Q&A: HTSA’s Bob Hana on the Year Ahead, Ultra HD, 3D Printing and More

We sat down with Bob Hana, the managing director of the Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA), on the opening night of HTSA’s spring conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. Hana discussed the recent successes of the association and plans for both the conference and the year ahead.

Q: I wanted to get a sense from you of what your impressions are of this conference, and what you’re hoping to accomplish.

A: What we’re trying to do is get across our message for the year, which is “Contagious Synergy,” which is really building upon the synergy that we have been experiencing both in our marketing efforts, our members and vendors partnership, the way that we continue to work together in unique ways, is really beginning to find traction. We wanted to bring focus to that, and we wanted to identify and have members and vendors speak of those success stories, when those are happening, so it would then be therefore be contagious. Because it would be good. Most things that are contagious, you don’t want to spread, but in this sense, the success and partnership and everything else is there, so we were really about this year is to bring that to another level, and understand that we’re all working together for the common goal, and that we can really make this thing more than the sum of our efforts individually.

Q: In your opening presentation you were very positive, in terms of how things are going, with the industry, the general economy, and with the members and vendors. What is it that you see is driving that positivity?

A: First of all, with the macroeconomics, everything continues to improve. We see housing improving, and we talk to vendors, their project list is now further out than they’ve ever been. They’re looking for new employees, they’re trying to train people so there’s a human resource shortage in our group, for people to join, so those are things that tend to see, they’re ready for that next move. Then you look at the different technologies, and you see that there’s more music out there for people, and there’s more mass interest in control, and that there’s a lot more talk out that about automation and lighting and the various factors out there. I just tend to believe that more and more of that opportunity is coming to our members.

Q: To ask you about a couple of specific product categories and where you see things with them in 2014. Now, 4K- when we spoke in the fall, you had started to see some success from the dealers with that. Has that been flat, do you see it getting better this year, or do you see it about the same as last year?

A: I’d say it’s better. For sure, the manufacturers are getting the word out there. I’m pleased that our group is well-situated to sell to the early adopters, to sell that new technology and explain it. To have that technology, and to have it on the high end side of normal pricing if you will, to have that ability to show them how to integrate it, is prime for our group to show some growth in that area.

Q: You hear a lot about “the Internet of Things.” Do you see that having practical implications in terms of sales, in terms of success this year, or is it something that’s further out?

A: I don’t know about overall sales, but I do know that it reinforces the message and the value-add that our membership has in terms of explaining things. Because while devices are getting smarter and smarter, in many cases they’re so smart that they don’t know how to connect with each other. So it again spells that there’s a need for specialists, there’s a need for trained salespeople who can explain when people come and ask about those kinds of devices. And it also changes the dynamic of our sales talk to clients. Instead of talking when they come in for a television that’s 60 inches and talking $499, the conversation can go to “how are you connecting this, and what kind of bandwidth do you have in your house, how many kids do you have?” They talk about that before they even talk about what kind of flatscreen is the solution for your house.

Q: Now, how about 3D printing? That’s another thing that was big at CES. Do you see that having any practical implications already?

A: First of all, I find it fascinating, and if I put my Carl Sagan hat on, it’s definitely going to change the landscape in the years to come. We’re actually pleased, here at our VendorFest, to have a 3D printer here, and it’s going to be interested to see how members react to it, the technology, and the implication it may have in the future to serve as models. When you’re out of a part, and you’re on the road in a van, maybe you can make that part right there in a customer’s house. It’s got crazy effects on the whole dynamics of logistics, and inventory management and supply chain, and even customizing.

Q: Are there any brand-new product categories that you’ve seen emerge in the last couple of months, that were on no one’s radar?

A: Not really, but I do see the ones that were already out there- like health and wellness, it’s the next two-car garage. Now, there are homes being specifically built for aging and elderly parents. So there’s opportunity there, no question.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: We’re very happy to have the industry’s first lead management program for our vendors, and I think that it offers yet another opportunity to be a better partner, and maybe speed up the sales cycle. Often in bigger companies, they don’t know what to do with these leads. So having a trackable system and a responsible system I think will accelerate that sales cycle and improve business.

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