transition from Sam Taylor to Dan Smith.

Dan Smith, Dan Ferrisi, and Sam TaylorRecently, CI chatted with Sam Taylor and Dan Smith about market-enablement company Exertis Almo’s meticulously planned leadership transition. Smith is succeeding outgoing executive vice president and COO Taylor, who is retiring following a remarkably successful 14-year tenure. Both leaders attended the Exertis Almo E4 Experience on March 7 in Dallas, an event that drew hundreds. As always, the E4 Experience delivered informative education sessions, invaluable peer networking and an exhibit floor populated with top vendors across product categories. For CI, however, the highlight was chatting with these two leaders about Exertis Almo’s culture, growth and exciting future.

The Decision to Retire

Any conversation with Taylor makes his passion for Exertis Almo abundantly evident. Indeed, during our talk, he reflects, “I started Almo Pro AV in partnership with Warren and Gene Chaiken and 22 dedicated professionals who came over from our former employer. When we started, we had no customers, no inventory and no vendors. Flash forward to today, where we now have 240 people in our division dedicated to pro AV and revenues of approximately $1 billion. After 14 years, I still feel like this is my baby.”

So, then, what motivated Taylor’s decision to retire? He explains that, two years ago, he realized that he’d achieved all his personal, professional and financial goals. That realization inspired Taylor to coordinate a planned departure, with a one-year transition plan to find a suitable successor. The timing changed, however, when DCC Technology, which trades as Exertis, acquired Almo Corp. in North America. “[The Board] asked me to stay on an extra year to help oversee the integration of the sales and marketing teams into Almo,” Taylor explains.

The transition plan included recruiting a top executive search firm, which produced something like 30 candidates. However, Taylor himself suggested adding Smith, then at LG Electronics and not seeking to change jobs, to the mix. He underscores that the entire Exertis Almo decision-making team — from president and CEO Warren Chaiken, to chairman Gene Chaiken, to Taylor — concluded that Smith had separated himself from the candidate field. “I felt really comfortable that Dan was not only going to continue what we’ve done [but also] going to grow it in different ways,” Taylor declares. Handing the reins of Exertis Almo to someone who’s going to carry it forward gives Taylor peace of mind as he nears retirement in June.

The Attraction of Exertis Almo

For Smith, Exertis Almo was particularly appealing because of its transition from distribution to true market enablement. “I think there’s a very fast-growing need for a market-enablement company,” he opines. Indeed, Smith believes that, with so many vendors and technologies, there is an ever-increasing need for training and support. “And therein lies Exertis Almo’s true value proposition: a well-thought-out vendor selection, enviable education offerings and a wide portfolio of services,” he summarizes. Seeing those increasingly pressing industry needs, Smith enthusiastically embraced this opportunity to oversee and lead true market enablement.

Another core characteristic of Exertis Almo that impressed Smith is its customer responsiveness and willingness to change approaches. He remembers thinking, “If they find out they need a new product, they bring the product onboard. If they find out they need additional training, they build the training to satisfy that.” It’s the antithesis of the stagnancy that sometimes can plague larger organizations that have tasted success and wed themselves to a formula. Exertis Almo is almost a billion-dollar business, but it’s still looking to grow, innovate and evolve. “There’s still a tremendous amount of growth potential,” Smith says with a smile. He points, in particular, to emerging opportunities involving collaboration tools, AVoIP, interactive digital boards and DVLED. Moreover, Smith believes the merging of the AV and IT communities will open the door to further market enablement.

Exertis Almo’s Company Culture

Both Taylor and Smith underline Exertis Almo’s company culture, whose roots lie in Almo Corp.’s 77-year history. It’s a family-like environment, Taylor attests, and those bonds inspire employees to refer friends and relatives to the company. Those employees’ enthusiasm radiates outward, thus illuminating another reason that Smith was excited to accept this leadership role. “You know it on the outside,” he says, “but you feel it on the inside.” Smith declares that he immediately felt a personal fit with the company…a cultural congruence of sorts. “One of my goals is to help continue that,” he vows.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are central to Exertis Almo’s company culture today — just as they always have been. In fact, Almo had longstanding diversity training and policies, including active recruitment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). After last year’s acquisition, the merged organization further amplified those initiatives. Taylor emphasizes that some of the fruits of those efforts are apparent; for example, Exertis Almo has a wealth of female team members, including in key leadership roles. Smith adds that, although DEI remains a foundational value, the organization even more broadly emphasizes respect for and trust in individuals. Pointing to a recently completed annual employee survey, he remarks, “I was astounded, as an outsider, how high [the marks] were. But, on the inside, it was easy to believe.”

Leveraging Organizational Resources

Smith praises parent company DCC for empowering Exertis Almo to serve its customers while, simultaneously, respecting leadership’s independence. Smith summarizes the arrangement by saying, “We’re going to be the finance people, and you’re going to run your business.” Thus, Exertis Almo remains free to maintain its culture and pursue its mission, which Smith describes with refreshing clarity. “Throughout our whole route to market, we service that end user,” he declares. “What enhances the business? What enhances the education? And what enhances communication? How do [our customers] do what they’re doing better?” Leadership, at the same time, however, leverages all the benefits of scale of multiple businesses combined. Smith points to 2.7 million square feet of warehouse space in the U.S., with 11 active warehouses, as examples.

A New Challenge

Meanwhile, as Taylor readies himself for retirement in June, he plans to wrap his arms around a new challenge. An avid swimmer all his life — in fact, he swam in high school and college and also served as a coach — Taylor will channel his passion into helping underserved youths. Kentucky State University, an HBCU, had a catastrophic failure at its pool a few years ago. However, the institution doesn’t have the money to fix it. That is where Taylor comes in.

“I’m chairing a fund,” he announces, “and our goal is to raise a million dollars to fix the pool.” What’s more, he’s seeking to raise operating capital to keep the pool well maintained and functional for good. Taylor adds that not only will Kentucky State students use the pool but, in addition, those needing swimming lessons and seniors will have access. It’s a perfect next chapter for someone whose passion for market enablement and building businesses is only equaled by his love for swimming.

It seems clear that, as Taylor eyes retirement, his team and he have chosen well in selecting Smith as successor. The future of Exertis Almo remains bright, and, as a result, so, too, does the future of its customers.

Connect with Commercial Integrator and Exertis Almo on LinkedIn.

Taking a Hands-On Approach to Pro AV

The human body has roughly 5 million sensory nerve receptors inside. The receptors help trigger the sensations of heat, cold, pain, and so many others that we have grown accustomed to. Being that I just turned 41 in March, it is quite easy to overlook these sensations outside of the frequent times I would yell “I CAN’T STAND THE COLD WEATHER ANYMORE!” Having just returned from a trip out to California while attending Almo Pro AV’s award-winning E4 Experience, it really dawned on me of the importance that the sense of touch has on all of us. It had been 3 long years since I last had gotten on a plane and roughly 2 ½ years since I last attended an E4 or any other industry events. It is absolutely true that you don’t know what you have ‘til it’s gone and having the Pro AV industry (and the world for that matter) shut down the past couple of years really caused me to miss being on the road and interacting with all of you. With that being said, I found myself immersed in the opportunity to be around the product that we all sell, train, manage, and communicate on the daily. 

Dating back to my days selling the first consumer Plasma TV’s and 500lb console televisions (slight exaggeration!) in retail, I have always had a belief that to be successful in sales, you had to be a customer yourself. How could I honestly and accurately sell products if I didn’t use those products myself? There is something to be said about taking a new audio receiver home, connecting it yourself, and spending hours, days, or weeks adjusting the settings to your preferred listening levels. This practice dates back to the late 1990’s for me and holds true to this very day. I am a visual, hands-on learner. I enjoy the art of “trying to break something,” meaning I like to test the product, possibly disassemble it, and try to understand how and why it functions the way it does. Looking around my office right now, I can count a minimum of 10 products that are available through Almo Pro AV. If I look around my house even further, I see internet, cable TV, security, and even solar services, which I had sold previously in my career. Again, if I don’t use the product, how can I accurately sell it? 

How many times a week do we find ourselves quoting out product specs for a particular item? Half a dozen? 10-12? I’d venture to guess quite a bit. Let’s take a portable loudspeaker as an example. All week long I can be on email, zoom, and phone calls and recite the following to a customer: “Yes, this speaker has a vertical array containing 12 2.5” drivers with copper-capped pole pieces to minimize distortion.  This model contains a 2000-watt fully-bridged amplifier and a 7-channel digital mixer. Each speaker weighs roughly 55lbs and measures 33x19x25” in size.” Ultimately, reciting those specs to a customer is probably going to be good enough to close the deal, especially if it is a speaker the customer has previously used, or maybe they need an upgrade to a more current model, etc.

However, imagine being able to attend an event like E4 Experience, where you walk up to a manufacturers booth, you see this particular loudspeaker on display, and you are ENCOURAGED to be HANDS-ON! The E4 Experience is hardly your 5th grade trip to the Museum. These manufacturers want you to touch the product, examine at your own speed, and ask questions about how to best utilize those products! There is a lot to be said for the ability to do this and immediately earns you a layer of credibility with your customers when you can speak from personal experiences. 

During this most recent E4 Experience, held in sunny Anaheim, CA, I had the opportunity to talk with Cassidy Alley, Account Manager from Almo’s National Business Team. Cassidy is newer to the Almo Family, having just started in the fall of 2021, and this was her first ever E4 Experience. In our show floor discussion, she said, “Being able to attend the E4 tour is a great experience as it provided the opportunity to learn about products through a live demonstration, build relationships with the vendors, and interact with end-users. This opportunity has helped with driving business as relationships and knowledge grew. The E4 tour is an invaluable way for dealers and end users to connect with key players in the industry. Going to an E4 presents an amazing opportunity to really dive deep and have a personalized interaction with the newest in AV technology.” The two things she said that really struck a chord with me were learning about products through live demonstration and also how attending an E4 presented an opportunity to dive deeper. Cassidy, like the rest of us, can only go so far reciting specs from online data sheets. She took the opportunity and ran with it like so many others and I find that extremely commendable. 

For those of you who are familiar with past blogs and articles I have written, you will know that I am a big proponent of seeking out ways to educate ourselves in order to move further in the comfort model. The E4 Experience is an excellent example of this, and it is a way for us to get our hands on the latest and greatest in technology that the Pro AV industry has to offer. As the country continues to open back up to pre-2020 normalcy, it is imperative that we all seek out these opportunities to not only get in front of the manufacturers we all know and love, but also get in front of the products we have been talking about for years and really gain a physical understanding of how the products work, how they tie together to complete a project, and even pick up some tips and tricks on how we can better sell them to our customers through live demos.

I hope to see you all in Chicago on May 3rd at the next E4 Experience, and don’t be afraid to walk up to a booth and get hands-on with everything that Pro AV has to offer in 2022!

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