Advice from the Front Lines of AV
Ask successful AV integration firms what one piece of advice helped launch their businesses and you get a slew of different answers?some technical, some procedural, some philosophical. Still, we asked.
On How to Not Make Money—and WhyOn “Doing the Math” to Ensure SuccessOn Taking What the Market Gives YouOn Slowing Down to Sweat the Small Stuff
Ask successful AV integration firms what one piece of advice helped launch their businesses and you get a slew of different answers—some technical, some procedural, some philosophical. Still, we asked.
Bruce Banbury, president of Video Systems of the Carolinas in Charlotte, N.C., says a wise person once told him not to attach a dollar figure to everything his company did.
“Too many companies try to account for every man hour, but that's the wrong approach,” says Banbury. “Taking the extra step and doing something that amounts to a favor is what customers tend to remember. We've had people tell us we left money on the table in jobs, but that's not necessarily a bad thing if we can build a relationship.”
Mario Maltese, CEO of Audio Visual Resources in Williston Park, N.Y., used to listen to Syn-Aud-Con founder Don Davis preach, “Do the math.” The gist: Without measuring systems and spaces, integrators were flying blind.
“I learned early on that you can make some huge mistakes if you don't take the time to predict the performance of a system before it's built,” Maltese says. “In fact, ‘do the math' holds true in many ways. It applies in video, RF distribution, even business itself. As an InfoComm Academy instructor, I stress it in my class. To those that don't feel they get paid enough, I urge them to show the justification for their wages.”
Even as manufacturers build more ease of use and predictability into products, professional designs that can stand up to scrutiny must be proven to work. “It improves confidence in designs, reduces stress in negotiations, and increases serenity in developing a strategy.”
Jim Tierney, CFO of Tierney Brothers, a Minneapolis-based AV integrator, approaches business the way indexers approach the stock market or outfielder Ichiro Suzuki approaches hitting: Don't always swing for the fences.
“Someone told me I shouldn't shoot for getting all the customer's money, just a little bit every month,” says Tierney. “We know our customers may be working with other providers and that's fine. We go for as much as the relationship will allow. There might be one big project and 15 ‘hang and bangs' that wouldn't normally get anyone's attention.”
Tierney says his company his learned to listen closely to the customer and let them lead the way to the next big project. “They may not want the $40,000 videoconferencing system now, but at some point they might.”
Pete Dugas, president of Technical Services Audio Visual in Athens, Ga., was lunching with the owner of a car dealership and noticed the man's own car was, well, modest.
“He said, ‘You gotta make it while you're makin' it,'” Dugas says. The point being don't take anything for granted and focus on things that will grow a business long-term. “For instance, the best thing you can spend your time on is choosing the right people to hire,” he says. For his part, Dugas began to slow down his company's hiring to ensure good fits. “Business is a journey, not a destination.”