Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Resimercial Week: 5 Tips for Residential Techs Doing Commercial Work

How technicians can make sure they are ready to take on light commercial projects.

Resimercial Week 2024 presented by Legrand AV

It seems like a natural progression for high-end residential integrators to progress into light commercial work such as conference rooms, coffee houses, and tasting rooms. While the tools and talents are complementary, there is much for a custom installer to learn about commercial project environments before heading to the job site.

“Understanding your capabilities is very important because these job sites are going to be much larger and you’re going to have to deal with so many different regulations and stakeholders that need to be involved and that need to have approval,” says Chaz deVerdier, technical education training specialist at CEDIA. “Plus, there are different types of materials and tools that you will need to invest in. There are various items that you can use in residential projects that have no business on a commercial site. It even comes down to what your technicians can wear in a commercial environment — there are certain uniform requirements that you need to be able to adhere to.

Resimercial Week: Integrator helping clients in a new restaurant
Getty Images

“There’re a lot of things that aren’t necessarily in your day-to-day that you would notice are different about residential and commercial, and once you get into the realm you start to realize that it’s a much bigger beast than just switching clients. It deals with a whole breadth of regulations and agencies that are going to be watching every move and double-checking to make sure that everything is in place in a much more calculated fashion than in residential.”

Here, deVerdier provides five tips for getting technicians ready to work on commercial projects.

1. Do Your Research

Every state, city, town, and municipality will have its own set of rules when it comes to commercial projects, and if you want to play in that sandbox, you will have to learn what they are.

“The best thing to do is to be aware of and research your local regulations, laws, and codes, as well as what authorities have jurisdiction in your area so that you can contact those people and get the proper information,” says deVerdier. “Specifically, you should ask about building codes and commercial work permits and licenses. With some companies, if you’re going to do electricity on commercial job sites you have to have a licensed electrician on staff or have other people to work under that license.”

2. Gear Up Properly

Many of the rules and regulations you learn about in Step 1 will involve what needs to be worn on-site and what tools you need to use.

“For example,” deVerdier explains, “steel-toed boots, eye protection, and hard hats must be worn at all times, and the use of conductive tools such as metal ladders on a commercial jobsite are prohibited. This is drastically different than residential, so you’ll have to invest in multiple sets of tools to be flexible while following regulations. Certain types of wiring are different as well, and that includes wires that have to be run through air spaces — if you’re not running plenum wire in a commercial space, you will create toxicity issues if that wire jacket was ever to combust.”

Related: Get Into Resimercial; Let Us Help

3. Client Differences…and Similarities

Commercial clients may seem more practical and less passionate about the tech than their residential counterparts, but the residential integrator knows how to inspire their end-user clients, and there is no reason for that not to happen on the commercial side as well.

“It all depends on how you talk to the client,” deVerdier says. “It doesn’t matter if they’re commercial or residential clients — they can have that same passion as long as you communicate to them that it’s not just a line item that they have to pay for, but it’s actually something that’s going to enhance both their lives and the businesses that they run.

“It could be explained so that it’s a better user experience, but could also be demonstrated that it can be more profitable because they will have employees who will enjoy their experience at work better, or have customers who feel more welcome in their businesses, which will encourage them to do more business with them because they are comfortable in that environment.

“As long as you’re making that connection, it can be a huge help in your own business environment. It may not be seen as an immediate financial gain, but it is definitely going to enhance your company in the long run — especially your brand.”

4. Take Classes, Get Certified

If any of this sounds daunting, there are places to get help. In fact, CEDIA has several classes on getting your business ready for commercial work.

“If you are looking for technical and business training that points in the right direction for working in commercial integration, the CEDIA Academy contains a vast array of courses that prepare you for working with commercial sites and clients. So, that should be the first place to check if they’re interested in starting that kind of venture. The code of the professional is to ‘do it right, or don’t do it at all.’ We can get them ready for that endeavor.”

5. Be Prepared, But Take the Leap

Despite the warnings, deVerdier’s goal is to help businesses get started in commercial work — not scare them away. “There is not much risk in adding commercial work to your business so long as there is research involved,” he says. “Most of the problems in our industry derive from a lack of patience, and if you don’t have time to do it right the first time, you certainly don’t have time to do it twice.”