We’ve all heard the horror stories. A customer has made a substantial investment in audiovisual technology, but the systems never functioned as described, the integrator never returns their service calls, or users do not know how to operate the system. While it’s true the integrator didn’t hold up their end of the agreement, it’s just as much the customer’s fault for the failure as it is the integrator’s. As a customer, it’s your responsibility to hire a qualified integrator. Sure, it’s possible the salesman pulled the wool over your eyes and convinced you they were a great fit for your project, but it’s your lack of asking the right questions during the interview process that allowed them to do so. Be sure to ask the following seven questions and you’ll avoid hiring a subpar integrator.
- How many full-time dedicated audiovisual employees does your company have? Many large firms that previously were not in the audiovisual field are now competing on audiovisual projects. The common question of “how many people are in your company?” seems like an adequate prescreen question to eliminate companies that are too small to complete your project. The truth is this question does not provide enough insight. For example, a “technology provider” might respond that they have 100 employees. However, out of those 100 employees, forty do structured cabling, twenty do phone systems, twenty do network switches, fifteen are office personnel, (HR, accounting, etc), and only five are in the audiovisual group. Five qualified people for your specific project is much different than the company total of 100.
- How many LOCAL audiovisual employees does your company have?
This is an important because an audiovisual company may have 200 audiovisual employees across the globe, but only a handful in the local office. I’ve worked for an extremely large audiovisual firm with over sixty offices and hundreds of employees, but by no means does that mean we could complete a $20M project from our local office of eight people. And, while it would be nice to believe that every office can pool resources and complete the project as one large entity, that just doesn’t happen. Local offices have their own clients to worry about. While the other offices may do their best to help with man power, the truth is helping the other offices is lower priority than working with their local recurring clients.
- Can you provide me a list of employee resumes that will be actively working on my project?
An audiovisual integration firm may have completed some of the coolest, most unique projects in the world, but if the individuals responsible for that successful project are not part of the team on your project, that project should mean diddly-squat to you. You should only be concerned with the skill set of the individuals working for you on this specific project. Just because Peyton Manning and Geno Smith are both NFL quarterbacks, doesn’t mean they will both deliver star performances on your team. The individual quality differences are obvious.
- What is the average salary of your audiovisual technicians, project managers, and programmers?
Low-cost, low-quality integrators pay low hourly wages or salaries. Economics suggests that higher-quality individuals will garner higher wages due to the demand for their skill set. If you hire a firm whose technicians make minimum wage, don’t act surprised when you get minimum-wage quality of work.
- What is your guaranteed onsite response time?
While almost all audiovisual integrators provide a warranty period for their work, it’s important to know the guaranteed response time if you have an audiovisual emergency. A one-year warranty with a 72 hour response time is much less valuable than a one-year warranty with an eight hour response time.
- Can you provide a list of audiovisual projects and references that were completed in the last two years by your local office?
People in organizations come and go. You should be interested in the skill set of the current team. If you have a number of successful projects that were completed three years ago, it’s possible that a number of the key players on these successful projects are no longer part of that team. Ask for references of recent projects where individuals that will be on your project team were a major participant in the success of those projects. And don’t be lazy, call the references and ask the tough questions.
- There actually is no 7th question. I read somewhere that if you have an odd number in your blog title there is a higher likelihood of your blog being read.
The bottom line is this: if you do your due diligence there is a significantly higher probability of a successful project.
About the Author:
—Bill McIntosh, President and CEO of Synergy Media Group and BrightTree Studios
Bill McIntosh is recognized as a Top 40 CI Influencer Under 40. His design-build audiovisual firm, Synergy Media Group, is renowned as a “Top Five Higher Education Integrator” in the US in 2013 and 2014. Bill holds a MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.