What Does “Trade Only” Mean?

February 21, 2024

When I went to my first “safety meeting” at O’Sullivan’s bar in Newark CA with my friends from Avidex, it was abundantly clear that these were just my friends. We work together.  We do transactions and fancy business stuff, but when it comes down to it, we are just friends. If all this AV stuff went away, we would still be friends. Most of the time when we are not working and hanging out, we don’t talk about work.

It is my job to “create relationships.” I hate that fact. I don’t relish the fact that I make money from my friends. Or that they make money from me. That part is not all that great. But I might as well make the best of the situation. And by “make the best of it” I mean getting to know these awesome people and their families and realize that this is most of my life. I might as well enjoy the heck out of it. We should go fishing, ride bikes, share meals, watch sports. Do the things actual friends do… because we are actual friends.  

This is the way I feel about the entire channel. Those that are not my friends are just those that I have not been fortunate enough to meet yet. Our integrator partners are not just a means to an end. They are not just a “gear delivery mechanism.” They are our friends, family and our lifeblood.   

It is our charter to serve the channel. That is why I started this company. Our original tag line in 1999 was “You CAN tame this unruly industry!” I am not sure why we gave that up because it holds true today. We exist to reduce the chaos, to make things just a little easier or clearer. To break down barriers preventing growth. We just want stuff to sound beautiful and look amazing. The way we know how to best promote this is to align ourselves with best-in-class manufacturers, best in class integrators, and the last tricky part, best in class end-users and then get us all working together.

Here is where it gets a little dicey, and why I am writing all this down. Our on-demand services offerings seem to get perceived as a threat. Some people think we are trying to extract money from the value chain. They think we are siphoning off a bit of the profit into our bank and using it to buy boats, small dirigibles, maybe even old arcade games like Space Invaders to put down in our man-caves with our rear-projection TV’s. I can assure you this is not the plan. Except the dirigible part. I want my own blimp.

Our services offerings are there to help our industry grow. If there is a new thing the industry needs more of, but nobody knows how to do it yet, we will learn it. We will learn how to do it and go execute. When the industry decides to fully adopt, we will be on to the next thing. Our team of fresh-face and bushy-tailed experts are here to learn how to work the stuff that has not even been dreamt of yet. Someone has to do it. If nobody did, we would still have VCRs. So, for now, it is AVoIP. It is networks. It is Q-SYS. We don’t want to own the category; we want to build it. This is why TRAINING is a big part of our mission, not just deployment. We have made a living in assisting. We want to be the point-guards of AV. Our channel partners get to score the basket.

This is why the acquisition and merger with Starin makes so much sense.  

First off, let me reiterate that we are channel specific. As they say over the pond, we are “Trade Only.” We only transact with our channel partners. Period. End of story.

That being said, we bring together a collection of gear, services and logistics that is truly unique to our industry. We will use these together with the prowess of our integration partners to tell an undeniable story of success. All the pieces working together across the globe, all orchestrated by our integrator partners… who happen to be our best friends.

All blimps aside, the Midwich story is incredible. They do not buy companies to change them. There is so much “local” about our industry, whether you are in Kansas, Prague, or Bangalore. The same shoe doesn’t fit everywhere. I don’t even know what they call a shoe in Prague. Midwich preserves what works in each of these unique communities, but adds a network on top of it. Our channel partners can use this to deliver a promise the way it needs to be delivered in the place it needs to go.

So yes, we do want to know the end customer. AV doesn’t work if the entire signal chain isn’t connected. It also doesn’t work if the entire supply chain isn’t connected. We are here to make those connections. All of them, from signal to supply, to “Safety Meeting” at O’Sullivan’s. All of them.  

I refer to team sports a lot in my writing. I do this because I believe that there is nothing more satisfying in this world than to watch your friends succeed. Just watch the end of the World Series or the Superbowl. And if you are fortunate enough to put yourself in harm’s way to assist your friends to the top of the podium, so much the better. This is where The Farm, Starin, Midwich, we all want to live. We want to see our friends win the Superbowl of AV.

This is actual business, though. We don’t just go around all willy-nilly “helping.” We have a specific plan and a basic menu of how we can participate, and it is up to the channel to decide how much of it they want to use. We do have global logistics. We can offer global pricing.  WE can offer programming. We can kit up systems, even for medium local jobs. We can help in pre-sales design. We can offer extended warranties. Support contracts. But it’s not an all or nothing proposition. We are building this to serve the community via our channel partners, which we all agree is the best way to get the best experience for the user.

This is where we all come together. Midwich, Starin and The Farm. We succeed when our channel partners do.   

So, when it works perfectly, I get a new blimp. I look forward to taking each and every one of you for a spin. I don’t even have my blimper’s license yet. When I get it, we can all go to Prague together.