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Unfairly Maligned

Every trade upsells their clients — a practice that seems to be acceptable to the community at-large — so it feels unfair for CIs to get knocked for it.

Way back in the mid ’90s I was fortunate to find a small listing (in the local Pennysaver!) for a brand-new house that was going to be spot built in an existing neighborhood I was familiar with. My wife and bought it and got to experience the building of our house all the way from dirty wooded lot to finished product. (Seriously, 30 years later and I still find the occasional buried broken bottle or steak knife).

House Building - Framework
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Neither of us had ever been involved in a build like this before, so it was a deep learning experience that had us relying on all the different tradespeople we would meet that were all part of our builder’s world. And there were a lot even for a simple home in the pre-tech age — electricians, tilers, flooring pros, siding, countertops, and more that I’m sure I’ve forgotten.

Each one had a similar path. We would meet with them at their shop or sometimes in the skeleton of the home, they would tell us what was included in our deal with the builder, and then explain how that would never be enough for what we would need. All of that was followed with their suggested upgrades.

For the most part, perhaps naively, we typically listened to the pros. Overall, I think it was a good decision, although finding additional funds when everything pretty much went into the down payment was not a good feeling. The only one I still think took me for a ride was the electrician, but I let that go about a decade back.

The reason for this trip down memory lane is because while putting together this month’s “Working With Other Trades” stories, the same complaint about custom integrators kept coming up — the same complaints that I’ve been hearing for years. You know what they are:

“Custom dealers don’t listen to the client.”

“Integrators are too sales-focused and talk down to the client.”

Of course, there are dealers who are guilty of those crimes, plenty who are not, and even those that used to be but have come around. Pretty much like every other pro trade out there. Every other trade also upsells their clients — a practice that seems to be acceptable to the community at-large, so it feels unfair for CIs to get knocked for it.

Also From the Editor: The Tale of Billy Joel’s Sigh

The displeasure seems to come from the perceived way we do it, but the integrators I speak to all emphasize the importance of hearing the client. And I find it hard to believe that in 2022 they are walking all over their clients like a certain electrician did 30 years ago. (Deep breath…let it go…) Especially as today’s home technology is as necessary as countertops, flooring, and the like.

I think one piece of the problem is that, for the most part, we are not part of the builder’s team, complete with a tech stipend to add to. When you come in after all those other trades, everything feels like an add-on, and has the potential to conflict with the designer’s view.

The good news is that perception appears to be changing thanks, in part, to the outreach to other trade associations from our industry’s own. Integrators themselves have also been making deep inroads to partnering with builders, designers, and the like. Hopefully those satisfied trades will spread the word quicker and erase that lingering view.

Not coincidentally, click here to find reports on the headway HTA is making with a whole host of building and design associations in this issue. You’ll also find out how EOC Audio is able to make and maintain relationships with more than 60 trade professionals.

So, keep proving them wrong until they see finally see that we are a necessary part of the team.