The annual Home Technology Specialists of America (HTSA) Fall Conference is a chance for members and vendors of the buying group and technology trade consortium to network, build relationships, and learn about the latest innovations through workshops and discussions. This year’s theme, ‘United We Thrive,’ emphasized the buying group’s commitment to collaborating with and supporting its members and vendors amid demographic shifts and industry evolution.
However, ‘United We Thrive’ goes beyond a theme, embedding itself into the HTSA membership’s ethos. With an all-for-one and one-for-all mindset, members and vendors subscribe to the notion that their businesses have thrived as a result of the relationships they have formed within the member-only trade consortium.
More Than A Conference
Partnerships and buying are a commonplace occurrence at conferences due to the sheer amount of networking opportunities. Still, HTSA members and vendors see them as more of a way to connect with fellow members on a deeper level. Buying and partnerships “are probably the purpose [of these conferences] from an external standpoint, but I think it’s much more than that,” explained Alex Lelchuk, founder of Lelch Audio Video. It’s about “sharing, collaborating, and learning from others that were in similar positions or ahead of you and being able to share with people who are at a different stage in their career.”
The exchange of knowledge and ideas at events such as the Fall Conference has kept members and vendors in the HTSA. Eric Joy, CEO of the GHT Group, introduced high-voltage electrical services to the GHT Group’s offerings two years ago due to education provided by the HTSA and at HTSA-exclusive events. “HTSA has been fantastic in giving us the courage to embrace these new technologies,” Joy shared. Growing pains are a part of every process, but they can lead to fruitful returns, especially when you have seen others undergo the same pains and come out on the other side successful.
HTSA members and vendors also expressed a huge amount of gratitude for and fidelity to the buying group. For instance, Lelchuk started Lelch Audio Video 12 years ago. For nine of those years, he has been an HTSA member. Joy’s tenure has spanned 25 years. For both, the HTSA is the only buying group that they are a part of. The reasoning for both is that the buying group and trade consortium provide for its members and vendors at a deep level. “We get what we need,” says Joy. “To some, it’s a buying group. To others, it’s a networking and ideas-sharing group. For me, it’s both.”
The quality of its members is also what appeals to members and vendors. Lelchuk stated that “[The HTSA] has a higher caliber of people, businesses, and capabilities; thus, the sharing and the collaboration you receive from others is at a higher level.” Joy shared that the diversity of the HTSA’s membership makes conferences like these advantageous. “If I’m spending time networking with people whose business is exactly like mine, neither one of us is going to learn anything from each other.”
Some may view the HTSA’s small membership as limiting, but Greg Simmons, Vice President of Industry Partnerships at Snap One, sees it as liberating. “What I love about HTSA is [that] the group size is very manageable.” Furthermore, the exclusivity of the HTSA’s events makes members and vendors more invested and participatory, which fosters more growth and community. “It’s nice to know we’re meeting with every member,” Simmons explained.
Those relationships can lead to new business ventures that benefit vendors and the HTSA. “[The] HTSA wants their vendors to buy within the group,” Simmons elaborated. “It’s our job to produce great products and to educate them on those products, and if we do our job properly, [the HTSA will] have purchases within the group,” inevitably supporting the buying group and its members.
A Space for Sharing
New ideas shape growth, and the HTSA makes it a priority to bring in members and vendors who can help each other, thereby strengthening the industry as a whole. At the Fall Conference, the buying group and its members and vendors emphasized that lighting is shaping the future of home technology and integration. Members and vendors expressed that education is crucial to ensuring success for partners, businesses, and end-users alike. “There is a challenge with lighting in our market that is underserved,” Lelchuk posited when explaining the value of lighting education at conferences like the HTSA’s.
AiSPiRE is a freshly minted HTSA member who specializes in lighting and welcomed the Fall Conference as a chance for lighting education and fostering relationships one-on-one. “We know more about light and how it affects our body than we’ve ever known,” said Patrick Laidlaw, Director of Business Development – Integration at AiSPiRE and WAC Lighting. He explained that proper training in lighting and how it can benefit people should be paramount, which Laidlaw was excited to bring to the Fall Conference. “I didn’t come here expecting to sell a single thing. I came here to build relationships and talk about what we do.”
David Warfel, Founding Designer of Light Can Help You, echoed this intention in his motivation to democratize access to lighting design, “It is very expensive to get someone who has the level of expertise, and then hire them for a custom lighting design that is also very time-consuming.” Light Can Help You has only been an official member of the HTSA for a couple of weeks, but Warfel has been doing business with the trade consortium for five years.
The opportunity for newer members like AiSPiRE and Light Can Help You to educate HTSA veterans is a valuable perk of conferences like the Fall Conference. “Lighting was terrifying to us at first,” continued Joy, “but thankfully [under] the guidance of good mentors like [the HTSA Director of Technology Initiatives] Tom Doherty and seeing others in the group have great success, I know [lighting] is going to be our biggest overall percentage growth category moving forward.”
Buying groups and trade consortiums like the HTSA can offer their members more than just networking opportunities and integrators and end-users more than just the latest products in the custom integration (CI) space. Events like the HTSA’s Fall Conference are the platform on which relationships form, education is provided, and collaboration is fostered.