Just the other day, one of my employees, Jason, was telling me a story. He and I had been working on a job together a few weeks back, and I had to step out of the house for a moment. According to Jason, our client came in and asked where the “little white guy” was. Jason said he was taken aback, but told him that I was his boss.
Jason said that this isn’t the first time he’s encountered a shocked client upon finding out that a 31 year old (who probably looks more like 25, wearing a T-shirt and jeans) is the owner of The Source Home Theater.
When the client and I had discussed his job over the phone and email, he didn’t question for a second that I had the capabilities and expertise to be the owner of the company, then very confidently put his trust in me for his home theater system. When he saw me in person, however, he couldn’t believe that I was the same person he’d spoken to earlier.
It isn’t just in the AV world either. My wife has the same difficulties. She is 30 years old but she looks to be in her late teens or early 20s. She used to be the general manager of a retail store, and when customers asked to speak to the manager, they were in shock when she would be the one that approached them.
It’s funny how we profile what we expect people to look like without even knowing we are doing it. Even in our industry where appearance is meaningless, customers still have expectations of what they believe you should look like. When people like me—baby faced, younger than expected, and wearing Converse sneakers—show up at their door, they think, “Who’s this guy and what does he know?”
I often feel that I have to overcompensate for my age/appearance by demonstrated my knowledge of the business. I know that I’m younger than a lot of other installers, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have just as much experience in the field. I love this industry and have had my hand in it, in some way or another, for years even before I started The Source.
But I use this hesitation about my age to my advantage. It helps me strive to better myself and my business sense. When the customer feels uncertain about my age, I make sure I execute a flawless system in their home, so they never think twice about my age affecting my abilities again.
We all work so hard to build our credibility with the client and within the industry. When you have passion for the business, it doesn’t matter if you’re 21 or 41 because you know what you are doing, and it hurts your confidence and your ego when that ability is questioned.
Most of us are in the position we’re in through our passion and hard work. You’ve earned your seat in the installer ranks and deserve every client relationship that you build. Let them be shocked when you walk through the door… not because you don’t look like what they expected, but because you knocked ’em dead with your stellar AV skills.
+Todd Anthony Pumais president of The Source Home Theater Installation in New York City.