As I am flipping through my DirecTV news channels, I can’t help but notice the trend in today’s business news. News anchors and analysts can’t stop talking about how the slow housing market and increasing gas prices have dramatically affected our economy. As we begin 2008, some economists and business experts predict that conditions are growing even worse.

A variety of factors contributed to the housing slump and the spike in gas prices, the majority of which are beyond our control. However, I firmly believe we have control over the future of the custom electronics industry, regardless of conditions in the rest of the economy.

With the recent economic slowdown, some of us may be wondering if we are in the right kind of business. I don’t deny that business is getting tougher lately. The easiest solution would be to blame our struggles on outside factors that we have little to no control over. But we need to stand back, stay positive and analyze what’s going on from the other side of the fence.

I’m sure most of us entered the custom industry because we are passionate about A/V and see a demand for our products and services. The good news is this demand is increasing rapidly. Technology in custom electronics will only continue to grow more sophisticated, causing homeowners to depend more and more on specialty companies to help them navigate the market. More importantly, what used to be luxury amenities in many homes are now becoming must-haves.

At the same time, a growing number of prospective clients have an understanding of the basic concept of home theater, multi-room audio or even lighting control before talking to our company. We live in the Information Age—in a matter of just a few mouse clicks, information that was once difficult to track down can now be found easily online. This means that while the demand for our services has increased, the value of our expertise in the eyes of prospective clients has decreased. Keep in mind there is also a lot of misinformation out there, something we have to be aware of and be prepared to dispel. Education is one key way to put ourselves back on track toward being value-added experts in our industry. Resources such as CEDIA University provide the business and technical knowledge that give us a competitive advantage.

Looking forward, I expect to see the economy continue to grow tougher and more competitive in the coming years. Some people may look on the economy of past decades as the golden era for small business—for my parents, it was the ’70s. But even the business owners of those years struggled through rough patches. Now, just like in the past, it’s up to us to leverage our strengths in order to adapt to the changing environment.

Soon enough, Generation X will replace the retiring Baby Boomers, and prospective clients will grow even more knowledgeable about the technologies we deal and install. We need to make sure that we are ready to share and deliver our expertise beyond their expectations. Right now is the best time to prepare for what’s ahead. CR