Cloud9 Smart is one of the premium technology design firms in New York City, with a long history in both the commercial and residential sectors. Their prolific team is dedicated to perfection and incorporate unique processes for fulfilling client expectations.
We sat down with Chris Smith, Chief Operating Officer for Cloud9 Smart to discuss the company’s philosophy and vision as it relates to their design ethos. We discussed the value proposition for specifying Samsung products and zeroed in on how they position the Frame TV as it relates to the design community.
Samsung Connections: Chris, thanks for talking with us and sharing some of your experiences partnering with Samsung. Before we dive into our discussion, can you give our readers some background on Cloud9 Smart and how your team has built such a powerhouse technology design firm.
Chris Smith: Thanks for including Cloud9 Smart in your initiative and taking the time to interview me! Our history dates back to 2001 when we began as a cable company for small to medium size businesses doing cabling infrastructure. We specialized in analogue telecom for voice, and then data. Our natural progression led us into the digital world, with the advent of voice-over-IP and the general move away from analogue infrastructure. With advances in telecom we migrated to conference room technologies and computer networking, including remote system management services.
After 10 years in telecom we then progressed into the residential market because of requests we received from C-level executives we had worked with on their commercial projects. They asked if we could put together audio/video systems for their homes. We started with single rooms, such as home theaters, and then naturally expanded into full-spectrum systems. Currently our design offerings also include environmental aspects such as lighting and shading.
Today, we split our business evenly between the commercial and residential sectors. We have 34 employees and they are grouped into various teams that range from three to six people. The teams consist of operations, sales, marketing, engineering, project management, installation, service, and accounting. As an example, our engineering team is comprised of three individuals and we charge for all of our design services.
Finally, because of the nature of working in such a dense metropolitan area and the difficulty of travelling efficiently across the city – as large as we are, we only have one service truck! We have service contracts with all of our customers to allow us to remotely monitor systems. In any service scenario, we are able to access the network and individual IoT devices to see if a remote fix is possible.
SC: When it comes to your mix of vendors and the SKUs you support, how are those decisions made?
CM: Beyond the obvious of wanting to partner with reliable vendors who offer acceptable margin and outstanding service, we spend a lot of time evaluating products. Our philosophy is to carry as few vendors as possible, and the minimum of SKUs as well. Here’s why. We are only interested in best-in-class products that have a design-forward aesthetics look and feel. We want brands that stand head and shoulders above the competition.
The reasoning for this is quite simple. Our various team members can be educated on fewer products and our design team can repeatedly specify those same products with confidence. And when we find those products, especially if they are cool and unique, we add them to our design portfolio.
SC: Which brings us to the Frame TV. Share some of your thoughts about what that product represents and how you have integrated that into your product mix.
CM: Let me start by saying that rather than salespeople, we are educators. Our residential clients are not typical retail consumers. Their time is so valuable, they don’t surf the net price shopping or wandering over to your local mass retailer to compare models. We explain what the Frame is and they say, “Yeah, I want that, it’s cool.” In fact, we don’t even mention the brand, we just refer to it as the Frame. At the end of the day, it really sells itself.
But beyond our clients, the Frame allows for an easy conversation with the design community. The conversation turns into what else we can do to build around the Frame experience to enhance the lifestyle attributes in any given space. And that’s when we can introduce invisible speakers and elevate the experience well beyond a sound bar scenario. The Frame is a great launching point for us when we have designers come by our offices to meet with us to discuss project work. The Frame predicates conversation where we can suggest design-forward solutions for better performance, which of course includes performance audio.
SC: Give us your thoughts as it relates to your position as COO on what it’s like doing business with Samsung.
CM: From where I sit, no news is good news! Meaning, I don’t see Samsung service issues pop up on my radar screen. And I think that speaks volumes about how our teams feel in general towards working on a daily basis with Samsung.
As far as margin goes, that discussion when it comes to TVs is typically complex. Samsung has simplified the margin structure to make it easy for us to do business with one another. This is not the Samsung of old, so I would encourage integrators to take another look at your program if they haven’t for the past few years.
Perhaps the biggest transition I’ve personally experienced with Samsung has to do with my role with the buying group Azione Unlimited. I sit on the Advisory Board and we have twice a year face-to-face key leader meetings with Samsung. The level of our conversations go way above just a product discussion. And I think that those vendors that understand that we’re not just talking about a box, but the need for engaging the design community and helping dealers move that conversation is the holistic approach to working within the CI channel. Samsung gets that which is why we’re proud to partner with you folks.