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The Modern Conference Room Revelation You Need to Know

The Modern Conference Room Revelation You Need to Know

In today’s modern work environment, we are collaborating with people around the corner and around the world. Research shows this consistent collaboration is best done through video. Conference calls are old-school, and don’t meet our needs in today’s modern working environment. According to Gigaom, 87% of remote users feel more connected to their team when using video conferencing, and 43% of employed Americans spent at least some of their time working remotely, with the fastest growing segment being those who are working 80% to 100% remotely.

Both video conferencing and remote work will continue to grow due to their vast benefits for both the employee and employer. Research shows that those who telecommute are more efficient and more engaged. For the employer, it reduces turnover, travel and overhead costs. With video a necessity to keep those employees engaged and telecommuting on the rise, video conferencing systems more crucial than ever.

This shift in the way we work creates a growing trend in the commercial A/V industry, with a new and expanding expectation of video conferencing to enhance collaboration. Just a few years ago the landscape was much different. There were proprietary conference systems installed in boardrooms that could only be used to talk to a few select locations, which were almost always other internal large conference rooms. These systems were expensive to own and therefore were limited to only the high executives in major corporations. This configuration no longer meets the requirements of today’s workforce. With the ever-growing trend toward telecommuting, open offices, small start-ups, and the gig economy, companies need more flexibility and more conference areas to stay relevant and connected with their employees and clients around the globe. The previous conference room model is no longer efficient, so we must evolve.

It’s important to note that video collaboration is not just for employee to employee collaboration. Video-conferences are an integral part of engaging with customers. With 90% of communication being non-verbal, engaging customers over video cultivates better communication and stronger relationships. Through video-conferencing, salesmen can have the same benefits of in person meetings without the expense and burden of travel.

With many catching on to the importance of video to maintain employee engagement, accommodate the evolving workforce, and connect with customers from afar, we’ve seen a combination of factors enable the emerging trend in video conferencing such as: proliferation of high-speed internet, good low-cost cameras, and software and services from places like BlueJeans, Vidyo, Skype for Business, or Google’s Meet/Hangouts. While this has all been invaluable, it isn’t enough without the working world embracing it.

Now, this need for video and the evolution of our working landscape needs to serve as a catalyst for change in our conference rooms, which have sorely lagged behind. A key reason is that the cost has been prohibitive for many businesses, often at over $20,000 just for one conference room system. Recognizing this trend, we immediately jumped onboard to be a larger part of the modern solution. We’ve collaborated with multiple technology powerhouses, also seeking change in the conference room space, like Google with their G-Suite Hangout Meet hardware kit  and Logitech, with their Conference Cam Kit to create a true conference-room-in-a-box solution. These solutions house all of the necessary components to easily set up and manage a conference room, without the fuss. While a typical conference-room- in-a-box includes a speakerphone, camera, computer and an interface to the user, in the best systems, this interface is a tabletop touch screen like the Mimo Vue Capture with HDMI.

As a tech company and leader in touchscreen monitors, we’re in a unique position to offer insights to the shift in conference rooms we’re witnessing. One thing we know for certain is that in order for new technologies to become highly adoptive, they need to reach beyond just the cool factor, and be intuitive to use. With the proliferation of smart phones, a well-designed touch-based graphical interface of a touchscreen is already ubiquitous. Touchscreens, already in the mainstream, provide one-touch access to joining meetings, cutting costs and time by no longer needing IT on standby. Attainable in cost, and easy to use and install everywhere, we believe touchscreen-centric conference rooms are the direction of the present and future.

In fact, Google’s solution to the growing conference room conundrum grew out of their own frustrations in setting up and conducting meetings at its far-flung offices around the world. While Google is a large, global company, these conference-room-in-a-box systems empower companies of any size to feel the transformative impact of collaborating through video. No longer do you need big budgets and big IT teams to support video collaboration. Each solution includes all the hardware you need to build a great video capable conference room. Simplifying it even further, The Google Hangouts Meet Hardware kit includes all the cloud services as well so it’s truly plug-and-play. All you need is furniture, walls, and an internet connection.

Companies are just starting to catch on to the need for conference rooms to evolve and we truly believe that we’re witnessing the forefront of a conference room revolution. We’ve already seen and been part of these conference-room-in-a-box solutions coming to fruition and we envision this being the way of the future. These kits empower organizations of all sizes to meet face-to-face and cultivate a strong work culture simply unachievable only through email. The revolution has only just begun and we can’t wait to see how the future unfolds.

Follow me on my Journey from Engineer to Entrepreneur

Follow me on my Journey from Engineer to Entrepreneur

I’m an engineer turned entrepreneur. Owning and running my own business has always had an appeal to me, but for a while, I thought that transitioning from engineer to business owner was quite a career jump. Reflecting on my path and realizing the skill sets needed to do both, I now know there’s quite an overlap of applicable business skills that are useful in both fields.

If I had to describe an engineer’s role in only a few words, it would be “we solve problems”. When some mechanical issue arises or that new circuit isn’t working, we engineers are comfortable working our magic to solve those problems. We’ve been trained through school and experience to break down the problem, control variables, measure, test, and verify. Starting, running, and growing your own business is loaded with unforeseen circumstances and problems that need to be solved. As the owner of Mimo Monitors, my day may now be filled less and less with technical issues, but there are always new challenges to navigate.

While this is not an article about how to start the next unicorn(nor was that the path that interested me), I hope this advice provides some insight to fellow engineers interested in following a similar path to mine, or those just looking to learn from someone’s business trials and tribulations along the way.

Please note that this is the first blog in a short series of posts for entrepreneurs or those aspiring to become one. My next, more general blog, will be providing insights as a first time entrepreneur, aimed at those looking to start their own business, in the early stages of their own venture, or simply looking for another entrepreneur’s advice. For now, I’ve attempted to limit this post to be engineer to entrepreneur specific.


Work for a small company first: learning beyond your job title

I took the long road to becoming an entrepreneur and would do it again if I had the chance. I worked for someone else and learned on their dime for more than 20 years before venturing out on my own. My first job was with a 5000-person company, but I quickly learned that it is hard to grow outside your immediate job in a large company due to the need to often only assume your exact role with your specific tasks.

I recommend finding company that is less than 100 people, but growing, and earn a salary while learning from them and challenging yourself.  Get to know the owner or CEO with the goal of soaking up as much as you can, and growing while you’re there. The CEO and company leaders at a great small business will appreciate you taking the initiative in having a greater interest in the company beyond your job title.   

As an entrepreneur, I can tell you it is hard to find people who are looking for the big picture. Engineers are usually comfortable dealing with the technical details, but gaining a high-level understanding will keep you driving  toward the company's end goal, whatever it may be, since that goal is never the problem du-jour.

Understanding the big picture, even if entrepreneurship isn’t your future, will help you with whatever your career path is. You may not have an immediate need to learn the in-depth details of manufacturing, purchasing and planning, finance, sales and marketing, HR, and the rest, but you should get a firm understanding of their role and what they are adding to the bottom line.

Also, I recommend switching job responsibilities every few years. This allows you to constantly challenge yourself and learn new skills. Personally, I worked for the same company for 15 years, but never held a specific job for more than 3 or 4. This flexibility in terms of roles is one of the advantages of small or nimble companies, especially growing ones. There are always new opportunities and new jobs opening up. A good company will want to support your growth and allow you to try on different hats for size as you grow with them.

Another pitfall of being an engineer is that it’s easy to get hyperfocused only on the product. Being successful in business is not only about who makes the best widgets. That is an engineering fallacy. It’s important to remember that there are so many companies doing great things and your business needs to rise above the noise to be successful. To do this, you need marketing, sales, production, and a financial plan in addition to excellent engineering. The better you understand these roles and what goes into them, the more equipped you’ll be to make a transition from engineer to entrepreneur.


Get out from behind the desk and get in front of customers: listening to people

There’s a lot of talk about being customer- centric for a reason. You will never learn as much about a business as when you listen to your customers.  Don’t misunderstand, being an engineer can be very fulfilling, however, if you want to take that step from engineer to entrepreneur, you need to get out from behind the computer and in front of customers.

Some jobs at a company you can try to step into to learn more about direct customer interaction are: sales, marketing, business development, applications engineering, technical product specialist, and engineering management. These were all titles I held in my career and all of them helped me immensely because I learned to truly listen to the people we were directly impacting.

It’s crucial to learn how to take a complex situation and communicate it well, and also how to communicate with both engineers and all levels of management within the customers you are trying to land.  It’s important to learn that speaking to engineers versus management often requires a different style, and sometimes, only in a nuanced way. By understanding that, you’ll develop strong, agile communications skills and even more importantly, strong listening skills. Understanding your customers needs is an entirely different type of problem solving that is crucial to entrepreneurial success.

As an entrepreneur, part of listening to customers involves problem solving in a customer-focused way. As an engineer, you may be able to think of 100 things that should be fixed with what you’re developing, but the customer will tell you about the 5 things they really care about, and 2 of these were not in YOUR list of 100. I know it’s hard, but forget about the rest of the 97. You’ll get to address them later down the line.

It’s also incredibly important to be as transparent as possible with your customers. Engineers desire to be pragmatic and look for the win-win in any situation, skills which translate well to running a business. However, engineers also tend to be overly optimistic on scheduling. Because so much of working with customers is cultivating a good relationship, under-promise and over-deliver.  If you win business by agreeing to an unachievable schedule, you could permanently damage a new relationship


Get used to being uncomfortable: uncertainty and growth

This may be a generic life lesson and not specifically tied to being an engineer or entrepreneur, but never stop learning, innovating, and pushing yourself. As soon as you’re comfortable, move on and learn something else. Embrace being uncomfortable.

I know my alma mater, Purdue University, taught me well how to be an engineer. But my learning did not stop when I graduated with a degree in Computer and Electrical Engineering. While I never went back and got a formal education beyond my BSCEE, that does not mean that I didn’t continue to learn via OJT, books, colleagues, and friends. Do not let your knowledge get old.

Of course, the thing that will be the most uncomfortable, should you choose this path, is to leave that regular paycheck. Let me tell you that while I was uncomfortable too, it was the best decision that I ever made, and not just because my company has had success. Leaving my regular paycheck was liberating and I very, very quickly got over being uncomfortable with that decision, because you gain back an overall sense of control you don’t have when major decisions are being made by people above you in the organization. I believe that being an entrepreneur is much less of a risk that you may think. Strangely, it was always the outside people who felt like it was some huge risk. Other than the initial leap, I never felt that.

Since becoming an entrepreneur, I have not made a decision that I wasn’t confident was most likely going to pay off. Despite my confidence in my decisions, I’ve definitely been wrong and made mistakes. Do not be afraid or uncomfortable making mistakes. I have made a lot of them. Expensive ones. You, just like I have, will recover.

Luckily, if you do not succeed and need to start over, there are always jobs for engineers. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates and there is strong demand for your skills. A failed entrepreneurial engineer will be demanded over almost any other skill. And the rewards, financially and personal fulfilment-wise, can be huge if you do not fail.


Win often but lose early: using resources wisely and pivoting ideas

‘Win Often’ is self explanatory, so I want to discuss ‘Lose Early’. Engineers don’t like to lose. Maybe no one does, but for an engineer we are trained to never admit defeat. Maybe what we’re working on doesn’t work as well as we’d like, maybe we just need ‘one more week’, but given the opportunity most of us will work on a problem until it is solved. This is an instinct of engineers that does not translate well to a new business.

When I say ‘Lose Early’ I do not mean ‘give up’. When a business is small, you have very limited resources, so cast a wide net, but do not try to close every account or deal. Sales cycles are longer than you planned, so if you do not get interest from your prospective customer quickly, ‘Lose Early’ and put your resources in more promising areas. Do not spend time convincing a customer to buy something that in your heart you know will never meet their needs. Admit this reality and move on. Also, don’t let the engineer in you get bogged down in developing a solution to every issue you find as there are no shortage of problems to solve.

Don’t misunderstand: ‘Lose Early’ also does not mean ignore that customer forever. While you cannot be actively pursuing all customers, checking in once a quarter with those that were not initially interested is not a large investment in time, and could pay off in the future. You should make your case, show them what you are capable of, and leave them impressed. I cannot count the number of customers we closed years after the first encounter.


Engineers make great entrepreneurs

I hope that the experiences that I have shared above are helpful in your decision making. While my path is surely unique, I wanted to show moving from engineer to entrepreneur is not as big of a jump as you might imagine. You will use much of the experience you have already received, and you can use your engineering skills to figure out the rest. I believe that you do not need an MBA to start or run a business and that the community is better off with more engineers as business owners. I hope these tips, learnings, and mistakes I’ve made will provide insights to those starting their own business, regardless of background. Whatever you choose I hope that it will be rewarding. I know this path has been rewarding for me.

Keep an eye out for my second blog in this entrepreneur series where I’ll talk more broad strokes about my experiences starting a business in hopes of helping others and providing insights, no matter the discipline.

Mimo Monitor’s Newest Product, The Mimo Monitors Vue Capture Capacitive Touch Display with HDMI Capture, included in Google's G Suite New Hangouts Meet Hardware Kit

Mimo Monitor’s Newest Product, The Mimo Monitors Vue Capture Capacitive Touch Display with HDMI Capture, included in Google's G Suite New Hangouts Meet Hardware Kit

Mimo Monitors’ intuitive touchscreen controller provides seamless integration designed to make meetings easier, more secure, and more reliable

 

Mimo Monitors (www.MimoMonitors.com), experts in small touchscreen displays, are pleased to announce that its newest product, The Mimo Vue Capture Capacitive Touch Display with HDMI Capture, will be included in the new Hangouts Meet hardware kit, designed to make meetings more productive and connected than ever before.

 Bringing state-of-the-art software and hardware together to make conference rooms more efficient, secure and reliable, the Hangouts Meet hardware kit provides an ideal video meetings solution. Anticipating all potential needs, no matter the size or scale of the conference room, this thoughtfully curated set of kit components is specifically designed to eliminate the headache associated with meeting connection, while bettering overall user experience. The kit includes: a touchscreen controller (Mimo Monitors’ Vue Capture Capacitive Touch Display), a 4K camera designed to pan, tilt, or zoom to capture crucial content, a speakermic created by Google to ensure clear pickup, and the easy-to-set-up Chromebox.

 The Mimo Vue Capture Capacitive Touch Display, serving as the kit’s controller, is a 10.1” touchscreen monitor specifically created to be a conference room interface. This intuitive touchscreen controller allows meeting attendees to go straight to meetings booked in Google Calendar with a single tap, present to the room or Hangouts Meet directly via HDMI, and record the meeting to Google Drive for later records. With an easy-to-use UI, the controller also allows participants to adjust the camera, mute, view meeting details and more, vastly simplifying meetings.

 “Conference rooms can often be unnecessarily complicated and costly. We’re happy to be involved in a conference room evolution, a more efficient conference room in a box solution, that offers customers the best user experience possible,” said David Anderson, President and CEO of Mimo Monitors. “We’re proud to collaborate with Google to utilize our small touchscreen expertise to be an integral part of the solution, creating a more impactful, secure, and efficient conference room.”

 The Google Hangouts Meet hardware kit will be available beginning on October 31st for $1,999.99. You can learn more about the kit here: gsuite.google.com/products/hangouts-meet-hardware.