This interview is part of the “Think Again” series, in which Businessing Magazine talks to small business owners about how their companies have evolved and how things don’t always go as originally expected. In this interview, we asked Matt Grisafe of AV Programing Associates about how his business has grown and changed in the last 20 years.
Tell Us a Little about Your Business and the Clients You Serve.
AV Programming Associates is a software programming company specializing in smart homes and businesses. We provide programming for both Crestron and Extron systems that allows homeowners and those in businesses to automate and have customized control of their AV systems, security systems, climate control systems, and more. We just celebrated twenty years in business and have worked on projects for clients like the CIA, Little Caesars Arena in Detroit (home of the Pistons and the Red Wings), TD Ameritrade, March Air Reserve Base, and high-end residences throughout the United States.
How Has Your Business Model Shifted over Time?
We originally started our business to provide programming primarily for private residences, but in 2008, when the housing crisis hit, we almost had to close our doors. It was then that we made the shift to doing more commercial work. Commercial work, in our industry, includes working with government agencies and educational institutions, in addition to corporations. Today, we do a combination of commercial and residential work, though the majority of our work is commercial.
We have also found a niche in providing programming and support for existing Crestron systems for those clients who want to update or expand what they already have. Since we have been in the industry for twenty years now, we have pretty much seen it all when it comes to Crestron systems, which allows us to support systems that other programming companies won’t touch.
What Expectations Did You Have about How the Market Would Perceive and Consume Your Services and Which of Those Expectations or Assumptions Have Turned out to Be Accurate?
In the early days of my company (2001-2008) there were not a lot of businesses like mine that were doing online marketing. If they had websites, they were basically one-page brochures. Their websites contained very little consumer education and did not take search engine optimization (SEO) into account.
I do believe we were pioneers in our industry in providing a wealth of helpful information to potential clients online, as well as using that information to build SEO and bring traffic to our site. The foundation we built our website on in the early years continues to serve us well and helps us grow our business to this day.
Which Expectations Have NOT Turned out to be Accurate and in What Specific Ways Have Things Turned out to be Different Than You Expected?
There are several vendors in our industry that provide automation hardware for smart homes and businesses. Early on, we were approached by one company called AMX, who wanted us to provide programming specifically for their systems. We invested in hardware and training, but then the opportunity never materialized as we imagined or as AMX said it would. We abandoned that route and chose instead to focus on programming for Crestron and Extron systems. That turned out to be a great decision for our business, as these companies have emerged as two of the top hardware companies in the industry.
What Has Surprised You (in Both Positive and Negative Ways) about What Clients Want from You, or How They Interact with Your Business?
In the past, our company worked almost exclusively as a subcontractor to the dealers who were selling and installing equipment for smart homes and businesses. We had to rely on them to bring us in on their projects. When we really started ramping up our online marketing efforts, the end customers started coming to us directly for custom programming. When that happened, we were able to be the lead on more projects and bring in our preferred integrators and installers.
What Lesson(s) Can You Share with Others about the Importance of Strategic Planning, but also the Need to Be Nimble and Adaptable in Order Remain Relevant and Successful?
I would say that one is not more important than the other—you need both! Sometimes it is difficult to really plan, and the real key is to be able to work from a plan, but you always need to be on the lookout for new and different opportunities that may come up with changing markets.
Where Can Readers Go to Learn More about Your Company?
Readers can visit our company’s website at www.avprogramming.com. They can also read my second book that just came out in September 2021 called, Business Ain’t Rocket Science. This book is my take on small business ownership and management. It’s not a “how to” book, but rather a “how I did it” book to commemorate my twenty years as a business owner. They can also learn more about the start of AV Programming Associates from my first book called Our Code. If they still want to know more about my business, they can pick up the phone and give us a call.