Beyond Audio approaches electronic systems contracting differently than most companies. Your experience will be WAY different than the what you might get from a retail store, electrician, security contractor etc. Here are some of the things we have learned work best.
Way back in the 90’s, before I started this company, I went back to school for business. One of the things I took to heart is a professional sales person’s job is to help the customer buy, not sell them as much stuff as possible or sell them whatever they think they want. Since most people have only a vague idea of what is possible, letting them drive the sale can be dangerous; plus if you want to stay in business you better treat people fairly.
So what does the client really want?
Here is a little secret – everyone wants good value, and a system that is easy to operate and functional, no matter what their budget or how big the project is. Most clients do not really have a well researched budget, and if they do it is typically way too small for their wish list anyway.
Challenge number 1 – Trim the wish list or add money.
What will get the job done properly?
Notice I did not say what will get the job done the cheapest. After 25+ years in the electronic systems business and lots of training and certifications I am indeed an expert. I know what will get the job done properly, what brands work as advertised and which solution is the best value for money.
Challenge number 2 – Convince client best value does not mean lowest cost.
Here are some of the things I take into account when designing systems:
What would I do if this was my house and I had similar means / lifestyle?
Challenge number 3 – Ensure I have a true understanding of their wishes and desires, and they understand the options available and our capabilities.
Clients with means have a little different outlook and different expectations. This took me a while to understand fully.
Less is more
Sometimes a simple sound bar will work better than a 7 speaker surround sound system, even if the client has different ideas…
Will a smaller / more expensive item work better?
Hiding something equates to putting a higher emphasis on aesthetics. This can be the right design decision
Stay back from the bleeding edge of technology
This always makes for a way more reliable system. Usually costs less as well, but many clients want the latest and greatest so it is a balancing act.
Put in the right quality
Connectors, cables, accessories. This stuff adds up if you don’t; use the cheap stuff. Many contractors cut this corner since it is all hidden from the customer. We too could get away with the cheap stuff but that is not how we roll.
Review my notes
I like to record the initial client meeting on my smart phone to be 100% certain I don’t miss any details. Getting it right the first time is important. Writing change orders is not something I enjoy. This is NOT how most contractors roll – just ask Mike Holmes…
Hand it over for Review
When I am done the initial design I hand it to one of our more experienced technicians or engineers for further evaluation / critique. Since these guys are charged with making it all work properly, they have a vested interest in helping get it right the first time and usually find something I have missed, or suggest a better solution. Nice!
Send the Client a Scope of Work and Firm Quotation
I have seen all manner of quotations, from 1 or 2 pages with vague outlines of what might happen, to 40 page lists of every single connector, screw, bolt and device ring needed for the job. Neither is any good.
Too little information and the project is sure to fail as neither party will actually know what is supposed to happen. This is the world electricians live in – change orders. You don’t have to believe me, ask around; change orders is how the vast majority of electrical contractors make their money.
Too much information is almost as bad. It takes time and effort to generate and track all of this info, and details will get lost. Take if from someone who knows.
Our systems are on-line, automatically backed up, and our computers to do much of the work. We track all the details, but generally only have to look at the big picture to keep the project on track. This took a lot of trial and error, a lot of investment and training, so now even large complex projects can be dealt with smoothly and efficiently.
This can be a real wild card. Some people prefer the phone, some like to text, others email. All of us are at some times rushing around trying to have it all and details do get dropped. We like things written down, and have a way to track all texts as well so we more easily add details to our project management system. If the client likes to use the phone thankfully I can type about as quickly as they can talk.
Our goal is to be the best subcontractor on the job site. In 1999 we won a Georgie Award for Best Sub-trade in the Province, and we are way better at our jobs now.
About the Author
Mike Ohman is the owner of Beyond Audio, a Fourth Class Power Engineer and CEDIA Certified Electronic Systems Designer. Beyond Audio has delivered systems for the Canadian Government at the 2006 Olympics in Torino Italy, and for hundreds of clients throughout Western Canada since 1995.