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The Last Six Inches

Every time you sell a system, a long process begins. The final days of the installation process are the most critical to success, and happen under pressure from all parties involved. The builder wont let you start final installation when planned, because even though the A/V cabinets arrived, the wood floors have to be re-sprayed and no one can be in the home for four days. The homeowner has a big party scheduled the weekend after he moves in and, of course, needs to show off the A/V system. Of course, you need to get done to receive your final check.

Like the climatic final moments of a football game, it all comes down to those last few yards you need before the clock runs out. All eyes are on you. How well have you prepared for this do or die moment?

You are making final adjustments on the racks of equipment, working through some last-minute hookups to cable and satellite and those Murphys Law problems that always surprise you.

The client walks in to checkout the finished system. You smile confidently and present a picture on the HDTV for him, and then flip on a CD so that the glorious new speakers can be appreciated. He smiles and is very happy, spending all of five minutes with you before moving on with the decorator and builder to see how the rest of the new house has turned out.

You breath a well earned sigh of relief, crack a smile and pat your fellow installers on the back. You passed this inspection, but dont pop the champagne yet. The game is not over. You are now in overtime and you still have “six inches” to go.

These last six inches are the final small details, the programming checklist, the final punchlist, the last plays of the game that define the difference between a great game and a poor one. When the clients really start to use the system, you will know if you have scored your final touchdown. Huddle up… Heres the plan for your final play:

Power the entire system off and then sit down in the clients chair. Pick up his remote control. If there is more than one remote, give yourself a 10-yard penalty. If there are more than two remotes, then youve already lost the game.

Now, with that remote in hand, power up and view every TV channel from every source and format. If a channel comes one comes up with snow or no picture, then re-program it immediately. If it looks stretched, then fix it. Does the sound follow every picture automatically and come up with the correct surround format?

Stop! Do not get up from your chair or push a single button on the gear itself. Now, from your seat, try every audio source. Do they switch properly? Do all transport functions work perfectly? Do you have to hit buttons like, TV/Video? Do you have to hit multiple power and or function buttons like those found on a DSS remote? You lose. Do you have to remember where some commands are assigned to incorrectly labeled buttons? Foul.

Try every sequence of buttons that the client could hit to get to a source or format. Push every button. Does it ever foul up? Thats a penalty. Will you have to print out cheat sheets for your client to navigate the system? Illegal motion.

You score only if your client can sit down with this remote and run unhindered through all music and picture choices without needing you to bail him out. Can his wife also enjoy the sheer simplicity of operation you created? Score! Thats the real extra point.

Can I give you a tip on winning more games? Use the best controller you can get and choose all gear based on compatibility to it.

If you use a control system from Crestron, AMX or Niles you can create a responsive, reliable remote control system. If you use another system, insist on reliable feedback of system status. Unless you can find magic gear that has totally discrete IR or RS232 commands for all functions, a system that does not report status simply will not work.

Programming these systems remains a formidable task that should be done by full-time programming pros. Taking a few programming classes is deceptive and is not enough. The bad news is that if your programmer is in New Jersey or Texas and your installation is somewhere else; it is not a cakewalk. You need to run tests with gear hooked up.

The good news is that there are excellent freelance programmers all around who can help you win more games. Add one to your team before the clock runs out.