Dan Smith Heads up Exertis Almo

David Keene – When it was announced early this year that Dan Smith was chosen as the new EVP/COO of Exertis Almo, a lot of folks in the pro AV world were excited to see Dan take the helm of a major player in the industry (from the retiring and difficult-shoes-to-fill Sam Taylor). His track record is stellar, and the growing and expanding role of Distributors in the market has been one the most prominent trends in AV the past 10 years. So what’s in store for us all? We’ll know more at InfoComm.

Why are Distributors now more prominent in the AV market than they have ever been?

  • AV product manufacturers:

– have scaled back selling directly to AV integrators, selling through Distributors is more efficient for them in a variety of ways

– have scaled back product training

– generally speaking, have fewer sales engineers on staff

  • AV integrators:

– face continuing product shortages due to supply chain problems; things have gotten better on the pure supply chain, but now supply-side economics have kicked in, i.e. myriad supply-side inflation disruptions that have integrators squeezed by rising costs of gear, materials, and labor.

– prefer buying through Distributors, for more efficient logistics, drop-shipping, etc.

– continue to face cash flow issues due to the completion cycles on large projects

So the big AV Distributors, on top of those trends, are all in growth mode (and acquisition and/or merger mode). And they now offer many services that AV manufacturers (or even integrators) provided in the past: Training, Demos, Design services, Sales engineering, and even some services that break new ground, such as new financial services beyond just credit, and even outsourced labor for AV integrators.

The huge Distributors – TD Synnex, and Ingram Micro for example – are so entrenched in, and successful in, the IT markets that pro AV and digital signage while important growth areas for them are not their main revenue drivers. Exertis Almo is more focused on AV for their sales. For example, they are the #1 distributor in the U.S. for most of the top manufacturers of what we’ve called AV “flat panels” for a while, the screens from the Japanese and Korean giants mainly, with Chinese in the mix, that go into so many schools, business, airports and other applications. Of course, all of those Distributor dynamics are complicated. IT managers are increasingly the product and solution gatekeepers at many end user companies and schools, so IT-forward can be an advantage. Really, being AV-forward or IT-forward is not the key dynamic. The key dynamic is the move toward more services vs. hardware in the AV world, and on the pure product/solution side a move to more software-based solutions – driven by the advent of much better API’s that let software more easily “talk” to and play more friendly with other vendors’ software or hardware. How will the big Distributors – coming from different angles and with their recently forged and different acquisition/merger DNA – navigate it all? And how can they help both integrators and sophisticated end users make sense of the changing nature of solutions?

Dan Smith, most recently at LG before taking the helm at Exertis Almo, is one of the industry’s stars. I’ve known him for years and I look forward to seeing what he does with an already-great company. InfoComm ’23 in Orlando will be great place to catch up with Dan and the company including long-time marketing chief Melody Craigmyle.

You can catch Gary Kayye’s interview with Dan Smith, that took place at the Exertis Almo E4 event in Dallas just weeks after Smith was tapped for his new role:

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