The Integrator's Voice
After a brief hiatus, custom integrator looks to once again beef up business
- By Leslie Stevens
- Jul 01, 2006
FROM time to time, small- to medium-size businesses need to re-establish themselves in the marketplace. Gary Ruedinger, president of Future Technologies Inc., is emerging from a period of silence. During his time away, a lot of competition has moved in, but now Ruedinger is re-building his company. It has taken a lot of personal motivation and business savvy. However, he is determined to once again become the leading custom integrator in the Green Bay, Wis., area.
Q. How did you first get into the custom integration industry and what was your specialty?
A. I started Future Technologies in 1993 as an IT consultant. I have always had an interest in electronics, computers and music. One night, while working on my master's degree, I woke up with a vision of melding all of my interests. My thesis was a business plan for a home automation business. In 1996, I expanded the company's services by offering electronic custom integrated solutions. Our customers were high-end homeowners who wanted sophisticated integrated home electronic systems and, above all else, making it easy to use.
Q. When did you exit the marketplace and for how long?
A. In 2002, I experienced some health issues, which eventually lead to the dismissal of all employees by the end of 2003. I took on a few projects during this time and outsourced the labor if I needed help. By early 2006, I was told to expect to receive a clean bill of health. Today, I am beginning the rebuilding process.
Q. How have you begun your process of re-tooling?
A. I've spent a lot of time analyzing the market segments, trends and financial implications for both potential clients and myself. I analyzed past performance and identified those areas that I was very strong in and those areas where I needed assistance. I updated my business plan with a vision of a long-term strategy. I need to have a continuity plan in place that will ensure that the business can flourish in my absence. I need to re-establish our presence and re-create our brand. Much thought has gone into communicating that vision with the help of Eclipse Marketing.
Q. What changes have you witnessed in the market since your absence?
A. When I first started, no one even knew what structured wiring was. Now, even electricians are getting into the act and are willing to provide this service at a much lower cost than I. Anyone with access to wire believes that they are experts. I have seen many disasters like whole-house audio systems wired with 22-gauge security wire, missing wires, unlabeled wires lying in a pile, under-powered systems and the dreaded table of remotes that no one understands.
Technology improvements continue at a frantic pace, and many once state-of-the-art products are now worthless. In the last few years, proprietary systems are disappearing and everyone is embracing the IP network. My background in computer science continues to provide me a level of sophistication that will take others many years to achieve.
Q. What will you do differently now that you're starting with a clean slate, but with prior knowledge?
A. I will properly budget and fund a consistent marketing message to eliminate the peaks and valleys looking long term. Do not market products and technology, market the company and what you can do that sets you above everyone else. Focus on strengths and improve weaknesses. Constantly convey a professional image from certifications, presentations and proposals, employees, appearance, service, vehicles and products. Do not wait for the phone to ring, make the phone ring using current clients as part of the sales force through referrals.
Q. Will there be changes to your target market and service offerings? Why or why not?
A. Some market segments may have been overlooked in the past, as I focused on the biggest projects in the area. While I still will pursue those projects, there are more opportunities available with the latest technologies?the retrofit market being one of them.
Q. What do you expect your biggest challenges to be and how do you expect to overcome them?
A. Brand awareness, differentiation and recognition are the biggest challenges. I believe our new marketing plan will provide us with the tools we need to succeed for a long time. Leaving my comfort zone and performing tasks that need to be completed, but that I do not enjoy, like cold calling and following up on mailings, can also be challenging. We're gaining back the confidence that Future Technologies is here long term and that we can be relied upon.