REDBAND: You Don’t Have to be Big to be Professional by Mark Coxon

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You Don’t Have to be Big to be Professional by Mark Coxon

I’ve taken some heat in the past from smaller integration firms, (imagine that).  I’ve learned that the term “Trunk Slammer” is an emotional hot button for almost any integrator, commercial or residential, that works out of a home office and a warehouse located in the garage.

I’ve also gotten in trouble for questioning the quality of commercial work done by residential firms who have flooded the market over the past couple years.  The assumption is that I am against small business, or against companies evolving to expand into new and different markets.  One person even commented the “Everyone has to start somewhere @$$#ole!”

I guess I’m just misunderstood.  I’m not against any of those things.  The problem is that some integrators use being small as an excuse for not doing things right, and that is the problem.  So let me be clear in my intentions:

Integrators, you don’t have to be BIG, to be PROFESSIONAL.

As such, I wanted to layout a few common pitfalls I see smaller integrators fall into, and some bootstrap budget solutions that can take their businesses up a notch.

1) Scheduling.  I see way too many integrators still utilizing  Excel files to try an manage their technicians.  A job then pops up last-minute, the Excel file wasn’t updated, etc and now installs are missed.  I understand that not every business can afford Exchange and Outlook for every employee, and coordinating multiple Google Calendars, etc can be tedious at best.  For integrators looking for a great inexpensive scheduling tool, look toward something like Zoho Calendar.  You can set up each install crew as a “Group” and then assign them to a job on the calendar, which will trigger an email alert as well.  Since this is a web-based tool, installers can access it from their phones at any time.

2) Finishing jobs in a timely fashion.  This is a common issue any integration firm faces.  A job is scheduled to take 3 days, an issue with HDMI pops up, and guess what?  You need at least a “Day 4”.  This becomes especially hard on smaller firms with fewer installers, as they may be booked the next day on a new job.  Again, if there is not a great scheduling tool in place, typically the integrator can’t even begin to speculate on their return to site.  The Zoho Calendar tool again comes in nicely to at least get a look at the team’s upcoming schedule to give an educated guess.

Here is another piece of wisdom however every integrator should know.

Finishing on time is exponentially more important that starting on time.

People remember their experience based on how it was at the “peak”, (good or bad), and the “end”.  Leaving a job unfinished for a week will kill your referral business and your client’s attitude, and may even have them withholding your final check.

Starting a day or two late will be an annoyance to say the least.  However, if you start late, and kick in some extra hours onsite to catch up and finish on time, I guarantee that client will be more impressed with your work ethic and professionalism than they would have if you started and ended on time.

3) Answering the phone.  Larger firms usually have at least someone around for the client to talk to when things go wrong onsite.  Even if it’s not the person who can do anything to solve the issue, it sure feels nice to talk to someone as opposed to leaving a message at the beep.

I think most people try to avoid confrontation whenever possible, but there is something to be said for picking up the phone, especially when we know that the caller most likely has a problem.  The little advantage you gain by hearing the issue first on voicemail and having time to formulate a response is lost as the customer boils over awaiting your call.

Pick up the phone right away.  Listen first, repeat the issue, and clarify that you heard correctly.  Then if you need time, gracefully ask for it.

“Mr. Client.  I share your concern, and I’d like to provide a true remedy as opposed to a band-aid.  I am going to explore a couple of options and then get back to you in the next hour or two to offer a solution.  What number can I reach you at later today?”

4) Returning Calls.  Believe it or not, this is a huge problem as well, especially with smaller firms.  The success of your business relies on returning calls.  Whether it is to follow-up on a sales inquiry or get back to people on solutions to their problems, no response is bad for business.  Scheduled follow-up is also a must in planning future sales calls, or remembering to call back in the first quarter when your clients new budgets come out.  Again, a great free tool from Zoho is Zoho CRM.  It allows you to manage contacts, store quotes, schedule follow-up, etc.  It is also web-based, accessible from anywhere, and it syncs with the Zoho Calendar that you are now using to track your job schedule.  It’s also free up to 3 users.  If you have more people that need access, but can’t afford to pay, you can set up a “Sales”, “Operations”, and “Management” login and give different levels of access to certain job functions.

It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to do things right. 

It takes a little determination to develop a process and tackle a slight learning curve on some new tools.  It also takes some discipline to follow the process you have set up.  However, once processes are in place and followed, they make your company look like the real deal, and more on par with your larger competitors.  It also provides a platform for you to grow, as it takes the pressure off of you as the business owner to run every aspect of the business day-to-day, and allow you to focus on making your business bigger and better.

Mark C.

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Mark has been in the IT & AV field for over 12 years. He currently works as an Account manager with  Horizon Display and is a contributor with various AV industry publications. You can follow Mark on Twitter @AVPhenom.  The expressed opinions are his own…You have been warned!

REDBAND: Re-Visiting the Basics of Business Through the Eyes of Young Integrators By Todd Anthony Puma

We all started our companies from virtually nothing, we scrambled to get clients, and we weren’t sure where the next job was coming from (and often still don’t). For me, at least, having been in the business for almost a decade, I forget what it can be like to start out from scratch and have to build the business and your reputation.
However, working with many of the Home Theater Rebuild referral-partner companies, I have been able to live vicariously through the eyes of start-up integrators. One of the companies I work with started working on his business full-time only 12 months ago. He’s a solo shop, and in the second half of 2012 he did about $35,000-$40,000 in business. He’s already done more than $100,000 in 2013. Looking at what’s he’s accomplished in so short a time has made me take a step back and recall the lessons that I have learned (and re-learned).
1. Stay Humble — It’s easy to get cocky when business is going well and you’ve been doing it for years. It’s even easier to get jaded and want to blow off smaller projects or difficult clients. Seeing someone struggling with building a business and being grateful for every dollar of sales reminds me how lucky many of us are to have a somewhat stable income.
2… Continue reading by clicking the link below:

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 .

Don’t Forget to check out our new REDBAND feature: REDBAND RADIO. Click the icon below to listen in…

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Episode 1: REDBAND RADIO

Here is the First Episode of REDBAND RADIO!

Check it out and Let us know what you think.

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http://avnation.tv/shows/redband-radio/red-001/

REDBAND: My InfoComm 2013 Disappointments By Mike Brandes

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Last week, I wrote about the best things I saw at InfoComm 2013. Today, the subject are a few duds, for me at least. These products aren’t necessarily poor products, but products that either are not fully ready for market, or not quite ready for any application of mine. It’s a short list, but it represents multiple manufacturers and vendors.

1. Enterprise level wireless display streaming

There are more than a few companies, AV or otherwise, offering solutions for “enterprise level” wireless desktop display. Some of the true AV heavyweights all the way to 802.11 wireless companies are offering software and hardware designed to allow users to wirelessly display their device (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone etc) to projectors and flat panel displays. Obviously this represents a huge need in the AV market, specifically for me in Higher Education. Wireless display would be a huge boost for my conference rooms and boardrooms, since often these rooms don’t have any technology built into the existing tables. Unfortunately, the downside is these devices aren’t capable of handling high frame rate. Static content looks great, simple PowerPoint, SpreadSheets, word documents are exceptional. However, animation in powerpoint, youtube videos etc are all lacking at this time.

Exception: Barco Clickshare- Barco’s solution is great, it works well, handles higher frame rate than competitors; the only downside is for me it’s cost prohibited at an advertised price of $4900.00 per location.

2. Lampless Projectors

Managing technology in 100+ rooms across three campuses isn’t incredibly easy. Especially when dealing with projectors that are unmonitored, meaning they aren’t capable of reporting status or information back. I was really excited to see the evolution of lampless projection, this year, in hopes I could ditch my supply of extra lamps in favor of quality laser projectors. However, while there were more manufacturers and options this year for lampless projection, I was still incredibly underwhelmed. Great strides are being made in projectors to accommodate more ANSI lumen capabilities in a small chassis, however, the lampless projectors all seemed dim dull and lacking color profiles necessary to be useful in my applications. I’m really hoping to be able to migrate to lampless projectors one day, I’m just waiting for them to have more robust color, higher brightness and contrast and have crisper images.

What did you think?

Were there any products or ideas that stood out at this year’s InfoComm that might not be “completely ready”

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: We’re in your ear!

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REDBAND is the word of day! Today I’m sitting on my back deck writing this update and feeling like a boss! I have tons of updates:

- REDBAND has officially signed with AVnation.tv. Starting this week we will debut our REDBAND podcast. The first show was secretly taped in Orlando while at Infocomm 2013. Basically Mike Brandes, Mark Coxon, myself and George Tucker sneaked into the recording room and talked about what we witnessed first hand at the show. Not all of the REDBAND bloggers were there but they will be moving forward. We are still working out the schedule for future episodes, since we are all out in the field on a daily basis.

-With the podcast news comes podcast ideas. REDBAND will be looking for feedback from the show. We will have weekly features and will depend on feedback from the listeners to make it more interactive. One feature we will be doing is a TOP 5 every show. We have some off the wall  ideas to start us off  but we will be looking for listener feedback to fuel it.

-PODCAST guests? Yes would love to bring on Guests. If you want in please let me know and we will schedule it. You have something to say, want to debate topic or us,  all are welcomed.

-You may ask whats the direction of the podcast? Well it’s not your Dad’s podcast. We do not have sponsors. We do not have advertising. We run with scissors and operate live without a net. Its unfiltered,unedited, raw shop talk about what we love and do in our industry.

-This week we introduce 2 new members to REDBAND. Matt Scott from Omega Audiovisual and a Player to be named later. Matt brings his style, hair and an international views to REDBAND.  The player to be named later is an industry pro who fits right in with REDBAND’s opinionate views but will have to use an alias in order to protect the innocent. We are always looking for more. If your interested send me an email…chrisneto@avshout.com

Look for the podcast this week!

Thanks again for following AVShout.com and REDBAND. I truley appreciate the all the feedback I recieved both online and while at infocomm. Keep it coming.

Thanks again and look for more news soon!

Chris

 

 

 

 

 

REDBAND: Handling Unexpected Delays on Custom Integration Projects By Todd Anthony Puma

Handling delays in projects can be a real headache. Even if it’s a personal project, say remodeling your kitchen, any delay can be frustrating. Another week of take-out sounds great, unless you’ve been living on take-out for the past six weeks. It’s even worse when it impacts your business and your clients. We all put together detailed plans, drawings, and timelines for our clients and projects. While things do come up, we stick to these documents and commitments. But sometimes things happen that are out of our control that require us to adjust on the fly.

My company has been working on a very large renovation with a client combining three apartments into one enormous home in Manhattan. This is one of the largest non-theater projects we have ever undertaken and required a lot of time and commitment from me, my techs, installers, and project manager. All of the pre-wire went off without a hitch, and we were all set to start rough-in last week. We’d checked with the contractor a week before our scheduled date, and we were still on track. Surprising on such a large project, but the contractor is great and is on top of things.

 Then we got a call on Thursday (we were supposed to start the following Monday). The electrician had run some wiring incorrectly and not to code, so the walls had to be opened up, the electrical fixed, and the walls re-closed before we could do our rough-in…
Continue reading the article by clicking the link below:

http://www.residentialsystems.com/default.aspx?tabid=90&EntryId=604

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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: Stranger in a Strange Land…An American AV Tech in Qatar

When I told my family that I was taking a yearlong remote job in Qatar, they all thought I was heading into a war zone. While its neighbor Bahrain may have started the Arab Spring, Qatar is very much a growing and fostering country. To put a better perspective on things, you need to look at Doha as if Singapore had moved to the desert. Most of the population is a mix of Filipino, Arab, Indian, Western expats and Bangladeshi. The amount of foreign nationals are so great that the native Qatari people appear to be the minority in their own country. Having that in mind will give you a feel for how the city lives and breathes.

As an AV guy living in one of the richest countries in the world, one would expect that there is nothing but big screens and a digital playgrounds all around. At least that is what I would have thought based on my perception of Doha’s “gulf cousin” Dubai. Both are expanding their city skylines and prepping for bigger and better things.  However in Doha’s case, there is still a bit of groundwork to be done.

In terms of displays, digital signage and use of technology: Look towards the malls. In Doha there are two major malls that seem to draw the fine citizens by the droves. In both cases, if there is a large emphasis on service. The Qtel stores are all lined with commercial grade Samsun Samsung and NEC Displays in 3×3 video walls… of course they should be. Qtel is the government run phone company. The only other service provider is Vodafone, whose coverage makes Sprint seem far and wide. But it is the Qatari government is spending all the money to push for 4G coverage and updated technology in the city.  Along with the 4G implementation, the push for digital displays and modern AV are also coming from the government. In fact one of the best examples of their push into the digital age, and a site to see,  is the Aspire Tower. The entire tower is a hotel that is lined with large-scale LED panels, turning the tower itself into a 360 degree electronic sign. The topper is that during Ramadan, the tower transforms into a digital torch, with an active flame coming from the top of the tower. The entire area is in a state of preparation for the future, but it is tempered with a mindset from the 90′s. It’s an Ironic mix of high-tech coupled with Zack Morris Cell phones.  Still you can feel the buzz in the air of whats to come. And for all the better reason in that they are hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Already I have seen the beginnings of the infrastructure updates and the birth new stadiums to support this landmark event. This will be the first time a country in the Middle East will host the World Cup.

There are a number of things that this AV tech From Jersey has to get used to. The movie theaters do not have Fandango or online reservations. But when you get your tickets you do reserve you seats in the theater. Belive it or not  there are things like IMAX and 3D movies out here, however because of Sharia law most movies are heavily edited for content. In a way I’d be amazed if any Tarentino films will ever make a profit out here after being edited. Technology aside there are a few thing that I miss  from home. Simple pleasures such as the local newsstand, a real 24 hour diner, local theater shows and cookouts with neighbors. It’s the little things, like bacon cheeseburgers, that seem to matter most when you’re a stranger in a strange land.

Until next time,

O’Donnell

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Congrats to REDBAND’s own Todd Anthony Puma named to Dealerscope’s 40 under 40 list!

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Congrats Todd on being named to the 40 under 40 list!

Check out Dealerscope’s June 2013 Edition on PAGE 48 to see Todd’s Profile by clicking the image above or the link Below:

 

Congrats Again on this wonderful achievement!

– REDBAND

REDBAND: Infocomm 2013 Winners by Mike Brandes

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InfoComm this year was a blur. Last year I did UBTech and InfoComm and felt like I had way too much free time. This year, to correct this, I decided to load up on meetings and stay as busy as possible to make the most of the InfoComm experience. I wrote a little, last week  about my time in the CTS prep class and subsequent test; and the inherent value of continuing education. I feel the best approach to the InfoComm experience is to balance a little better between the Show Floor Only mentality, and the Load Up on Meetings stance. This year’s InfoComm was the largest show on the east coast, and it was massive to say the least. Here are my top winners from this years’ show, in no particular order.

  1. 4K
    We all remember the incredible consumer demand centered around the introduction of 3d displays and projectors a few years back; this year’s big staple for all manufacturers was 4k. Unlike 3d, I think 4K/8K will enjoy far more stable demand in both the consumer and professional AV markets, especially once content beyond digital signage and computer generated signals become more prevalent. The caveat is, if this content doesn’t become readily available, 4k/8k will wind up serving a very niche market. In my opinion, the two winners for 4K at this years’ show was LG’s 84″ 4K monitor, and Christie’s 4k 60hz projector. I would love to own both these pieces, but have to wait until the cost comes down.
  2. MS Lync Integration
    Shortly before last year’s show in Las Vegas we began implementing Microsoft Lync; and I went to InfoComm looking for all the AV I could possibly integrate with Lync to enable it to be a full UCS for our campus. I was incredibly disappointed, and almost frustrated to find out there were no real AV appliances ready to integrate with Lync. Around that time, Vaddio released the Easy USB line of professional USB peripherals for computer based web conferencing: Webex, Skype, Google +, MS Lync etc. This product line represented a solution to a few of our problems at an affordable price point. This year, however, I was blown out of the water by Vaddio’s Huddle Station and Group Station integrated approach to computer based Web Meetings. I look forward to implementing this product line to address a number of needs we have in conference room video conferencing capabilities.Additionally, Crestron was a big winner in this space. They debuted the Crestron RL system designed to integrate Lync for professional Video conferencing. With solutions for single and multiple displays, and system control and automation, Crestron as made incredible strides to reaching the those using Lync. I’m really interested in seeing this product in action in a live demo.
  3. Cloud Conferencing 
    Two years ago I was hopping on an elevator in my hotel to head to my room after a long day at the show; I noticed the group standing next to me all had red badge holders (exhibitors) and saw them eyeing my green badge holder (education customer) and my heart sank. I really didn’t know if I could handle another sales pitch, especially on an elevator with no escape or distraction. As it turned out these fine people were from a startup called Blue Jeans Networks, allowing users of different VTC systems to meet seamlessly in the cloud. Cloud Interoperability Providers represent a tremendous benefit for organizations with different methods of VTC to be able to connect with each other. This year there were several other key companies in this market. I look forward to seeing how cloud interoperability grows and becomes more affordable.

There were lots of other great things that I would love to buy and use, but aren’t great fits for my particular application requirements: Projection/Display mapping technologieswaterproof speakersspeakers that looked more like art than actual speakers and a host of fantastic other products. Sometimes I wish I could win some sort of AV lottery and just have all this great technology.

What were the three best things you saw at InfoComm?

Mike

 

Check out this post on Mike’s Blog by clicking the link Below:

http://mikebrandesav.com/2013/06/17/my-take-infocomms-big-winners/

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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’s website http://mikebrandesav.com/ and Follow him on Twitter.

REDBAND: Impressing My Neighbors, Architects, and Designers by Todd Anthony Puma

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember that several months ago I was invited to a neighbor’s house for dinner. He didn’t know what I did for a living and he was raving about his Sonos system and Harmony remote. I promised to write again when I had them over to our house. Well, now that I’ve fully installed my Crestron system, had all the bells and whistles programmed in by industry veteran Richard Fregosa, and have installed all of my floorstanding, in-wall, in-ceiling, and invisible speakers, I was ready to have them over.

Needless to say, from the moment they came in, I had the full-on effect going. The Stealth Acoustics speakers in the entry hall were softly playing music and the entry keypad had a welcome message for them. While it didn’t yet seem to sink in, I knew that over the course of the evening they would see some of the subtle, but impactful touches.

The first “wow” moment was when we stepped into the family room for a pre-dinner drink. I touched the “cocktail” mode on the in-wall touchpanel and the lights dimmed, the shades dropped to half closed, and music started playing through the speakers. That’s when the conversation started with a, “How did you do that?” After that, he couldn’t get enough of the amazing things we could do, from seeing who was at the front door, to controlling music and video in every room through a matrix switch, to checking out the rack that ran it all…

Continue Reading the post at the link Below:

http://www.residentialsystems.com/default.aspx?tabid=90&EntryId=600

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 .