2014 Business Forecast Survey Dec 2013

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1 2014 Business Forecast Survey Dec 2013 Contents Executive Summary... 1 Tom Stimson s Outlook... 3 The Survey Results Compared to What Last Year s Survey Predicted for Forecast... 5 Economic and Business Trends Question... 7 Bonus Question Executive Summary In the November 2013 issue of AV Matters, I sent out my annual request for a business snapshot on the previous year s results and current year s projections. The following report will summarize the two data questions and compare to last year s responses. In general, the responses were very complete and most every respondent included answers to the open-ended questions. The mix of Systems Integrators and Rental-Stagers seemed to be about even with a few manufacturers mixed in. Not surprisingly respondents generally report better number sin 2013 over 2012, but as most of you know - the fun of these surveys are the comments sections and the open-ended questions. Just the Facts on 2013 Results: 16.4% of respondents saw an increase of 25% or more revenue in 2013 Another 40.4% grew more than 10% 25.3% were flat (+/- 5%) 9.5% were down 10% or more and another 4.1% were down 25% or more 2014 Forecasts 14.3% predict better than 25% improvement in 2014 An additional 56.1% predict 10% or better growth 18.4% expect to be flat Only 1.3% predict a drop in revenue Only 5.4% don t know what to expect Page 1 of 22

2 The Comments The survey results seem to affirm that 2013 has been characterized by a return to business as normal in the New economy, but as always there is a subset of underperformers that seem to blame external forces for their problems. As I read through the comments and written responses, I see an unexpectedly high number of negative thoughts, feelings, and perceptions in what is an otherwise positive economic report. A few even contradict themselves in the same comment. To paraphrase one person, While business was up significantly, we can t survive another year of a down economy. I have spent several days thinking about this to reconcile the data with the narrative. What I have concluded is that there are three types of companies represented in these results: 1. Positively Successful companies are reveling in the upswing and see the ongoing potential for more growth and better margins. They have been proactive in the downturn and those efforts are now paying off. These companies are gauging whether 2014 is the year for strategic initiatives and investments and most are choosing to add new gear, products, and services to gain market share. Some of these successful companies actually shrunk in 2013 because they reduced the amount of unprofitable market share many folks indiscriminately grabbed in Begrudgingly Successful companies worked hard in the downturn to stem losses and are seeing their core business come back. These are solid companies but not necessarily strategic thinkers, and they seem to long for the days when it was easy to grow just by answering the phone. Often, they resent having to make investments to compete with companies that weren t on their radar before the recession. They are not really sure why business has been up, because they are focused on the forces over which they have no control: regulations, taxes, healthcare, and labor laws to name a few and, many still blame a bad economy for their perceived woes. 3. Dazed and Confused companies rode out the recession by reducing staff, cutting way back on capital purchases, and eliminating all discretionary spending. Not only were they not prepared for a downturn (and really, no one was prepared for how long it ended up lasting), they didn t recognize that the rebound was not going to return things to business as usual. They lost market share and what business they retained was won on price. Sadly, many of these companies are working harder than they ever have before, but unfortunately choose to do the wrong things. Eliminating capital purchases for multiple years will prove to be their biggest mistake. Groups 1 & 2 make up the majority of the companies that grew this year, but I expect that there are several Group 1 s in the list of companies whose revenue shrank in And I bet there are some Group 3 s that saw higher revenue in spite of themselves. The negative comments and responses you will see in the survey I attribute to Groups 2 & 3. Page 2 of 22

3 Tom Stimson s Outlook I started my consulting career in Fall of 2006 and by early 2007 I could see the signs of some sort of downturn. From late 2007 to 2010, AV companies were being crushed in succession (east to west) across North America. The slow recovery started east to west in 2009 with the lagging regions picking back up in late seemed to be the reset year for most companies (integration resurfaced a year before rental-staging), and 2013 brought record-breaking numbers for both segments that pushed many firms to new revenue highs. Most R&S have reported a consistently good Managers still have trepidations, but are looking for signs that it is OK to plan ahead again. I am no oracle when it comes to forecasting, but I have a pretty good track record year on year. I follow a lot of leading indicators and here s a summary of what I see for 2014: Systems Integrators reported an exceptional first two quarters in 2013 and a flat second half. However, the SI pipeline for the first half of 2014 seems to be very full already. This will undoubtedly build a backlog for the second half. Lead times for R&S projects are increasing. There is still a lot of last minute major projects, but these jobs seem to be less price-sensitive. Many companies report major projects booked all the way into second half of Multi-year contracts all but disappeared from negotiations for several years. Now, clients are reintroducing the idea. This tells me that end-customers are confident in the upward economic trends. Technology is changing quickly and new products and features are once again in demand. Clients are asking for cool things they ve seen online, at trade shows, or in your demo rooms. AV Industry businesses are hiring middle management again. Companies have outgrown their downsized infrastructure and need to backfill specialty roles like R&D, procurement, internal project coordination, and database support. A huge indicator that we can t overlook is the stock market. The DJIA has climbed to 16,000 points on a very steady two year trend line. And, private equity is investing in riskier but higher return sectors like AV Rental & Staging. These financial visionaries see something many of us are missing! What would I do with this outlook? In short, I would be more aggressive with my plans for Raise expected margins, turn down business that doesn t fit, and replace employees that won t let go of the status quo. I would find capital to borrow or partners to join my business so I could invest in new technology, services, and other growth initiatives. And I would double down on my marketing budget. -Tom Stimson Page 3 of 22

4 The Survey 2013 Results Compared to 2012 Roughly 57% of the respondents report more than a 10% increase in overall revenue in 2013 compared to By comparison, about 55% reported an increase from 2011 to This is a significant increase in revenue and another indicator that the economy is on track. 25.3% of the survey pool remained flat compared to 29% last year and 13.6% reported a decline compared to 13.7%. All in all it seems that 2013 was good to the industry. What Last Year s Survey Predicted for 2013 Comparing the two charts above (2013 actuals to 2013 forecast), it looks like the survey pool overpredicted 2013 revenue growth. 57% of respondents achieved better than 10% growth in 2013 compared to the 66% that forecasted that much improvement. About the same percentage of companies remained flat, but almost three times more lost revenue than expected. 5.6% expected to be down, but 13% report lower actual revenue. In a survey like this we don t want to read too much into the variances between the two years: the respondents are probably different (though I expect Page 4 of 22

5 many are the same) and the mix of respondents (rental vs integration, vs manufacturing) may have varied as well. As a benchmark though, I think our respondents are clearly optimistic. This is particularly important given that more than 70% of respondents expect to grow in excess of 10% in 2014 (see next section). Given the pool s track record, we should expect only 60-62% of companies to experience plus 10% growth in Forecast What does this all mean? Basically, the industry seems to be on the same page in agreeing that 2014 is ripe for growth. A higher number of companies are planning on growth (70% expect major growth in 2013). Respondent Comments on 2013 Results Revenue neutral - costs managed down as well as possible to meet the new norm Rentals up about 5%, sales flat except a big system sale. Starting to turn the other way as we get through the 4th QTR mostly in Screen Sales and Image control for Presentations We have had a slight increase in volume with no change in the profit margins. Credit continues to be the largest problem slowing growth. Up about 7% It's a little more than 20% up, but net profit year-over-year will have increased 70% over Our hotel was under renovations for the first month-and-a-half of 2013, which accounts for the drop. Our company is divided between AV Staging and Integration. This reflects a downturn in Integration, Staging will be up about 10%. Integration suffered from postponements, which will result in a very busy first quarter Page 5 of 22

6 Due to new 5 year contract at prominent hotel First half was slow, picking up after InfoComm/ June. Had several large installs last year but sales are very down this year and production revenue is almost doubled. our largest client has no events planned for 2014 which accounts for 38% of our revenue Being DC based sequester cost us about $250,000 but improved biz on all other fronts more than made up for that. Our fiscal is July to June Higher highs and lower lows but up overall Hard to top last year! Higher level of business from repeat business and more new business throughout year Our rental business is up slightly and our installation business is down somewhat as of had been our best year-to-date will be over 25% higher in Total Income. I would say 10% or less but you did not give that as an option. 83% of our business came from repeat accounts but we had many of those clients do more business with us in In addition, we picked up a lot of new business. Overall, we will be up around $1 million. Mostly attributed to low hanging fruit of existing clients. Sequestration hurt government accounts Respondent Comments on 2014 Forecast Seeing a small rebound in the economy in our area that will provide continuing rental growth. Projects are finally starting to move! Image control appears to be strong gut level - based on interest from clients, new clients, etc. Unless we can solve the credit problems will have little or no growth next year. New revenue channel, Project Management, gaining traction. Otherwise up between 5 & 10% Quote a lot confirmed through the end of 2014, and into 2015, already. Do to new 5 year contract at Resort hotel and spa Bringing new solutions and technologies on board. Expecting increase of volume. Historic business will stay flat. we had good growth this year the unfortunate part is that most of the growth is not reoccurring. Page 6 of 22

7 Corporations have cash to spend but are being careful because of uncertain business climate We are making efforts to boost our revenue for 2014, but the results remain to be seen. Once again..hard to top 2013! Steady is better! We need the politicians to get back to job growth, economic growth We have a top 5 account that isn't renewing with us for It will be hard to replace that revenue. More prospecting Economic and Business Trends Question In regard to your 2014 revenue prediction, what do you believe are the top 1-2 ECONOMIC or BUSINESS trends that will affect your results in 2014? Briefly explain WHY they matter to your company. The AEC industry as a whole is slow. Lots of over building in the past years leave very high vacancy rates. Lots of pressure to downsize corporate office space. This is new prosperity, ugly. Gaming vertical growing across many states - this is an important business channel for us General sense that the economy is improving, stock market strong - a rising tide raises all boats Economic - our customer base is primarily involved with advertising & if the economy falters advertising budgets get cut even further. Improving economic conditions in NV, CA, NY and NJ. Unfortunately, slow improvement in TN and stagnant conditions in DC due to dysfunctional government. The continuing growth of Events in total and in size/technical complexity The age of older technology and the need to replace/retool. The economy needs to keep growing. That allows businesses to feel better about having meeting and conventions. Technological advancements continue to suck revenue out of our P & L. Great things are available, but they cost dollars and many customers don't want to pay for them, but expect to have them cheaply. Page 7 of 22

8 Finding & Training the right people...need technical people to complete the work Focus your sales team on target, whether is it a vertical market, or new product entries (ie 4k) I truly believe inaction in congress is the source of the problems Health care costs continue to be our biggest cause for concern. We saw a 46% increase '13 over '12. Large clients and Basic Corporations such as Food, Automotive and Communications are continuing to have bigger and bolder meetings and events PRG's decline is a factor in creating competitive opportunities for us. I believe 2014 will be an especially tough year for them due to debt levels and cap-ex freezes. The result is an increase in PRG clientele who are willing to consider doing business elsewhere. Strong corporate profits have made a big difference for us in the corporate theater and trade show marketplace. We expect to see this continue into I am expecting about 5% increase due to minor price increases (day-rates and rental prices) that will roll out in Q2. 1) What's happening in Washington. I think the business community & finally decide that Washington is dysfunctional - so why pay it any attention? (Stock market went up during Govt shutdown.) National government will have minimal impact on business 2) Feeling of wealth - both corporate & personal. If the stock is doing well,companies are more willing to splurge on a big meeting or event. 3) Non-profit fund raising / Capital Campaigns. That & large non-profit fund raisers (charity balls / social events) have become a major growth area. If there is money to chase after, they will become bigger & grander. corporate restacks are driving need for more and more huddle rooms and small conference rooms. unified communications is incorporating videoconferencing. millenial generation is used to interactive display and is demanding this in their work environment. Bring your own device for everything. Increased resolutions, more displays, more annotations and interactivity. all drive increased revenues. Page 8 of 22

9 Continued steady growth will be a result of continued improvement of the overall economy and additional recurring business from existing clients and client referrals. 1. Credit: A lot of time is being spent trying to figure out how to make the cash work. It is probably taking about 20 extra hours per week on this project. 2. Health Care. We have offered health care to our employees for years but with the new Federal mandate we are spending far more time and effort trying to figure out what we can and cannot do. 3. A lot of new work is available and we seem to be getting our share of the market. We are starting to refuse work if it is not going to be of benefit to the company. The monthly totals are changing and some of the old slow months are getting better and some of the old good months are seeing a decline in volume. I think it will benefit us. Corporate spending on both meetings and sponsorship are coming alive Ability to upsell new products/services to existing customers will have a net positive impact on revenue. Ability to generate 1-2 more large AV customers will have a positive impact on revenue. DJIA. Entertainment spending tends to track the Dow pretty closely. Clients looking for alternate solutions to their present vendors. Oil and Gas will probably has been and will be most important trend in Houston. Corporations are willing to spend money again. Incentive trips are back. Clients are spending more time and money on customer and internal events. Means more and larger events. 1) We have a couple of major shows that booked and make a major difference in our revenue. 2) We are starting to give lower discounts and still are getting the business. Our margins are increasing. Hungry Competition, Prices being crunched down More internal & external marketing dollars being spent. Both an economic AND business trend. We are doing more and larger internal events that are all about growing our client's businesses even larger. External budgets for trade shows, etc., seem to be Page 9 of 22

10 increasing in some markets, such as certain retail areas and medical devices, but not in others. I don't know that there are any specific business trends that I am aware of that will greatly impact my forecast other than the fact that events are slowly coming back and business is on the rise. My forecast is more based on the fact that we will aggressively sell and market to increase our share of a robust market. Fewer City-wide conferences will result in less overflow events at our hotel. They matter for the obvious reason that we cater to association and corporate events, along with social and other markets, so losing some larger associations' overflow will impact our revenue. Lowest price shoppers and last minute business. Having to do more with less budget. People not wanting to commit in a timely manner putting stress on the organization and reducing planning time. Soft system/permanent installations in Pipeline for 2014 is substantial. We find that this part of our business is an every other year addition to our revenue and profit looks to be like Honestly I'm not seeing a macro economic trend as much as micro trends with local companies, that we service, growing or restructuring, or what have you, which ultimately affect us. Is the macro affecting them? Of course, I m just feeling the result further down the line, without an easy road map to one reason or another. hotel and convention centers sales are up at least here in the south east and lots of growth in Medical conferences Small company and large client does not produce an event can cause that swing in In 2014, new sales effort and clients producing business in 2014 is the reason for optimism. economy New product launches Page 10 of 22

11 The latency of the poor economy has started catching up to our industry the last couple of years as pipeline projects have flushed through. This will unfortunately continue for a couple more years, but will hopefully be countered by the overall need for technology upgrades. With that, 2014 will definitely prove a year for Darwinism. The intelligent few will hone their AV skills; offering them, and relinquishing their control, to the IT crowd. I fear many more AV companies will wither away as they try to hold their ground. Resistance is futile. Trends in cost cutting and short term earnings as opposed to investing growth by both vendors and buyers. BYOD becoming more pervasive and driving tech decision-making from outside in. solution selling This will be the 3rd busy season for our Western office, and it has gained a lot of momentum throughout the summer and fall. We expect to see significant growth in revenue coming in though that office. As the economy has stabilized a bit, we are finding that there is a lot more corporate funding available for events. This directly impacts the amount of calls coming in from people wanting LED at their event. We added service offerings to increase our revenue. Substantial growth in RTP market with huge projects to be developed by RTP foundation and RTI to bring new businesses our area. Our investment in new technology to support live streaming and webcasts. More churn. Business that has been held by existing providers going out to bid due to financial reasons. Understanding by our potential clients that we can manang even larger events than they perceived. Being a Wholesale vendor we are directly affected by stagers and other av companies business levels. We have been given a heads up to expect a blow out 1st qtr of As the economy ebbs and flows I feel our industry feels those effects 3-6 months later. Continued lack of perceived stability in the government is keeping confidence for large spends low. The increase of wireless video connectivity is opening opportunities for other retro-fit sales. Page 11 of 22

12 Taxes and insurance Cybersecurity; competition If the economy stays strong we could see some growth. I believe our relationships with third party vendors such as with GPJ, Active Networks (registration company), Digitally Speaking, and Sonic Foundry will lead us to some referrals. Our own intentional efforts to focus and amplify our marketing efforts. Also, overall forecasts predicting a steady growth in the lodging market... 1). Service and support for installs, roll outs, activations, and staging. Higher margins and multi year contracts. 2) International partnering and strategic alliances. We still have a technical advantage over big box and large I T, but our footprint needs to expand if we are to meet the growing demands of our core customers. I believe that the size and scope of meetings will continue to grow in I also believe that people that may have cut back their meeting calendar in the past will add additinal meetings to their schedule in And finally, the continued move from Analog to HD formats will allow us to capture increased revenue from existing clients and projects. Business seems to be accepting of the taper of QE, so we believe the economy is ready for growth. New market expansion. 1) The need for increased capital- without an increase we will not be able to fund larger jobs and upgrade internal systems. 2) Payment Terms- The norm for large companies is which presents a major cash flow issue for small businesses. US economic health. If the economic health is good, companies will increase their meeting budgets; if not, they will not. Page 12 of 22

13 I believe that our clients are looking for a higher quality product and are willing to pay more for it. The look and feel of their events are becoming more important to them. Unique and specialized product return higher profits for us. Corporate America has been sitting on the sidelines for the past few years due to uncertainty. Now with the rollout of the ACA (good or bad) some of the anxiety has been reined in. I believe that with the aforementioned relief companies are starting to unlock the vault and step up spending on projects that have been on hold. I believe companies are having more meetings, training, etc.. More work for us. Budget dollars ticking up, continued bonus depreciation on capital purchases, pent-up demand. We have a strong regional base of business, therefore, to the extent that trade shows, corporate events and film & TV industries continue to thrive in our area, we will continue to get our fair share of that business. While the Financial clients are increasing business for us,the non profit are benefitting from the improving economy, as well. Both groups are a major source of business for us. The economy is improving and artist are touring more. 1. sense of economic stabilization giving companies comfort to roll out new products and expand/merge thus providing industry opportunities. Cloud Services offerings Increase need for Standardize Enterprise solutions - Remote employees OpEX versus CapEX approach by clients for technology implementation Flexibility to ramp up and down of Technology solutions depending upon needs of employees and market conditions. Meeting space not defined, greater demand of any meeting any time on any device SERVICES to Support that Flexibility Political uncertainty as it relates to any number of economic issues taxes and regulations. My clients are cautious about spending to fuel growth. Page 13 of 22

14 We only provide video and projection so this response might be slightly skewed toward our portion of the overall industry. We're seeing a lot of growth in non-traditional events, specifically college and divisional sports and large entertainment. Our most likely source of growth in 2014 will be large projection events (multiple 20-40K lumen units) and outdoor video coverage (sports and entertainment). I think our growth will be muted because the Fed will end its stimulus which in turn may cause interest rates to rise. If that happens, there maybe less new construction. Also bonus depreciation may be going away, so there may be less incentive for companies to buy new equipment. I think health insurance and the "affordable health care act" When you start taking $200 + more out of families that is going to have a huge ripple effect on the economy. I suspect that 70+% of the people live pay check to paycheck and this is going to hit them hard! increasing tech investment new digital AV requirements more investment in tech and new clients increase business revenues We need Business Growth, Stores to open, people at work for better wages, stronger economy. No more Naftas or TPP The health of the US economy affects the emerging markets a lot. Confidence in the economy sometimes is more important than the raw data. The emerging markets where we are exporting our AV product suffer from devaluation against the US dollars. Should the exchange rates stabilizes, there will be less uncertainty and this means business will increase their investment. Belief of a better economy; Pent up demand There is continual pressure on margins and purchasing departments only look at quoted price and make no allowance for the quality of the service or the solution. Overall US economy remains very important as it determines a lot of corporate spending and dictates people's willingness to travel. Demand for more technology, more demand for ISP services. Planning budgets are up and are scheduled to continue in Pent up demand: Corporations that have been delaying Capex on room and AV Page 14 of 22

15 system renovations, upgrades and modernizations. 2. New construction: Major new commercial towers under construction in our market which is also initiating a flurry of major renovations as landlords attempt to hold on to multi floor tenants with rent/renovation incentives...and other companies move from what has become second tier space into top tier space that others have moved out of. Retention of key accounts; Successful account attraction Continued high focus on what we do well Corporate America's desire to cut out the middle men ("producers") and instead hire turnkey production companies for events, etc. Business travel is the greatest factor. Companies continue to reduce face to face meetings. Merger/Acquisition--probably by us, hopefully, not of us. Seeing new technologies that have been slowly developing and becoming more common place to our industry. We are investing in and pushing in Trying to do more with less. Be more "kit" and systems ready for a live show, and more "plug-and-play" to attempt to reduce labor costs 5% - 10% for setups and strikes. Our current and potential clients seem to have more events and/or budget each year. This allows us to be more selective about the business we pursue. BYOD and merging of AV and IT. If you are not already there it may be too late. New technologies in place are driving the desire for instant information, collaboration, and interaction. How technology is used has changed overnight and many are clueless as to what has taken place. Interaction is taking place where you live 24/7. Education spending; Freedom Tower in NY; Enterprise standardization It will be interesting to see what Congress does re: Defense spending. This will dictate whether or not some of our corporate customers will have dollars to spend or will continue to cut out meetings and events. Page 15 of 22

16 Bonus Question If you could have a "do-over" for 2013 (knowing what you know now), what would you have done differently in your business? Made a greater effort to streamline operations and affect the bottom line from the cost of production standpoint. Fees are not getting better so we need to find a way to make more profit for each dollar earned. Generally feel that we did things right in made tough decisions in 2012 which helped in 2013, particularly as related to payroll. As i find each year I feel that our sales efforts could be stronger and more proactive - we tend to rely on existing relationships too much and we do not create enough new opportunities Positioned employees in job roles that offer them success earlier in the year. We held the status quo and over-analyzed the decisions. Once made, customers were better served & employees were happier in their jobs. Focus resources better in key markets like Las Vegas, LA and NY. Unfortunately, our expansion plans were both ambitious and broadly based and therefore lacked focus. Opportunities were missed to improve our processes and procedures and better serve our clients. No regrets Unfortunately, I think I've done everything I could do this year. have 1 less manager Market more Cut my staffing by 30% at the end of last year. Not downsized our offices to the degree we did we went from 8000 feet to 1000 and focused on only key areas of our business - the focus was right the size was too small but we are adjusting well Spent more money on Capex at the start of the year. Instead of talking about business development actually do business development. Page 16 of 22

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