In June of 1986, a group of AV dealers met in Chicago to discuss some shared business concerns. The result of the meeting—led by John Fuchs of Video Images, Sonny Davis and Ed Matthews of Technical Industries, Inc., Randy Hippler of GTN, and Fran Fehr of Professional Communications Systems, Inc.—was the formation of PSNI (Professional Systems Network International).
Now at its 30th anniversary, PSNI continues to find new solutions to business challenges through a connected network alliance of affiliates and technology solution partners. Like all great ideas, it is bigger than the sum of its parts.
Here are 10 ways PSNI affiliates are raising the bar for their businesses and the AV industry as a whole.
1. Solving problems
The PSNI affiliate network creates a deep repository of insights and information that can only be built from experience—lots of it. And with 35 affiliates averaging 25-plus years in business, PSNI members represent more than 600 years of experience. If an affiliate is having a problem, chances are, several other owners or principals have faced the exact same challenge. They know what worked—and perhaps more importantly what didn’t—when they looked for solutions.
2. Informing decisions
Gut-decisions can take you a long way, especially if your instincts are good. But there is no substitute for data-driven decision making. To provide actionable intelligence, PSNI initiated a financial benchmarking survey in 1990. This survey is one of the oldest and largest in the industry and has been tracked for the past 28 years. PSNI has also invested in industry-leading studies on customer satisfaction and employee engagement. The QualTrak Customer Satisfaction study in 2012—an AV industry first—gave PSNI affiliates a clear benchmark against which to measure and narrow the gap between client expectations and deliverables. The Employee Engagement study of 2013 revealed the current mindset and morale of more than 2,500 affiliate employees. All in all, PSNI has invested more than $500,000 in research studies, delivering advantageous insights that members could not access on their own.
3. Making it rain
The bottom line for any business is sales revenue. Recognizing an opportunity to help affiliates improve sales techniques, PSNI rolled out a yearlong sales training course, appropriately named the “Rainmaker” course. This online sales course has been completed by 350 sales associates across North America.
4. Extending footprints
For many smaller technology integrators, being limited to a single metropolitan area or region can be detrimental to business growth—particularly when pursuing larger customers. Part of the original vision for PSNI was to establish a support and service network that would allow all members to extend their business footprint and access new customer opportunities. The PSNI network alliance of affiliates is achieving this vision with 35 member companies with 107 offices throughout North America and more than 3,000 employees. Yet there is still a need and opportunity for additional affiliates in North America and an increasing need for global representation. When combined, the mix of small to large affiliates in PSNI creates a sizable pool of talent and technology resources.
5. Forging partnerships
The preferred vendor program (PVP), created in 2004, has never had the primary goal of discounts or spiffs. Indeed, PSNI rejects the label of “buying group” because the vision has always been so much greater. PSNI affiliates focus on creating true partnerships with vendors where they provide feedback on products, work together to solve problems, and collaborate on marketing strategies. We share a common bond to meet end-user expectations with their technology investments. Partners have sponsored certification programs, such as the Lean Initiative, that would have cost thousands of dollars without their support. The PVP program has seen tremendous growth over the years, which has a clear financial impact as well. PSNI affiliates now account for $169 million in PVP revenue.
6. Deepening relationships
Part of the value for executives and owners of affiliate companies is the relationships they create with their peers in the network. These peers are thought leaders and industry icons that include current and former leaders and officers of InfoComm, NSCA, and other industry trade associations—not a bad group to shape business ideas and share in business opportunities with. PSNI holds several events throughout the year to help affiliate owners spend time with each other outside of the office, including a multi-day Super Summit.
7. Developing leaders
In 2016, PSNI created its first Management Training program. This program sought to develop leadership skills, share best practices, and create a forum for affiliate managers to share ideas and network with each other. For many affiliates, the networking aspect of the group and the access to shared intellectual capital, is the most valuable reason for membership.
8. Enhancing skills
In recent years, it has become clear that it’s not just owners and executives who benefit from the network alliance, but all employees. With that insight, PSNI began developing more targeted summits for project managers and sales managers. In 2013, PSNI introduced a summit for CFOs and in 2015, a summit for marketers. These summits create networking opportunities at almost every level of the business, and broaden the shared experience and knowledge of the group.
9. Making an impact
While the intent of the PSNI affiliate network is not to be a “buying group” or unduly influence pricing, the financial impact of the network cannot be overlooked because it tells a powerful story of growth and success. In 30 years, PSNI affiliate revenue has increased from approximately $80 million to more than $1 billion in 2016.
10. Looking to the future
PSNI has evolved over time—and that’s to be expected. To be relevant in any era requires constantly checking for North on the compass. PSNI does not change for the sake of changing. Instead, the success of PSNI can been attributed to listening to its stockholders and partners and delivering industry-exclusive programs that help each affiliate achieve their unique business goals and objectives.