Know the tools you use before you sell the install. We all know that we need to be intimately familiar with all of the electronics that we install, and we need to live with them in our homes and/or showrooms for several months before we sell and install them in a client’s home. However, it is not just the electronics that need to be fully vetted and understood. We need to fully understand all of the tools we are using and how system design affects those tools, and vice-versa.
For example, Crestron Studio is great and has really improved our workflow for more basic projects, but there is not an extensive third-party database yet, and the design of the system needs to be fully fleshed out to make sure the Studio/Pyng solution will be able to handle everything. Otherwise, we are going to lose a lot of profitability when we have to put high-value programming resources on the project.
This isn’t just a Crestron situation. With Control4, you need to know that the necessary drivers are available and, if not, that any third-party drivers are reliable and will work 100 percent of the time. I even remember when the Amazon Fire first came out and I know a lot of integrators got caught in a bind, not realizing that the Fire didn’t have an IR receiver, so no remotes from URC, RTI, Pro Control, Control4, Crestron, or anyone else would work until IP drivers were developed.
When designing the system in the pre-sale phase, know what the growth options are and what effect changes to the bill of materials will have to the programming and integration. Clients are going to add or remove things throughout the process. You need to make sure your design and your tools can handle that. Be particularly prepared to add back things that were eliminated during budget-cutting phase. Remember the Lutron integration that the client didn’t really care about? Well, down the road, they’re going to realize they want their lights, shades, security, HVAC, and AV all operating together. Be sure you can accommodate that change if and when it comes around. It also doesn’t hurt to let the client know what the cost potential will be if that change is made.
Fortunately, we have lots of resources and tools available to us at The Source; we can do a lot of complicated programming internally, and we also have some amazing partners. I have known Rich Fregosa of Fregosa Design for a long time and we have a great relationship and he has bailed us out many times with complicated programming solutions.
Maybe most importantly, make sure everything that your sales team offers to a client can be handled by the tool specified and priced into the job. Always have your programming team review proposals (and revisions) before being sent to the client. For example, all Lutron isn’t the same—there’s Homeworks QS and RadioRA. Those not familiar with the integration and programming should never assume it can be done in programming unless those who do the programming have said it can be done.
Be especially aware of third-party integrations, streaming devices, and ISP devices. Know what all of your tools can do. Clients think streaming devices and Wi-Fi are the end all, be all. But we know that it’s more like snaking an HDMI cable from the TV to the floorboards: it usually goes swimmingly, but sometimes there is fire block or something else in the path, and it becomes an ordeal. The same thing goes with streaming devices. Never let the client, the architect, the contractor, or even your own sales team tell you what can be done. Make sure you stay in control.