REDBAND: Client Interactions Reinforce Management Best Practices by Todd Anthony Puma

 

Just four weeks ago, I wrote a blog titled “Knowing When to Cut Ties with an Unresponsive Custom Install Prospect.” Back on July 1, I had yet to receive a payment for the several site visits and two rounds of estimates. I was ready to write off the project and any hope of getting paid. How quickly things change. Just two weeks later, the client has hand delivered a check for the initial estimate fees plus a small retainer to show good faith. Last week we started the pre-wire after receiving the full initial deposit and a signed contract.

Not only was the client profusely happy that we were able to schedule him in so quickly, as the construction is moving forward and walls are starting to be closed up, but he pulled me aside and told me how much he trusted me. He had made changes to the contract and he stated that he would normally not have provided the full deposit without all contract changes executed and a finalized product list (he’s changing the size of some TVs and a few other things), but he really appreciates how professional my team has been through the process. He called us the most reliable and professional company on the renovation project. I was so proud of my team and so pleased to hear that from a customer, that it made me almost forget all of the hassles of getting the initial payment. Well, almost… I’m still going to make sure we are fully paid before moving on to future phases.

But his glowing words and the impact it had on me reminded me how important it is to provide positive reinforcement in all aspects of business and life, including (and most importantly) our employees. It’s critical to give feedback, both positive and constructive to every employee on a regular basis. This is something that has been reinforced not only by my interactions with this client, but also by Mark Feinberg, the owner of Home Theater Advisors. Mark was previously in Corporate America and managed large teams of professionals. He has an MBA and went through many management-training programs provided by his employers. He is also an enormous supporter of regular reinforcement.

One of the most important comments he ever made to me was “Money attracts, it doesn’t motivate or retain”. By that he meant that people may come to work for you for more money, but throwing more money at them every time they seem unhappy or to reward them or they comment about pay only has a short-term effect. You need to find other ways to motivate and retain them. They stay with you because they are happy and you provide a positive, engaging work environment.

Here are my six suggestions for creating this time of climate for your team…

Continue reading on Residential Systems by clicking he link below:

http://www.residentialsystems.com/default.aspx?tabid=90&EntryId=627

ToddRedband

Todd Anthony Puma is the CEO & Founder of The Source Home Theater. Check out his  website at The Source Home Theater and follow him on twitter at  @ToddAnthonyPuma .

 

REDBAND: Technology Leadership Series – Management Skills by Mike Brandes

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Technology Leadership Series: Management Skills

Technology Leaders, CIO’s and CTO’s must be more than good manager  to be successful. However, it’s difficult to have success in an organizational leadership role without having strong management skills.  Management skills extend beyond some of the typical roles of a manager one might think: scheduling employees, hiring applicants, ensuring adequate coverage and meeting goals. Strong management skills include a dedication to not only improving their individual performance, but also the performance of their team. Successful leaders develop the talent they manage, preparing them for future advanced roles within the company. Successful leaders motivate their team to accomplish more than expected, and exemplify excellence as the standard.

In college I worked in retail and food service, arguably two of the worst managed industries. I’ve had terrible managers that used their authority to manipulate and coerce employees; but, I’ve also had several incredible managers who motivated me to be a better employee and person. I can recall one day, while working in a restaurant, I was vacuuming carpet and I saw the store’s General Manager walk out from the restroom with a cleaning cart. Jokingly I asked what he was doing, and didn’t he have someone to do that for him, since after all he was the manager. He smiled and explained the cleanliness of a bathroom can have an impact on a guest returning to the restaurant. Even cleaning a bathroom can increase the restaurant’s success; his job as a manager was to increase the restaurant’s success even if it meant scrubbing toilets.

A successful CIO must be proficient in directing and supervising people, projects, resources, budgets, vendors and other business partners is essential. In addition, great management skills entail team building, motivation, coaching and mentoring. Great managers ensure priorities are set appropriately and projects are completed on time and budget. . People with great management skills take advantage of delegation to ensure all work gets done and to engage team members in the success of the organization.  Organizations require excellent managers to be successful; the level of management skills in an organization’s leadership can be a good barometer of the organization’s health.

Mike Brandes

For the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to contact me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

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Mike is an experienced audio video and information technology specialist, with 5 years experience in AV/IT, and previous experience in Pro Audio including full time touring experience. Mike is active in InfoComm, the Audiovisual Industry Association, and serves on the Technology Managers Council. Check out Mike’swebsite http://mikebrandesav.com/ and Follow him on Twitter.

REDBAND: Technology Leadership Series – Communication By Mike Brandes

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I’m beginning a multiple part series on what makes a successful CIO. I’m hoping to explore, in dpeth, the individual personality factors and job responsibilities required to succeed in technology leadership. Whether you find yourself in the role of CIO or CTO, or not, these traits can also be applied to successful leadership within your organization and especially on your team.

At no point in history have organizations so greatly relied on technology to connect them, make themselves more efficient, manage information systems and warehouse data like they do now. With this in mind, the role of the CIO is arguably more important now, than it has ever been. These decisions of a CIO will impact just about every department within an organization. CIO’s have to demonstrate business acumen, leadership and teambuilding skills; traits that extend beyond a keen understanding of technical systems and operations.

For the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to contact me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

Technology Leadership Series: Communication

The ability to intelligently and articulately talk about a strategy or a feeling in a clear and appropriate manner is an absolute must of any leader, especially a technology manager. Good communication is the foundation for success in any organization. Communication affects everything from task lists to the culture of the team. Communication prompts motivation by providing information to employees regarding the task they are to perform, or how to improve their performance. Communication is the source of information to all team members; allowing them to participate in decision-making process as it helps identify and assess alternative course of actions, if necessary. Communication plays an imperative role in altering individual’s attitudes. An individual who has been properly communicated with should have a better attitude than an individual who has not been properly communicated with.

Communication is more than just disseminating information. Great communication skills require great listening skills; to be a strong communicator one must also seek and accept feedback from peers, subordinates and customers. One of the most important things a technology leader can do is successfully alter the course of direction based on feedback. There is nothing worse than forcing an idea through against all common sense and feedback.
More than just written word, one-to-one verbal communication and public speaking. Much of what is discussed over the next few months, in this series, will have to do with healthy communication; which is why it was chosen first. Communication skills properly frame all other parts of an organization: communication the vision and direction the organization is to take, informing employees their role in advancing the company, managing expectations and time frames and so much more.

Mike Brandes

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Mike is an experienced audio video and information technology specialist, with 5 years experience in AV/IT, and previous experience in Pro Audio including full time touring experience. Mike is active in InfoComm, the Audiovisual Industry Association, and serves on the Technology Managers Council. Check out Mike’swebsite http://mikebrandesav.com/ and Follow him on Twitter.

REDBAND: In Their Words… Review of Sound Design Live, Build Your Career as a Sound Engineer By Tucker

In Their Words… Review of Sound Design Live, Build Your Career as a Sound Engineer

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We humans have found many ways to communicate. Our infinite creativity has provided us the written word, sign language, slang and even long distance forms such as semaphore, smoke signals and ‘talking’ drums.  All of these forms have been updated and adapted to be preserved and exposed to a wider audience as the medium has evolved, from books to radio to blogs and texts.  It can be argued that while the technological platforms have enabled us to distribute information with greater efficiency to more people at astounding speed, the very nature of its speed erodes the natural  flow of conversation.  Regardless of our language it is this oral dialog that is the most comfortable and impactful to our little grey cells.

Oral histories are also the most poignant, conveying a feeling of being there with a rhythm and tenor of the speaker through which you could feel what it was like to be there. Two of my favorite books about music are Legs McNeil’s ‘Please Kill Me’ and Jon Wiederhorn’s “Louder Than Hell’ – both of these books have a subtitle of ‘An Oral History of ….”.  In the case of Legs it is about the early days of Punk and Wiederhorn’s is about Heavy Metal.  The books take interviews from various magazines over several years with musicians, writers and scene makers of the time.  The Trick here is that the statements have been taken out of the larger interviews  and placed in the appropriate chronological timeline. This technique provides a flow of conversation and perspectives on an event by disparate interviews into a dialog making the events come ‘alive’ and not just a formal recap.

In a very similar fashion Nathan Lively a sound designer and live audio engineer , a frequent guest on AVNation.tv podcasts and who has his own very good show – Sound Design Live,  just published an e-book that follows the same oral history methodology. In the book, “Live Sound Design, Build Your Career as a Sound Engineer”, Nathan has taken the transcripts of interviews from two years of producing his show to create a conversation on topics ranging from tools and techniques to the relationships of building a career.  What the book is NOT is an ivory tower thesis on audio theory nor a product placement webinar on ‘Better Audio Techniques’.  While the textbooks and manufacture seminars can be beneficial it is the apprenticeship like relationship that really provides usable tools and practical knowledge.

I was particularly taken with the section on ‘Working with Technical Limitations’ which focuses on building systems with limitations such as budget, available gear or space.  I also really enjoyed Pierre Dupree of the Alley Theater in Houston discussion on minimalist microphone set up  in an 800 seat venue. The two pieces are quite refreshing and reminded me of an interview in EQ magazine with Rudy Van Gelder who, much to the writers chagrin, would not talk specific mic models but only types of microphones to be use for an application. At the time the article was a game changer where I stopped looking at model names and focused on learning technique.  The book also has interesting sections on remote access to controls, mixing with computers vs physical decks, business networking, webcasting and more.

 If I had to lay criticism it would only be my preference to having the cast of characters introduced at the beginning and the ‘speakers’ laid directly one after the other like a play – each with their name and lines in order.  This would be more in line with Nathan’s background in theater.  It is but a small point and most likely go unnoticed by anyone else.

If you are looking for a book to take you step by step through learning a specific technique this book is not for you.  If you want an insight to the world of live sound and design, the types of people who can become resources and the pro and cons of some hot button techniques then this book will fill your head with great ideas. Be sure to purchase a copy then read some of his great articles and check out the podcast, you’ll be glad you did.

Author: Nathan Lively

Price: $7.95 / 8.95 depending on reader format

Format: e-reader

Tucker

 

When asked to recap his career and life Tucker responded “Me? I am just a figment of your collective imagination and let me tell you that living this life has taught me one thing- “You people are twisted Mofos”   You can follow Tucker on Twitter @Tuckertues or his personal blog on tech and tech culture at http://tuckerstuesday.typepad.com

 

This week’s #AVWEEK podcast features two #Redband members!

Check out the latest AVWeek podcast from AVNation.tv (episode 101).  Both Tucker and Nate were guests on the popular weekly podcast along with  Tom Andry from AVRant.com and Ronnie Anne Spang. Nice Jobl!

Chris

Click the  Image below to listen in…

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Click Here: http://avnation.tv/shows/avweek/avw-101/

REDBAND: “An Open Marriage” Trust in publications in an age of open infidelity By Tucker

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I have been brooding for much too long on the subject of CNET’s  tumble at CES.  I tried to stay away from the topic but it has kept gnawing at me, eating away the lining of my stomach and lapping up the brain fluid in my cranium.

Chris Brogan, the social marketing Svengali,  wrote a book a few years back entitled ‘Trust Agents’ and I am reminded of its main tenets as well as the book this one has as a foundation, namely the Cluetrain Manifesto.  Mr.Brogan’s book exalts the humanizing of business through social media’s power to build relationships.  Part of this relationship is a cultural contract which requires the dismantling of  secrets, a breaking of the fourth wall. When used as a tool which is grounded in truth, it can help you trump your competitors regardless of their size and war chest.  Trust is a valuable commodity which once trampled upon risks the vehement vitriol of those who were duped.

Trust is also the tool of hucksters and scammers.  How many times have we heard victims of the Madoffs, local grifters and assorted snake oil salesmen say something akin to “…I just felt I could trust him…”.  A successful charlatan will take great pains to gain your confidence, to appear as if your concerns are theirs and play off our universal expectations of just what a villain should look like – Twirling his thin handle bar mustache, grinning devilishly.  Whatever the form they take from handsome socialite to trade publication – they are a breed of the most foul.

CNET’s coverage of CES at the beginning of the year exposed a dichotomy in  consumer electronics reporting.  If you missed this episode it can be easily summarized – CNET, as part of the awards select committee, included in its final list the Dish Network’s Hopper Box as among the top contenders. The Hopper box allow Dish Network subscribers the ability to ‘hop’ through commercials while watching a show, much like the Tivo fast forward function only the dish box jumps a predetermined time 30 to 60 seconds.  CBS Network, which acquired CNET for 1.8billion in the early summer of 2008, instantly began foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog and demanded that the award not be given to Dish Network. (CBS and other traditional broadcast networks, it seems,  fear the hopper as it takes yet another bite out of potential ad revenue). While CBS may have a genuine business concern here they overreacted by forcing an owned entity to go back on its journalistic ethics and retract an award (and editorial approval) to satisfy a corporate overlords paranoia.

This is an unforgivable act which caused a good number of writers and editorial staff to render their resignations. I, like millions of others, sought out CNET for its coverage of breaking products and in-depth reviews of the same. The fracas which followed and CBS’s CEO essentially giving us the “F*ck You, we will tell you what is good and you will like it with whip cream on top’ cemented my dissolution with the network as a source of anything but fluff. As a result I also do not watch CBS or any of its affiliate networks, my reasoning being that if they were so flippant with a small tech outlet – what, pray tell are they doing with the regular news?  CNET/CBS also lost the prestige and honor of being an awards panelist, a fall from grace which will echo for some time to come.  (Every year from now on folks will contrast CNET’s  CES coverage to their removal from the panel and the cause).

CBS and CNET’s newly installed Vichy editorial staff promised to be committed as ever to honestly reporting on the consumer electronics news and culture. This is a very nice sentiment but one which is flat-footed and built for sin. The fine folks at both would like us to think that what we are witnessing is an open marriage where two partners are free to make outside choices that the other will respect with the caveat of no blood, no foul. Yeah Right! Evidently the editors and corporate overlords have been reading far, far too many back issues of Forum magazine and have bought into the fanciful delusions of the free love cult. Jealousy eventually gets the best of folks in these situations with Jacobean melodrama to soon follow.  Seriously it is akin to calling your coverage ‘fair and balanced’ but swearing allegiance to the stockholders before each article.

The AV Integration industry is not the consumer electronics business despite our overlapping it in the Veen diagrams. In light of the CNET ‘fuster cluck’ we do have to view the trade publications of our own industry with an a skew’d eye.  Or do we?

The pressures on AV Integration periodicals are great, everyone from the newest startup to the established colossuses, all seek coverage of their products and a positive spin. This can, and is often, viewed as a boon to the trades – so much to report on, so many Press Releases to post and comment on!  It’s a gold mine! And indeed many of the trades thrive off of this.  The problem is that everyone wants ‘The Cover’. The temptation to leverage ones coverage and reach into a disguised version of a ‘vanity periodical’ must be in the back of many publishers and editorial director heads. The money to be made in this Tammany Hall journalism is very real but is it happening now, could it?

Is our industry too small to ever really get away with ‘fixing’ the best in show awards? Who do you trust to provide the honest reporting and reviews for the AV Industry and CE?

Tucker

When asked to recap his career and life Tucker responded “Me? I am just a figment of your collective imagination and let me tell you that living this life has taught me one thing- you people are twisted Mofos”   You can follow Tucker on Twitter @Tuckertues or his personal blog on tech and tech culture at http://tuckerstuesday.typepad.com

REDBAND: Growing Pains – Are you setup to scale? by Jason Griffing

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Many integrators are suddenly finding themselves in a challenging, but enviable position.  Work is getting busy, very busy.  In fact, at time it can feel too busy.  However, recent history has reminded us that the business of Systems Integration can be a feast or famine proposition.  So despite full bellies and overflowing plates, we’d be well advised to keep asking for more.

It’s been said that in business “you’re either growing or dying”.  Might sound believable, or even compelling on the surface.  But I’ve come question the saying’s validity.  In fact, I believe that if we’re not careful we can be both… growing and dying.  The danger lies in pursuing growth for growth’s sake, while ignoring the need for systems and infrastructure that will support the increased workload.

Unlike other trades, Systems Integrators typically don’t have the luxury of being able to fill holes in their business with cheap labor.  Little of what we do is repetitive, and even less of it is easy. In our field, qualified labor doesn’t come cheap.  Even assuming we’re able to find the qualified help we need, the custom nature of each project dictates that there will be a long learning curve for new employees.

Given these challenges, it is imperative that we think critically about how best to prepare our businesses for growth.  It is important to hunt down and eliminate performance bottlenecks wherever they can be found.  In my years of experience working with numerous firms of various  sizes, I have seen several patterns that tend to repeat themselves with surprising regularity.

The Inability to Delegate:

Early in the life cycle of a business, a founder will often “hire” him or herself to perform daily functions within the business.  Initially this is done out of necessity, as the owner simply can’t afford to hire others to perform these tasks.  It is not uncommon, and in and of itself not necessarily bad for business.  The problem is that many owners never learn to let go of the reigns.  So the pattern continues not out of necessity, but out of habitually.  And eventually becomes a bottleneck to the company’s growth.

Much has been written about the difference between working on your business and working in your business.  If growth is your goal, spending less time on the latter is the only way get there.

Are you the only one doing Sales in your company?  What about handling service calls and continual project management?  Make it a top priority to find help with the high-level tasks at your business right away.  It is the only way to ensure that you yourself are not the biggest barrier to the growth you seek.

Lack of Backend “Systems”:

Having qualified help, however, is only half of the battle.  We also need systems and infrastructure in place to support our operation.  In a blogpost I previously wrote (5 Lessons Systems Integrators Should Take From the IT World), I made mention of the need for widespread adoption of PSA software in our industry.  There are many tools available to help us design and sell systems.  But any integrator worth his salt knows that designing and selling systems is just the beginning.  We also need tools to help manage and support our existing client base.  This is where PSA software comes into play.

Industry specific PSA tools do exist. For example Simply Reliable’s SmartOffice and Tigerpaw’s Service Management Software.  Other solutions targeted at the IT world, such as Autotask and Connectwise, can be “tweaked” to meet the specific needs of our industry.  Which specific platform you choose is less important than the fact that you chose one to begin with, then commit to it.  Any enterprise software can only be as good as it’s implementation.  So be prepared to devote the time and resources necessary to successfully roll out the software and to get your workforce trained on it’s use.

The Break-Fix Business Model:

The third major barrier to scaling a Systems Integration business is the continual use of the break-fix business model.  This is a term borrowed from the IT world that refers to a purely reactionary stance towards customer support issues.  It’s a business model that we desperately need to move away from.

The systems that we put in place, especially at the high-end, are tremendously complex.  The fact is that at one time or another every single one of them will fail in some respect.  The decision to deal with these problems in a reactionary manner costs us more than money, it also costs us our client’s good will, something which is much harder to earn back.

Products like the Invision platform from ihiji are making it easier than ever to provide proactive, off-site support.  Structuring long-term client care plans that include these remote-monitoring capabilities represents the next step in our industry’s growth.  Failure to adapt to these new practices will ultimately result in a bottleneck whereby the cost to service and support an increased workload will limit your ability to keep growing the business.

So while we’re holding our collective breath, and hoping that busy is the “new normal”, don’t forget to ask yourself, is your business set up to scale?

Have other thoughts on the challenges facing a growing Systems Integration business?  Please let us know in the comments below.  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Jason Griffing has 10+ years experience in the AV industry.  He is currently a Project Manager at DSI Entertainment Systems in Los Angeles.  Jason also blogs at IntegratorsAcademy.com and can be found on Twitter @JasonGriffing

REDBAND Welcomes Newest Blogger Jason Griffing

Jason Griffing has joined REDBAND bloggers.

Look for his 1st Post this week!

Welcome to the Band!

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Jason Griffing has 10+ years experience in the AV industry.  He is currently a Project Manager at DSI Entertainment Systems in Los Angeles.  Jason also blogs at IntegratorsAcademy.com and can be found on Twitter @JasonGriffing

REDBAND: Are you Social with Media? by Nate Schneider

Here is the first post from our newest member “Big Nate” Schneider. Check out his bio below…

Are you Social with Media?

There is no shortage of social media in today’s rapidly growing high-tech culture.  In my opinion, social media has two sides.  It can be an entertaining waste of time and it has the potential to boost your career.  Finding the balance between wasting time and adding real professional value can be tricky, especially for those who are just starting out.  Take a minute to analyze your social media situation by asking yourself the following questions.

1. What Is My Social Media Goal? Defining success is key.  Are you trying to represent a brand?  Share useful information?  Get a celebrity to retweet your tweet?  Gain as many followers as possible?  Expand your professional network?  Keep up with friends & family?  Earn revenue?  You see where I’m going here?  Coming to a firm understanding of your end game gives you something to aim for.  I have found writing down my goals and keeping a running log from year to year helps me stay focused and it’s starting to pay off.

2. What Social Media Accounts Can I Purge? It’s ok to let your Tumblr or Pinerest go dormant.  You can always come back to them someday in the future.  It’s good to focus your attention on a few value adding sites rather than spread yourself too thin.  You may want to open an account just to reserve your preferred user name and possibly come back to it in a few years.  Once you know your social media goals you can cut back or cut out completely time spent on sites that don’t seem to help.

3. Am I Working Hard Or Smart? Utilize free web tools!  This is exciting because you can put technology to work for you.  There are many clever web tools and free apps available to maximize your social media efficiency.  TweetDeck is a more user friendly Twitter dashboard.  Paper.li and Google Alerts can be used to stay on top of industry trends by aggregating certain feeds and keywords that matter most to you.  If you’re a heavy Facebook user, CheckOutTheLatest can be used to subscribe to YouTube channels through Facebook notifications.  Try using Buffer App to schedule future Tweets and Facebook posts so you can maintain a social media presence throughout the day while focusing on other things, like your day job.

Buffer App Tip:  Make sure the Facebook posts and Tweets you add to your queue remain authentic.  No one likes to follow a robot. If you have never had the time, energy or motivation to grab the social media bull by the horns, I would highly recommend giving it a shot.

I started taking social media seriously in 2011 with the launch of my How-To YouTube Channel.  Since then I have greatly expanded my professional network, I’ve landed job interviews, monetized my content, received free stuff, hit a million video views (almost), appeared on various podcasts and some of my video footage even made it into an ABC World News broadcast.  Not too shabby for a guy working out of his basement.  Don’t be afraid to jump in wherever you are and embrace the idea of incremental improvement. You’ll learn by doing and improve as time goes on.

Be Social.

Nate Schneider

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Nate Schneider has worked in the AV Industry since 2005 in both Live Sound and Commercial Integration. Currently he is an AV Designer by day and a YouTube Partner by night. Visit BigNate84.com to learn more about Nate and check him out on twitter at @BigNate84Howto

REDBAND: Taking Pride in Immaculate Job Sites and Well-Groomed AV Racks by Todd Anthony Puma

Taking Pride in Immaculate Job Sites and Well-Groomed AV Racks by Todd Anthony Puma

I recently had maintenance done on my car at a new repair shop, replacing the alternator and water pump. The interior of the car was a bit of mess when I brought it in, the detritus of two young kids littering the floor and the back seat. You can image my shock when I got the car back and it was spotless—the shop had completely vacuumed the interior, leaving it in better shape than I gave it to them. When I checked under the hood, I found that they did the same there, cleaning up the dirt and stains that inevitably occur.

I was really excited to find a shop that not only made the client-facing parts clean (the interior), but also had the pride of workmanship to clean and spiff up where most customers will never look: under the hood. I take the same pride of workmanship into my jobs and instill it in my installers and technicians. This manifests itself in three main ways.

Job Site: Like my auto mechanic, on retrofits I’ll often leave a job site cleaner than I found it. Even though we are meticulous about putting down paper and plastic, when the job is over, we will still vacuum and Swiffer the floors, wipe down all surfaces, clean all electronic screens and wash the windows. In some instances, we will even straighten up some of the kids’ toys so when the client comes home they get the “wow” factor of a picture-perfect room…

Click the link below to continue reading…

http://www.residentialsystems.com/default.aspx?tabid=90&EntryId=619

ToddRedband

Todd Anthony Puma is the CEO & Founder of The Source Home Theater. Check out his  website at The Source Home Theater and follow him on twitter at  @ToddAnthonyPuma .