According to the cliché, men don’t like to stop and ask for directions, and we have absolutely no interest in reading instruction manuals.
With GPS today, I agree that there is rarely a reason to stop and ask for directions, but when it comes to manuals, I read them all the time. And this habit has saved me on multiple occasions.
Back when I started my company, I didn’t have the space to set up a testing area, so when I used something new or a new model year came out I always read the manual to familiarize myself with the equipment on site. The last thing you want to happen when you’re at a client’s home is to not know how something works. That isn’t to say you can’t get stumped (you will), but you need to be as informed as possible. Even though I now have a dedicated shop space and can (and do) test everything that comes in, I still read the manual first thing, if it is a unfamiliar product or a new model year, so I know what I am dealing with and what might have changed.
Just yesterday one of my field techs was setting up an AVR that he was unfamiliar with. He was having trouble, so first he decided to update the firmware. He spent 30 minutes getting an Ethernet cable to the receiver only to get into the system menus and realize that this model only updates via USB. So he wasted precious time that he could have used for troubleshooting. He then called me for advice. My first question: “Did you read the manual?” Since he hadn’t, we went through it together. He’s new-ish with the company so I couldn’t be too upset with him; it was a learning opportunity.
By reading the manual, there were some settings that we found to try out. Unfortunately, nothing worked, and we still had to call the manufacturer to get an RMA. But, at least we all knew that everything was tried before we returned it.
I realize many companies in our industry are small shops with just few guys and limited space, so there isn’t a place to connect and test every piece of equipment, so if something is DOA, there is no way to find out ahead of time. However, by being intimately familiar with the manual and therefore the product, not only will you be a step ahead if something does go wrong, but you’ll be prepared to answer the random questions that a client can sometimes ask, like “How do you update the firmware?” or “How do I program this receiver’s remote to control my TV power, because I read online that it can do that?”)
And like man’s best friend, the installer’s best friend, the instruction manual, is always there and never complains. You just need to not be afraid of it or think you’re too good for it.
+Todd Anthony Pumais president of The Source Home Theater Installation in New York City.