This started out as an article for Technology Managers about the importance of the relationship in the AV world. It ended up becoming a two-part lesson for anyone in our business who is watching the AV relationship die a slow and methodical death.
You don’t have to look far to find people in the AV world who have been in this business 20, 30, 40 years or more. The running joke has always been “Once you get in, you’re not getting out.”
I stumbled into this business as a marketing stooge 25 years ago for a small projector manufacturer named AmPro. Today I own a controls programming firm, and one of our customers is an integrator whose senior engineer used to sit in the same AmPro building a quarter century ago, soldering resistors on motherboards with a lit Marlboro hanging from his mouth.
A big reason people never leave this business is the AV relationship. Most every AV business—integrator, consultant, manufacturer—was relatively small back then. The AV relationship was securely forged with a commitment and a handshake. If we agreed to do something, we’d do it, if for no other reason than because our word had value.
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The relationship part of our business is disappearing, and there are many reasons why. But there is one reason which, if understood, will help Technology Managers to better navigate their way through the AV world.
The death of the AV relationship started when our business saw a distinct divide between Those Who Can and Those Who Must.
More to the point, Those Who Can want to work with you. They’re professionals who provide you their services, act as your partner, and bring their valuable knowledge and expertise to your relationship. These are trained, certified professionals who are committed to staying ahead of the curve and in front of changes in the industry, changes like the merger of AV and IT.
Those Who Can work with you.
But they don’t have to.
When Those Who Can sense something about a prospective project that suggests they will have to compromise their performance, they can walk away. And they can do that because Those Who Can have built a successful process, and it’s backed by a trained team that has bought into, contributed to and is committed to that process. Those Who Can will always have good businesses to tend to.
Yes, they will cost more, but if you ever want to truly understand why they cost more, try passing on Those Who Can and hire Those Who Must.
Those Who Must earn this name because they absolutely must have your project. They must get your order. And to do that, they drop their price because they plan to either (a) cut corners, (b) change-order you to profitability, or sadly enough (c) do both.
Those Who Must will lower numbers, sacrifice margins, compromise work quality, cut corners and avoid best practices because if they don’t, they won’t get your order, and if they don’t get your order, they must start laying people off.
Those Who Must are so concerned with getting orders to feed their beast, they put good engineers in bad situations. Good engineers don’t like bad situations, so Those Who Must are always juggling high turnover rates and inexperienced, untrained workers who end up executing messy processes that aren’t always in your best interest.