An interview with Sam Taylor, Senior Vice President and COO, Almo Professional A/V
With 2020 in the rearview mirror, we are settling in and setting our sites on new goals in 2021. And yes, while 2021 is already starting with its share of challenges, there is a bright glimmer of expectation for the future, especially in Pro AV!
With recent AVIXA reports showing 7-8 percent growth this year, the Pro AV market continues to march ahead. In fact, according to AXIXA’s 2020 Industry Outlook and Trends Analysis, North American Pro AV revenue is expected to grow to $78.5 billion in 2021, up from $74.3 billion in 2020.
There are other glimmers available to small businesses in our industry. The latest COVID-19 Relief Package signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020 provides a second round of assistance to companies in need. See the see the full article from NSCA for complete details.
Many lessons were learned in 2020. Like most companies, the Almo Pro A/V crew was also challenged with cancelled events, the work-from-home learning curve, and moving quickly to offer new ways to keep reseller and integrator partners learning, working and relevant.
We sat down with Sam Taylor, Vice President and COO for Almo Pro A/V to get his perspective on the highs and lows of 2020 and what to expect from Almo in 2021. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: What was the single greatest challenge for Almo in 2020?
Sam: The most difficult part was the inability to begin or complete installations due to facility closures. We’ve experienced a “W-shaped” business cycle with projects at a hard stop in the spring, only to come roaring back in the summer, then closing down again in the late fall with re-opening starting to happen again now.
Q: How has Almo responded to this challenge?
Sam: Two primary ways, by keeping our partners educated on new trends and opportunities in the industry and providing them with relevant products/services/support they need to keep their business moving forward – either with existing opportunities or with new ones. While many markets like hospitality and onsite events were paused, others like distance learning for education and working from home for corporate businesses had urgent new AV needs.
Q: How is Almo keeping partners educated?
Sam: For the first time in 11 years, and after announcing and preparing for our regional E4 Experience education and networking program to travel to Washington, D.C. and CA last spring, we cancelled our live events and introduced a new virtual platform called E4 Evolution (E4v). E4v was met with such success that it has become a permanent part of the E4 program. With fully curated live and interactive AVIXA-certified sessions led by all-star educators on relevant topics to help attendees thrive, E4v has become the next evolution in live education experiences.
We are soon announcing the next E4v, which will take place in March! Stay tuned for details!
Q: What other measures has Almo taken to support integrators since COVID changed our world?
Sam: We are constantly evaluating and changing direction based on the industry and the needs of our partners. We now offer PPE, disinfectant fogging kits, hand sanitizing kiosks and other point-of-entry products. We supply work-from-home bundles and lecture-capture devices for educators and business professionals. We’ve even entered an exclusive relationship with ARHT Media to offer holographic telepresence technology, which is the next best thing to being live!
At the same time, we’ve expanded our managed services offering, particularly for labor and installation to include drafting and engineering options. So many spaces have to be reworked to accommodate COVID restrictions, like restaurant build-outs and restructured office and educational facilities and most of these changes must be made quickly. Almo provides these services so integrators can use them without having to worry about hiring the experts or managing the overhead. We are ready for you now.
Q: How have you handled shipping and manufacturing delays due to COVID?
Sam: The most common delays we have seen are with cameras and USB audio products due to high demand, particularly for education. We offer multiple manufacturing lines so that if one is delayed, there is usually another to access. We help our partners lock down on product allocations early and build flexible options into their P.O.’s to provide the best possible outcome. Offering managed services to help get those products installed quickly and effectively has also helped our partners complete their projects.
Q: Looking on the bright side, what are some of the positives that emerged as a result of all the challenges in 2020?
Sam: It’s been interesting to see how some of the changes we’ve been forced to make have actually been beneficial. We have the technology to make working from home a professional, productive experience. Our E4v has enabled partners to participate in more educational sessions worth AVIXA CTS renewal units from the comfort and safety of their remote workspace. New projects and new ways of conducting business have created exciting new opportunities for our industry that we have been able to immediately embrace.
What are you looking forward to the most in 2021?
Sam: I cannot wait until I am seeing our customers and our vendor partners in person, and getting back to the business of being together as an industry face to face for business and pleasure. While some things may permanently change, many will stay in a “hybrid” mode for some. As COVID vaccines and treatments become more widely available, public spaces will continue to open, making way for existing projects to continue and new projects to begin. The future is bright!
DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS FOR SAM? IF SO, TYPE THEM IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW!
Over the past year, our daily lives have become increasingly focused on the health and safety of ourselves and those around us. With the importance of face coverings and frequent hand washing, it’s essential to clean a clean environment for each and every hotel guest and staff member. When soap and water are not readily available, the CDC encourages the use of hand sanitizer with at least 60 perfect alcohol upon entry of a public space. As a key measure in protecting yourself and others, frequent hand sanitation provides a safer public environment by keeping germs under control.
With Digital Signage Hand Sanitizing Units from RC Stars, the safety of guests and staff is a top priority. The auto-dispensers provide touchless sanitation while displaying customizable information and graphics, bringing convenience and cleanliness to any hotel space. With metal body housing, tempered protection glass, and water-resistant casing, Digital Hand Sanitizing Units from RC Stars provide top-of-the-line construction in a sleek exterior. Available in both freestanding and wall-mounted dispensers, the kiosks are equipped with Remote Management Software, delivering content updates to your web browser when sanitizer levels are running low.
Freestanding vs. Wall-Mounted Units
Ideal for high-traffic locations, the 21.5-inch freestanding model stands seamlessly in any space. The kiosk is maneuverable and can be reconfigured to assist with traffic slow and sanitation, providing lobbies guests with convenient access to hand sanitation.
Perfect for smaller areas, the 21.5-inch wall-mounted unit is an excellent choice for saving space. With a sleek, contemporary design and durable construction, this kiosk is a health-conscious addition to any wall.
The Best Places to Use Your Digital Signage Hand Sanitizing Unit
Digital Signage Hand Sanitizing Units from RC Stars are an excellent addition to any hotel lobby. With customizable text and images, the kiosk provides guests with hotel news and information while encouraging proper hand sanitation. Ideal for high traffic areas, the freestanding unit allows for frequent reconfiguration to assist with traffic flow, guaranteeing a simple and sanitary experience for guests upon entry. Take a further look into the freestanding unit here.
With zero-contact hand sanitation, hand sanitizing units are ideal for a health-conscious fitness center. Available in a freestanding unit for open areas or a wall-mounted unit for confined spaces, these kiosks are perfect for providing guests with important information while encouraging frequent hand sanitation. With customizable information and graphics, digital signage units are ideal for displaying your mask policy, instructions for sanitizing equipment, or simply requiring hand sanitation upon entry.
With a variety of frequently touched surfaces, it’s important to ensure proper hand sanitation in elevator hallways. With space-saving construction, the wall-mounted digital signage unit delivers convenient, touchless hand sanitation. Equipped with Remote Management Software, each unit delivers content updates to your web browser when sanitizer levels are low, providing easy management of multiple kiosks.
With the RC Stars Digital Signage Hand Sanitizing Unit, creating a safe and healthy environment for hotel guests is simple and efficient. Whether the unit is installed in a lobby, fitness center, or elevator hallway, guests and staff members will enjoy the convenience of digital signage and hand sanitation in a compact, sleek kiosk.
Just as the tragedy of 9/11 changed our lives forever, most of us agree the Corona Virus pandemic will be just as impactful. Not only will businesses and governments slowly and carefully reopen offices and public gathering spaces, and but will be tasked ongoing to provide a “safe place” for employees and customers. In other words, it won’t just end with this pandemic but rather place a duty of care liability on employers and government well into the distant future.
One set of solutions we offer are single-entry, level 1 triage Temperature Scanning Systems to facilitate a safe entry into a business or public space. In short, single-entry solutions must provide technology that efficiently supports a safe assessment of a person desiring entry. In the beginning, we interviewed a number of potential end-users regarding perceived needs in search of a solution. Two points consistently surfaced. First, all agreed that they need a solution; and secondly, none of them knew exactly what they needed.
The first point is obvious. Employers and businesses agree that a safe work or gathering environment is paramount to moving forward in the post COVID-19 world. This won’t be the last battle we’ll face as a society so having technology that supports a reasonable solution for the present and future is needed. In response this summer, a “bull rush” of products flooded the market with a myriad of products. Most of these products performed as designed but are not flexible beyond a “Pass-Fail” assessment. Some may be able to pass signals to open doors and measure faces with masks on but can’t adapt to new processes or reporting needs. They are what they are.
Fortunately, the full opening of offices and business have been somewhat delayed giving time to develop and evolve safe entry practices. The market is anxious to buy yet hesitant to invest in one-trick ponies that won’t provide flexibility down the road as needs change. Our search focused on finding solutions that not only serve the immediate needs of today but those in the future as well. Our search has found solutions that not only provide reliable single-entry Level 1 triage body temperature scanning but support processes and reporting as well. Processes such as matching employee pre-questionnaires with temp scanning and in-out tracking are accommodated. And back-end reporting for administrative purposes is provided as well.
Our search settled on software platforms functioning on small format touch displays and tablets coupled with a temperature scan facial camera or wrist-sensing arrays. One such solution uses tablets from Mimo, a manufacturing partner known for high quality displays and tablets with PCAP touch. They partnered with a software platform from Revel Digital. These tablets attach the temp scanning arrays via pogo pins. The pogo pin connection scheme provide USB connectivity and power for the temp scanning arrays. Revel Digital, in turn, provided the Android-based programming and CMS to not only control the temp scanning process but provide reporting and digital signage capabilities as well.
We have other hardware platforms and hardware solutions to offer our dealers and their end-users. The key to our solutions is the ability to customize to end-user requirements now and in the future. We have a team of specialists that can assist dealers in the end-user interviews to determine requirements and solutions. These are not short sell-cycle hardware solutions. It includes SaaS (Software as a Service) license fees in addition to hardware purchase. These solutions can adapt as end-user needs evolve. Our Almo Sales Reps and Specialists stand ready to start putting solutions together.
What other products can you see businesses needing to implement in order to provide a sense of security to returning workers and customers?