I bet that I am an anomaly in this industry. I am not only female, but I didn’t start this gig as an installer. My bet is that many of you started installing for someone else or installing for yourself. From there you may have grown into a larger business. However, your roots and foundation come from “the field.”
My roots come from my family; it has been my father’s business, and my schooling and experience were in sales and marketing.
When I began this adventure, a decade ago, I started by marketing our company. I wanted people to know our name and to know what we stood for. After years of home shows, marketing, advertising, and doing great work, we’re pretty well known. Yet, as I see the end of the year creep forth, I always get nostalgic and start to look back.
Southtown Audio Video is coming up its 30th anniversary in 2014 and many great people have helped us get here. For me to move this company forward, I’m going to need to keep our stellar install crew in place. All year my fellow bloggers and I have preached about the importance of the field and the image we present to our clients and other trades. How do I, a non-installer, make that happen? How do I ensure a successful team in the field? What I have learned is that it is more than just knowledge and talent? What qualities take an installer from good to great?
Someone who is willing to ask for help
An installer shouldn’t be expected to know everything, of course, but they just need to be willing to find the answer when they have a question. Our industry changes at an extremely rapid pace, and even those of us who do this every day can’t keep up with everything. I’ve seen installers plateau when they think they’ve got it all figured out, and they stop asking questions. In return, they stop growing. When you stop asking for help and looking for answers (calling technical support, for instance) then you’ve failed.
Case in point, we recently had a receiver stop passing audio and video at a client’s house. The receiver was only a few months old, and as we all know, swapping a receiver is a painful and cost-prohibitive issue. I went back to the manufacturer requesting an advance replacement, and they asked us first to do a firmware upgrade. I was hesitant to do this, thinking there was no way it would solve the problem, but fortunately it did work. Had we just followed protocol, however, we would have pulled out the receiver and sent it in for repair, the client’s theater would be down for a week or more, (or we would have had to give him a new one from stock) then we would have had to go back with the repaired unit, install, test, and calibrate. Hours would have been lost, money would have been hemorrhaged, and the client would not have been pleased.
So please, don’t be afraid to make a call. A few more minutes on the phone can save you hours.
Someone who respects the entire process
Ever work at a restaurant? Waiters and the kitchen staff rarely get a long. I sometime feel it is that way between sales people and installers. Now for some of you, you may do both the sales and the install, but there is an advantage to separating the roles.
A sales person goes in (or should go in) with the desire to find the best solution for the client. We should not sell products and features that the client does not need. Installers sometimes get lost in what can be done and lose sight of what should be done. The sales team (or person) sells the ability to defy gravity, but it is the installer who has to actually defy it. I have massive amounts of respect for the installers—their ability to cram into awkward positions to get to the back of equipment, to run wires where no others can. However, this respect needs to travel in both directions. Everyone in the organization is important to the process. From the person who answers the phone, to the sales person, to the installer; each person is a part of the engine that drives the train forward. Everyone needs to be on board.
Someone who communicates
Beyond saying hello at the beginning of the day and good bye at the end, installers have to communicate. This may mean you may need to figure out how they communicate best. This could be via email, text, phone, or face-to-face. Otherwise, who knows what you may be missing? Did the client talk about that new addition he’s building or a restaurant he’s opening? Did the installers need to add on extra materials to get the job done? Did something change from the original quote? Communication is as crucial as technique.
Yes, being a good installer requires that you to have a broad knowledge base, but to be great one needs to be willing to go further. One needs to be smart, but not too unwilling to make a call. One needs to lead an install, but understand what has been sold. One needs to not only talk to the client, but also talk to the rest of the team. These qualities make for a solid foundation from which the company can grow.
Do you agree? Disagree? Tell me in the comments section below.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is project manager/designer for Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.