To many times in our industry clients end up getting taken advantage of or sold a bill of goods that doesn’t fit their particular needs. Why does this happen? There are many good A/V installation and integration companies among us, however how can you tell the good from the bad?
I have heard too many horror stories and have even worked at some firms that take a buyer beware stance on their installation and designs. You, my client, are the most important person to me and it is my job to educate you and sell you a solution based around your needs. Not sell you a bill of goods because that is what I have in my inventory or what will maximize my profits. You are hiring me to be your expert, your coach in the corner, looking out for your best interest.
Do not fear! With some due diligence, you can sort through the good, bad, and ugly to make the best decision possible. Remember, just because someone has the proper certifications and performed countless installs, does not absolutey qualify them to design a system. There is a big difference between conference room designers and firms that design systems for live music.
Top 5 Questions to help you find a great A/V partner
1. What is your budget? This scares some people because they think that if they give a budget, the company is just going to run the number up to that point. We have many choices when it comes to the design and functionality of your system, so without a budget we are walking around blind in the dark. Give a realistic number so the design can work within those numbers.
2. Who is going to conceptually design your system? This is an extremely important part of the process. It can be a good idea to have multiple contractors bid on your installation, however without a design for each to use, it is like shooting fish in a barrel. Without an expert to look at what each company has proposed, how will you know what you are looking at besides a bottom line number? I recommend that you first find a company that you like and trust, and work with them through the entire process. Another option would be to hire one company to do the design and then have multiple firms bid on the installation. Both scenarios will work, however finding a company to provide a complete solution is ideal. Some people believe that A/V integrators are like all other construction trades and you aren’t doing your job if you don’t get at least three bids. What we do is so highly specialized that getting three bids can lead to confusion and the companies could be worlds apart when it actually come down to real world production experience.
3. What should we look for in an installation company? Experience is number 1! Yes it is important if they have previous customers and have some years in the business, however how many garages do you hear about that consistently rip people off and are still in business? Ask for resumes and references. Go and see some installations that they have either completed or have the same equipment that they are recommending for your space. Talk to some people, have they been happy with the experience that the company provided? What kind of experience do they have? For example, I personally sell installations, however I am not a typical installation salesman. I am a pro audio guy that has executed high profile live events as well as complex installations. I pull from an extremely large background and sell a solution, not just a system. Many other companies sell install systems, but couldn’t execute a large live event. Who would you rather have designing your system?
4. Education, Education, Education. Make sure that the company you are hiring can actually train you on your system. What good is a well designed and installed system if your people can’t actually operate it day to day? I can’t drive this point home enough! Check up on them and make sure that they have done this in the past and have a well thought out plan for your education.
5. What are our needs? Make sure you take the time to really think about the past, present and future. What do we want our system to do today? What does your current system not do? What do we think we may need in the future? A good installation company should ask all of these questions, so you should take the time to think them through from the beginning. Your installation can be performed in stages. Everything doesn’t have to be done at once, however for a system that can grow, we need to plan from the beginning to make sure the proper infrastructure is in place.
In summary, with a bit of planning on the front end, you can make installing and integrating a new A/V system a fun and enjoyable process. Do your homework and do not just go with the lowest bid. Find a partner that can work with you now and for years to come.