AV Crosstalk: Design-Bid or Design-Build?

Longtime industry insiders debate whether it’s better to work with a consultant when updating your AV or to go directly to the integrator.

What do you get when you pit two of the most opinionated guys in the AV industry against each other in a debate over their business model? In the case of the latest episode of AV Crosstalk, after the verbal barbs were tossed for more than 30 minutes, you got an acknowledgement that they need to work together.

But, before the kumbaya moment and virtual handshake, Leonard Suskin of Shenn Milson Wilke and Brock McGinnis of Westbury National Show Systems spoke passionately in favor of their positions, with Suskin supporting the design-bid approach and McGinnis backing a design-build model.

“We need to move away from specifying or selling boxes and away from looking at the cost of an installation,” says Suskin. “It’s more about looking at the cost of long-term ownership and creating systems that are scalable and part of a unified communications strategy.

“We’re moving out of the box-selling world and into the virtual world. A contractor will design an excellent example of what that contractor can build. If a contractor has a hammer, every problem looks like a nail,” says Suskin.

McGinnis blasted the notion that integrators are still focused on selling equipment.

“Our clients need people who are going to take care of them,” he says. “Our model isn’t based on boxes. It’s based on outcomes. Consultants write specifications; integrators build systems. Consultants leave all the work to us, and that’s perfect because it’s what we do every day.

“[A consultant’s] best outcome is to please the architect. Our best outcome is to please the client,” says McGinnis.

Suskin sees the client as the determining factor on whether their respective approaches work well.

“If the user is happy, everyone looks good,” he says. “Part of that is working with the architect, the lighting designer and all those other people a system contractor may not always enjoy. That lets us steer things toward a successful project and lets us be in right at the front of it.”

McGinnis notes integrators “want to work for the client, not the architect.”

To watch the entire debate, check it out here: