The Difficulties of Running a Multi Location Custom Integration Business

an installation performed by Innovative Sight & SoundSince the custom integration industry really took off in the late 90’s, companies have been trying to come up with the best model for expanding these businesses to multiple locations.  For the most part these attempts have ended in failure.  But Innovative Sight & Sound has found a formula for success where others have failed.

Roots in Northwest Florida

First opening their doors in 2006 in Destin Florida, they started operating just as the housing market was beginning to sour.  Over the last 30 years Northwest Florida has seen massive growth in both the volume of houses being built, and their prices.  But as with the rest of the U.S. housing market at this time, growth was slowing dramatically.

This actually worked in their favor though since most of the other integrators in the area didn’t see the slowdown coming and had a difficult time reacting.  The result was a significant culling of the herd.  Many integrators went out of business entirely.  But since ISS was so lean, they were able to build solid relationships and thrive during this time.

Benefits of Expansion

One of the biggest draws to expanding beyond the original location is that economies of scale improve as volume improves.  Vendors such as Control4, Savant, and Lutron offer better pricing as a company increases the amount of product sold.  This allows you to move into a new area and immediately start leveraging existing relationships to bring down your costs.

Another important benefit of expanding is that you can utilize your existing systems in an entirely new market.  Smaller markets especially tend to get saturated very quickly.  This makes growth difficult.

Once ISS had reached the limits of their particular area, an opportunity came up to move into the Tampa market.  They immediately jumped at the chance to enter a much larger area.

Within a few years of opening their Tampa location, they were presented with an opportunity to open a branch in Charleston.  This branch has been open for a little over a year.  The Charleston market offers many similarities to their first area of operation in Northwest Florida.

Difficulties That Come with Expansion

While there are obvious benefits to expanding into new geographical areas, there are definitely some risks associated with it as well.  Most audio video companies have a showroom.  Showrooms require either renting or purchasing a building.  This can get expensive very quickly.

Staffing is another area that can be challenging.  Oftentimes it is the owner that drives improvements and efficiency, and if they are not able to spend a great deal of time in both locations it can be difficult to ensure all the branches operate the same way.  this means that you need special personnel to manage in each location.  This can be both challenging and expensive.

Licensing and insurance for multiple offices can also get expensive.  It’s important to have a solid handle on all of these items before biting the bullet and opening a new office.

Here is a map of all of the locations Innovative Sight & Sound currently has.

Their locations include:

Innovative Sight & Sound
5008 US-98 #3
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

Innovative Sight & Sound
5060 Coosaw Creek Blvd
North Charleston, SC 29420

Innovative Sight & Sound
4400 118th Ave N #203
Clearwater, FL 33762

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