Be an Engineering Expert, Not an
AV Supermarket Salesperson
Anthony Grimani (firstname.lastname@example.org) is
president of Performance Media Industries,
with offices in Novato and San Anselmo,
There’s a new trend in home cinema
projects on the horizon. This isn’t a
technology trend, and it isn’t a branding
exercise. This is, instead, a whole new
way of looking at the process of delivering
quality private cinemas to clients. It’s a
new school of thought that will drive you
to more profits generated by your skills of
designing, engineering, and coordinating
installations rather than wasting a whole
bunch of time on sales and installation
debugging–none of which clients are
interested in paying for.
Clients are into paying for valueadded
propositions. When they go to a
high-end restaurant and pay $35 for a
fine plate of food, they know that they
are paying for the value added by a great
chef, friendly and efficient waitstaff, a
pleasant décor, comfortable seating,
elegant lighting, good music, and all the other ancillary services that come
with a fine dining experience.
The same goes for a fine cinematic experience.
You and your team make up the fine cuisine and
efficient service staff, and your job is to deliver the
goods cleanly, deliciously, and with a smile.
Figure 1: The Old Model. Lots of sales effort, lots of installation effort, and very little design/engineering/project management
results in poor profit margins and lots of client haggling.
In the old model of business shown in Figure 1,
you would put a lot of effort into selling yourself
to the client, during which time you can’t make
any money. You would then put a bit of time
into very basic design functions, but not be able
to charge enough to justify thorough engineering,
documentation, project management, prewiring,
pre-testing, and pre-programming. Then
you pack all the gear into the van, rush over to
the site, and hassle for days to make it all work.
Installation would be fraught with problems such
as HDMI incompatibilities, hum loops, noisy
gain structures, defective gear, shipping damage,
wiring errors, etc. So installation would take
about twice as long as you planned. There goes
all of that slim margin you had counted on.
In the new model shown in Figure 2, you cut to
the chase and get into a contract as soon as possible
using your charm and poise and a simple letter of intent in which you ask for
a small amount of money to properly engineer a proposal. You actually get
paid to generate a set of usage and performance specifications, along with a
bid document. Your work scope emphasizes your design, engineering, and
project management skills, and places the equipment costs on a backseat
since that’s not really the issue in a successful home cinema project.
There is a lot of very good equipment today, and your client needs to
understand that. Much like a top chef, you will pick the best ingredients
for your final product. You will get paid to spend considerable time to
carefully engineer the system, not just pick products from a price sheet.
Figure 2: The New Model. Quick and convincing sales effort, quick installation time, and heavy emphasis on design/engineering/
project management result in good profit margins and reduced client haggling.
You will spend even more time building up the Gant charts and process
sheets to keep everything on track. You will produce thorough construction
documentation for the room acoustical and optical characteristics, and
you will create clear and detailed wiring diagrams from which all the
technicians on the project can do a consistent job.
All of the system racks will be pre-assembled and tested in your office,
including the wiring, the speakers, the automation control, and the
electrical system isolation and regulation. This last piece is a more-thanfrequent
source of problems in these complex systems.
You will employ or contract the engineering skill to design and test all
the gear both in your facilities and at the client’s location. The installation
will be a quick process because it will all be pre-assembled ahead of time,
and it’s now just a case of final hook-ups with pre-made wiring harnesses.
Final commissioning and calibration of audio and video will be conducted
by formally trained engineering personnel or contractors, and the final
performance will be certified as meeting all industry standards. The client
will be remitted the certificate of conformance along with the final billing
for the system. What’s left to argue?
The reason this new model works well is that you will emphasize
your added value as experts in engineering and management, not just
as salespeople in a supermarket of AV gear. Clients know not to haggle
with lawyers, doctors, and even auto mechanic fees. You are every bit as
professional, and you deserve their respect just as much.