2 1/2 Days of Sun, Seminars, Sand and Strategy Come to an End as HTSA Wraps 2016 Spring Conference in Beautiful San Juan, P.R.


Members and Vendors Demonstrate Incredible Enthusiasm at New Group Momentum


April 8, 2016 – Home Technology Specialists of America, one of the nation’s leading member-owned dealer buying groups, wrapped up its Spring Conference 2016 and 20th Anniversary Celebration in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Thursday after two-and-a-half days of beautiful 85-degree sunshine and even hotter technology and business presentations. The event showcased an all-new HTSA, with new executive director, new board of directors, and, most importantly, a new enthusiasm.


As the first group meeting to take place in the wake of former member Jon Robbins assuming the helm as Executive Director – there was a palpable sense of energy, enthusiasm, and momentum that took hold of the attendees. Not only was attendance high, but attendee engagement was even higher.


In an observation on the very visible level of member engagement at the San Juan event, Control4 Chairman & CEO Martin Plaehn said, “The amazing thing was at breakfast – at 7:00AM in the morning – they [attendees] are all there!”


Fired Up


Control4, in a sign of deep commitment to the organization, attended the Spring Conference 2016 with no fewer than six top executives, including Chairman & CEO Plaehn.


“Momentum…energy…you feel that from the HTSA members,” Plaehn said.


“This group is fired up,” said Jon Robbins, Executive Director of Home Technology Specialists of America. ” In a group of 65 members, we had 270 attendees at this year’s conference.  Our latest high-caliber member and vendor additions are just the beginning – we are really just getting started on implementing entirely new programs and strategies to turbocharge our members’ and vendors’ businesses.”


This year’s conference marked the organization’s twentieth year of success – a particularly significant anniversary – and one that called for a party. So the organization chose the luxurious Ritz-Carlton Resort in beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico. With a spectacular vista out of every window, including amazing beaches, palm trees, and sunset views, all attendees were encouraged to bring spouses and family to share in the celebration. And attendees were clearly ready to celebrate.


Each day, after an intense series of informative and thought-provoking business meetings, attendees came together for cocktails, world-class Puerto Rican dinners, top entertainment and dancing. The final group dinner on Wednesday evening even included an impressive fireworks display – to the delight of attendees…especially those who brought families with children. Robbins was quick to take the microphone and remind attendees of the tremendous achievement of twenty years of success – leading a group toast to the past, present, and future. Robbins also offered a toast to the members’ spouses and families, “Who allow us to do what we do.”


A Fresh Approach


HTSA’s new management took a fresh approach with the agenda for the Spring Conference 2016. Included this year was a “State of the Union” which featured an honest self-assessment, with Robbins telling attendees that after early successes, the group had grown complacent, new competitors emerged, and momentum had stalled. Those days, Robbins assured attendees with great conviction, are over. There is a new honesty, transparency, responsiveness and drive from HTSA. The group, Robbins told attendees, will demonstrate a new more robust leadership, not just for the group…but for the industry.


Most Informative Conference Ever


One example is the announcement of a new more intensive member education initiative called the Masterclass Series. Unlike other dealer education programs using recycled sales techniques, HTSA has engaged a prominent outside consulting firm to develop an all-new program, customized for HTSA members’ business model. The first Masterclass initiative is called Sell More Audio, and will offer techniques for members’ sales teams to effortlessly move clients up to higher margin, high performance audio solutions. The Sell More Audio Masterclass will take place May 10th-12th in Kennesaw, GA in conjunction with the Prime Media division of alliance partner Nationwide Marketing Group.


“While others may choose to pursue low-grade, high volume solutions, HTSA will be the industry’s leading provider not only of sophisticated home automation solutions, but of high-performance audio/ video systems,” Robbins told attendees. “This is our channel, and we will take leadership in sustaining and growing that channel.”


To that end, this year’s conference was one of the group’s most informative ever. The agenda was jam-packed with several high value presentations from industry experts such as Jim Carroll, who in one 90-minute presentation called IoT – Disruptive or Competitive Opportunity for the CE Integrator?, reviewed the entire spectrum of Smart Home Automation and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions – revealing pitfalls and opportunities he specifically identified for HTSA members.


Deep and Trusting Relationships with Valued Vendors


HTSA also did a deep dive into the issues swirling around the latest video technology, high dynamic range (HDR). Valued group vendors Sony and LG each presented their view on the technology and its ramifications on the video industry. Each presented in separate, highly informative sessions – with members fully briefed on the different types of HDR and each brands’ view on how to present and sell HDR for greater profit.


Control4 Chairman & CEO Martin Plaehn offered a presentation that, in part, discussed in detail the company’s thinking behind its recent Pakedge acquisition. Plaehn’s presentation was capped with an extremely informative question-and-answer session in which the CEO himself fielded any and all questions from HTSA members. It was an example of the kind of honest give-and-take the group enjoys due to its deep and trusting relationships with its valued vendors.


“This group, more than any other group in this industry, focuses on the group vendors,” said Bryan Koutsky, Director of Sales, Builders, Buying Groups, & Custom Retail. “The energy and passion coming from the group at this year’s event is off the charts.”


The always popular one-on-one sessions gave vendors and members the opportunity to hold face-to-face business meetings to discuss any issue. And the agenda offered participants many opportunities to further hold private meetings during breaks or other down time.


But for many members, the highest value sessions may have been the Member/Vendor Discussion sessions where vendors and outside professionals offered a variety of topical presentations conducted jointly with an HTSA member. The list of the topics these sessions covered gives a sense of the group’s new priorities, with top sessions including:


  • Selling Performance Audio in the CI Model
  • Marketing to the Builder, Designer & Architect
  • Selling Performance Video in the CI Model
  • Recurring Monthly Revenue Initiatives & Processes
  • Emergence of Video Display Advertising in the Digital Arena

These and other topics were presented in a rotating schedule over two days to make sure all attendees could get to all of the topics that they felt were most pertinent to them. Most importantly, each presentation included an HTSA member who then expanded on the topic with their “real world” implementation experience. These sessions too, offered plenty of opportunity for meaningful Q&A.


A Key Keynote


The meeting was capped off on Thursday with a keynote presentation that some might think a bit unusual for a business conference. The presentation by author and speaker Steve McClatchy, whose recent book Decide: Work Smarter, Reduce Your Stress & Lead By Example is on the New York Times Best Seller list, shared with attendees techniques on how to be more productive, reduce their stress, and achieve their goals. McClatchy, who was recently on the Today Show, was extremely entertaining and told HTSA Spring Conference attendees they need to follow three simple steps: “schedule your want to’s,” “defend them” from unimportant urgencies, and “catch-up on maintenance” issues later.


McClatchy’s presentation was lively, funny, and poignant. The keynote session was almost standing-room-only, with attendees paying rapt attention to the very solid, heart-felt advice.


Attendee Reaction to HTSA’s 2016 Spring Conference


Attendee reaction to the entire Spring Conference and 20th Anniversary Celebration was positively effusive:


“Well, first of all, the venue is awesome,” said David Wasserman of New York City’s Stereo Exchange. There was more intimacy and interaction between members this year.”


“This event was superb,” added Ann Wasserman, also with Stereo Exchange. “It has put everybody into a positive frame of mind.”


“I like the new energy,” said Frank Sterns, Sony Vice President of AV Specialty & Custom Integration. “I see renewed enthusiasm in the group, manifested in the new members, a bit of a change in the profile of new members, a change in the agenda of the meetings (not cut and paste from previous years)…which leads me to the conclusion that the short-to-medium term looks good for the group. Jonny’s enthusiasm and energy is a big plus.”


“There’s a sense of real camaraderie this year,” added David Wasserman. “Jon [Robbins] brings tremendous energy. He really understands our world – even though he’s the Executive Director, he communicates with us on our level. And communication has improved tremendously.”


To learn more about HTSA, see: www.HTSA.com.