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Working on Your Builder Base

How to build a relationship with builders and keep them as a partner.

The before…

Many integrators are still seeing too much ebb and flow in where the next job might come from. There’s no doubt new customers are coming to the table, but in conversations regarding builders, the takeaway is often how hard these contractors can be to work with. Pursuing builders can feel time consuming, and maintaining the relationship, when the hours of the day are already short, is hard.

Assessing the builder base is key. First, ask these questions: How many builders are feeding your business? What size are they? Are you one mistake away from losing any? Do builders value what you offer? After your homework, take a minute to place builders in the long-term investment category for your business.

…and the after.

What if contractors (and other trades) are our key to a consistent and semi-predictable income? The tech industry is past the tough phase of introducing automation when Amazon and big-name security companies stepped into our space years ago. They advertised automation so we didn’t have to. Long gone are the days of “how do we explain automation” to our builders? So, what’s the approach?

It starts with new builder programs and ones that do not highlight products or services. Don’t even offer discounts. Yep, you heard that right. We’re talking about implementing a program geared to being a better AV partner. Here at Hot Wired Audio Video, before we focus on digital ads and paid online content, we’ve decided to use modern online marketing to seek out builders to strategically expand our builder pool. Take a look at a few of our builder program offerings below and think about your builder partner approach. What matters to them? We are eager to update our results and what we learned.

Image of page in HW’s Builder Program portfolio.

Man the Job: Project plan and use data-driven processes. Know how many man-hours each project takes along with how many techs are needed. This alone helps avoid most scheduling conflicts. Make sure technicians know how to read project plans, understand the contract, and run the job smoothly. Project managers mitigate changes, oversee completeness, and adhere to budget, scope, and quality while maintaining customer expectations.

Be Well Financed: All general contracts should include agreed upon payment procedures for every project. Bill promptly at project phase completions. Payments commence on the Builder’s payment schedule upon receipt of your invoice. Know how to handle cash flow and workload so financials are never a topic of conversation driving projects.

Related: 5 Ways to Be the Client’s Favorite Trade on the Job

Manage the Contract: Step one means actually reading the builder/integrator contract. Second, make any necessary amendments. If you don’t have a contract with a builder, write one for them! Most importantly, do the work you said you would do. Subcontracts should address:

  • How to provide proper notice
  • How to get paid for extras
  • How to present changes and proceed on change orders
  • Addressing delays on project
  • Keeping the schedule
  • Communicating any necessary contact information
  • Submitting items for approval
  • Permits/Inspections oversight and communication
Lighting Modules and Framed Schematics

Be Proactive: Ask how the project can run smoothly and meet the contractor’s goals. Ask for as much information about the job site as needed. This means conducting site walk-thrus and meeting with supers intentionally to monitor progress.

Manage the Site: Apply golden rules. Don’t leave a project in a state you wouldn’t want your own personal project to be left. This includes site and tool cleanup. Be courteous and helpful to other trades. Keep your own set of marked-up plans and supply ones needed for the trades. Protect finished surfaces and complete punch list items so the super does not have to. Lastly and most importantly, be safe and finish what your team set out to do.

Manage the Relationship: Touch base on an intentional basis. Although an occasional lunch or dinner is nice; don’t waste a builder’s time. Make yourself available and open-minded to any questions or concerns. Work to keep the builder up to date on the basics of the latest technology and offerings in our industry.

The home theater rack.

Guarantees: It’s a partnership, so these perks come standard:

  • Send thank-you notes to the clients that the builder brings to you and recognize the builder and the partnership.
  • Bring qualified leads to the builder’s attention as you encounter them.
  • Get bids in on time.
  • Give value-engineered ideas.
  • Every client is treated the same and don’t over-charge.
  • Help the builder make a profit.
  • Train superintendents.
  • Carry and use digital cameras.
  • Ask how to improve.

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