Handling Unexpected Delays on Custom Integration Projects

Handling delays in projects can be a real headache. Even if it’s a personal project, say remodeling your kitchen, any delay can be frustrating. Another week of take-out sounds great, unless you’ve been living on take-out for the past six weeks. It’s even worse when it impacts your business and your clients.
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Handling delays in projects can be a real headache. Even if it’s a personal project, say remodeling your kitchen, any delay can be frustrating. Another week of take-out sounds great, unless you’ve been living on take-out for the past six weeks. It’s even worse when it impacts your business and your clients. We all put together detailed plans, drawings, and timelines for our clients and projects. While things do come up, we stick to these documents and commitments. But sometimes things happen that are out of our control that require us to adjust on the fly.

My company has been working on a very large renovation with a client combining three apartments into one enormous home in Manhattan. This is one of the largest non-theater projects we have ever undertaken and required a lot of time and commitment from me, my techs, installers, and project manager. All of the pre-wire went off without a hitch, and we were all set to start rough-in last week. We’d checked with the contractor a week before our scheduled date, and we were still on track. Surprising on such a large project, but the contractor is great and is on top of things.

Then we got a call on Thursday (we were supposed to start the following Monday). The electrician had run some wiring incorrectly and not to code, so the walls had to be opened up, the electrical fixed, and the walls re-closed before we could do our rough-in.

While completely understandable, we were put in a tight place. I had a team scheduled to do the rough-in and had other clients lined up in the following weeks since we fully expected to be done. Other trades on the project were in the same position and were panicked. My project manager and I, on the other hand, quickly set about an action plan. I got a firm date from the GC on when we would be back and upon further discussion found that they had some flexibility on our return date for a rough-in, so we scheduled it later in the window to help ensure this didn’t happen again.

While I was locking that in with the GC, my PM was frantically working his scheduling software, our inventory management software and the phones to see if:

1.Any jobs were about to close that we could quickly close and provide great customer service by doing the install within a week.
2.Any clients could be pulled forward to fill the hole next week so we didn’t have teams sitting on their hands doing nothing
3.We had inventory on hand to handle the jobs if we pulled them forward, or could get inventory here quickly enough either directly from our manufacturers or through distribution.
4.We could shift around other teams and jobs to ensure we were fully staffed for the now rescheduled rough-in date.

After spending all of Thursday afternoon and most of Friday working the systems and phones, we were able to delight many clients by doing the work earlier than they had expected, and actually closed a job that we might not have otherwise gotten, because the client wanted the work done quickly due to a move-in date, and now we could accommodate them.

This experience reinforced several things that are critical to running a smooth operation. They are all pretty obvious, but often don’t get the recognition they deserve until it’s too late.

1.You need to have great people who are passionate and committed to the business and are great at what they do. Yes, you can likely save a few bucks by hiring people who are “ok,” but in the long run paying a little bit and getting the right quality people pays off.
2.Have systems in place to manage the business. I used to keep everything in Excel spreadsheets and would never had the info at my fingertips that was needed to reschedule everything. With Quickbooks and D-Tools, I was able to be prepared.
3.Speaking of prepared, have a plan in place. This type of thing does happen occasionally. Unfortunately this time it was on a huge job. But being prepared and knowing what to do saved us valuable time. This was time some of the other trades spent freaking out instead of problem solving.

4.Put a spin on it. We didn’t outright tell our other clients what was going on, but we didn’t lie either. We told them that an opening had become available next week and we wanted to know if they would like to move their install up a week or two (or in one case a month), so that they could begin enjoying it sooner.

Like the old U.S. Army ads used to say “Be Prepared,” and you will be able to weather most crises.

+Todd Anthony Pumais president of The Source Home Theater Installation in New York City. 

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