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!
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