AV Technology's exclusive interview with Hall Technologies puts an end to rumors and answers some tough questions: What is changing at Hall Technologies? Why now? Which products will continue, and which are on the cutting board? Which markets will Hall Technologies continue to serve? Will customer support change? What does the Hall product roadmap look like now and for the future?
Just 17 months after Michigan-based Gun Lake Investments (GLI) assumed full management control Hall Technologies, there has been a significant restructuring at the company. Gun Lake Investments is the non-gaming economic development arm of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, also known as the Gun Lake Tribe, and manages a private portfolio of equity and debt investments with a philosophy of prioritizing and investing in people first, focusing on a long-term hold for sustainability generations to come.
Changes at the Leadership Level
As happens in many of these types of discussions and actions, a change has been made at the leadership level, and effective August 21, 2023, there has been a transition with the Chief Executive Officer and Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Ken Eagle has been appointed the new CEO of Hall Technologies.
Expanding in Our Backyard
During the past two years, Hall Technologies pushed expansion into Europe and Asia-Pacific markets, opening a third-party logistics warehouse in Europe and adding staff. "However, despite the investment, we found it challenging for us to break into the markets when so many able competitors are already operating in that space," said Eagle. Hall is in the process of sunsetting its presence in Europe and Asia and will plan to inventory all products back in the U.S.
Hall Technologies will continue to support its Europe and Asia-Pacific customers, albeit with a change to the Central Daylight Time location of its Dallas headquarters, which opened in 2022 and will remain very active.
For those customers wanting to continue with the Hall brand, Eagle said, "If they don't mind the time zone difference and an ordering out of Dallas, that's perfectly fine. We recognize that some may choose to go to a different brand where the support and shipping are closer, and we'll help them transition from the Hall brand to something else."
Focus on Core Competences
Hall Technologies has always had a solid portfolio of infrastructure and extension products. "We're going to turn our focus back to those products, and there's a lot of new things happening in that space," Eagle said. "There's all kinds of new AV-over-IP technologies and a massive amount of new software solutions to make those easier to use and operate. HDbaseT 3.0 is now out, USB 3.0 and 3.1, high-speed transmission, and asynchronous transmission over USB are all things that are going to continue to drive the AV market over the next several years, and we're going to deepen our offering of those extension and signal management solutions." In addition, Hall will continue producing its UCC products, such as cameras and microphones. "Those products go on either end of those signal connections."
Pivoting the Product Roadmap
At InfoComm 2023, Hall Technologies announced its foray into interactive flat panel displays. "We're putting an indefinite pause on that right now," said Eagle. "Display manufacturing is not our core competency; our existing customer base has shown incredible support in our signal management and extension solutions so our focus is to expand on that offering.”
The drive behind introducing displays was to offer a whole solutions approach for building a conference room or classroom. Remove the display, and you still have Hall Technologies’ core competencies. “That means microphones, speakers, USB connectivity, switches, and cables,” said Eagle. “We are going to continue to deepen those product lines.”
In January 2021, Hall introduced HIVE Control with a mission to “offer major improvements to the industry’s three major pillars of AV control technology: software, interface, and hardware.” Eagle said, “We’ve revised our original intent and have pivoted to make HIVE operate more like an app for a smart device. Today, HIVE runs on a 10-inch touchpanel, but in the future, it could be loaded onto an Android or Apple tablet or phone, and its primary focus is to control Hall Technologies products." HIVE software will be able to talk to a handful of third-party products such as displays or an in-room amplifier to turn them off and on and switch inputs.
The Other Fifty-plus Percent
Not widely known in the AV industry is the fact that more than half of Hall Technologies' business lies in the medical space. "We have pretty deep roots in the medical space," said Eagle. "It makes up more than half of our total manufacturing capabilities, and there's a lot of opportunity to grow." Hall will increase its engineering focus on developing new medical products. "We'll have a 50/50 split from our internal efforts on our medical customers and our pro AV space," Eagle explained. Post-COVID, the medical market has stayed strong and continues to grow. "Our demand has gone way up. Some of our customers are asking us to dive deeper into other areas. We're exploring new products with them now, new applications, and that's probably going to drive quite a bit of growth, and with that will come a need for additional headcount down the road."
Slow and Steady
Sweeping changes at any company can leave the staff feeling uncertain about the road ahead.
How confident is Eagle about the future? "A hundred percent good. They [GLI] made a very significant commitment to ensuring that the Hall brand would be around for a long time and have the resources we need to succeed." Eagle said of Hall Technologies' parent company, Gun Lake Investments,
“Gun Lake Investments operates similar to a family office private equity firm focused on long-term hold, seven generations, and reinvesting for stable, focused growth. It's a long-term strategy to return to that long and steady growth they want to see over time. They have come out and said they are thrilled to have Hall Technologies as part of their investment portfolio and look forward to its continued growth," concluded Eagle.