We talk a lot about owning the network inside the home—the routers, switches, and wireless products that shuttle the gigabytes of data that make up the modern day home. But our industry has another powerful network that you should be tapping into as well: the people.
It can be easy to work inside a bubble and focus on just the things going on around you—the projects you’re working on, the daily employee issues, the brands you sell. But I’ve found this industry is filled with terrific people that might not only make great friends, but can be a vast reservoir of knowledge and information that can absolutely help you and your business. And while you might have reservations about helping a local, “direct” competitor, there is really nothing risked by offering advice or support to a fellow integrator that might live hundreds or even thousands of miles away. And while you would understandably not want to share all of your business practices with someone in your local market, having a friendly relationship with local integrators can pay off.
Not too long ago another integrator in town had a family emergency where he had to leave in the middle of a project. He called us because he knew that we would step in and take care of the customer.
Being able to pick up the phone, or send an email, text or tweet to someone can help you in a variety of ways.
For example, I reach out to fellow Resi bloggers Todd Anthony Puma (@toddanthonypuma) and Heather Sidorowicz (@tech_chi) fairly regularly. If I have a Crestron question, I know that Todd not only knows the product inside out, he lives with it, truly loves it, and seems genuinely happy to talk about it. Heather Sidorowicz has been selling Sony TVs for like ever at her showroom in Buffalo, and when I run into something quirky on a Sony—like the mount they are using with the current 940 series—I’ll ask Heather if they have any solutions for it. (It’s also nice to tease her when it is like 70 degrees in Myrtle Beach and 13 in Buffalo…) I was introduced to Mike Snider (@mikesnider) from USA Today via Kaleidescape a couple of years ago when he needed some information on a piece he was writing on movie servers. Since then Mike and I have gone on to become “beer buddies” and his list of contacts is tremendous when I’m trying to get in touch with someone to get a question answered.
I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know some of the very best writers in the AV industry. Between Brent Butterworth, Geoff Morrison, Adrienne Maxwell, Dennis Burger, Darryl Wilkinson, and Chris Heinonen, there are decades of expertise that I can tap into. And since we are frequently reviewing the same products around the same time, if I run into anything janky I can see if it is something in my system or see if they can replicate it in theirs.
Sometimes it’s nice just to have a friendly voice to bounce an idea off. Maybe you’re considering a new product, or thinking about doing something differently on an install, or just ran across something that stumped you or didn’t seem right. By building your industry “Rolodex” you expand your knowledge base and can often get “real” unbiased answers to questions.
Sure, you could call the company or your rep directly and wade through support and get the information, but wouldn’t you also like to get a “real-world” answer of what it is actually like to integrate with something from someone that has actually done it, who can also share a tip or trick that they learned that isn’t covered in the manual?
Like building an actual friendship, developing this list of trusted contacts can be the tricky part and isn’t something that is done overnight. One terrific way is to get involved in social media. You can introduce yourself to someone on Twitter very easily. CEDIA is another terrific place to expand your network; just turn to the person next to you and ask if they’ve seen anything cool at the show.
I’ll take the first step; if you think there is something that I can help you with, or if you have an idea you want to bounce off me, you can get me at @SciaccaTweets or firstname.lastname@example.org (yes, I actually still use AOL). I’ll do my best to help out, and maybe one day you’ll be in a position to help me as well.