It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Maintenance…

“’twas the night before Christmas,
and all through the shop
not an order is stirring
so let’s get out the mop…”

Yes, the holidays are upon us again. And with the exception of holiday parties and events, many of us can find ourselves looking for things to do. Having spent a few years working in rental companies, I have some suggestions for some nice, time-consuming things to do, many of which do not get done during the busy parts of the year.

Equipment maintenance

OK, this one is a gimme that everybody has thought of already. But sometimes, maintaining our inventory is a lot like the case of the lazy man who was asked why he didn’t fix his leaky roof. His answer? “Well, I can’t fix it when it’s raining, and when it’s not raining it don’t leak.” Equipment maintenance may be boring and time-consuming, but it can save us so many of those potentially heart-stopping moments during the year that we can usually motivate people to do it during the downtime, if only in self-defense. The question here is how you make it interesting. One year, two other technicians and I created a bet over who could find the most potential problems. I have even thought about making it a drinking game, but I have been afraid of what the results might be.

Records maintenance

This one is often overlooked, but can pay off during the year just as much as having a pristine inventory. And, during this special time of the year, it’s an opportunity for people who have information but are normally not involved in record-keeping to bring the company up to date. Namely, the technicians and field personnel could have a lot of information to contribute about our customers that they don’t normally think about. Field personnel often have more contacts within a client organization than the office people do. Many times, our client records at the shop contain an Accounts Payable reference, but not a lot of the management and administrative names and phone numbers that can help to get an invoice paid or an order clarified. This is also our opportunity to create better communication between field personnel and office personnel, and even to set up one of the simpler project and task management systems (like Basecamp, which I love) that could allow the technicians to provide this kind of information all year long.

Those demonstration systems

AV suppliers, especially rental suppliers, are in the business of introducing new technologies to clients. As we turn over our inventory and adopt new technologies, we need to show them to the people who are going to use them. For this purpose, I have nearly always had a meeting room at our headquarters that we use for this purpose. However, in the tradition of the barber usually having the worst haircut, I have seen a lot of these rooms that were, shall we say, less than professional. When I was a technician, no matter how our sales department set these rooms up, we considered them auxiliary inventory. This meant that very often by the time the sales department arrived in the building, we had stolen key pieces of their demonstration equipment for orders. I don’t believe this is ever going to stop, since in the rental business I have even stolen our office furniture and equipment to use as stage props. But this is an opportunity for our technicians to work with the sales department for a better understanding of how these systems work, and to potentially even get a short-term promise to eventually restore stolen items to the system.

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Training

This is another one that nearly everybody commits to do over the holidays, but often gets postponed as other, “more important” things take priority. But not only can training pay off during the year, it can also be an enormous staff booster if done well. I have long been an advocate of crosstraining, giving our office personnel an opportunity to see how things work and our field personnel an opportunity to see “how the other half lives.”

In the end, all of these things really boil down to “personnel maintenance.” Often, the technology that we represent is less important than the way we represent it and the way our staff works together during the busiest times of the year. This is an opportunity, during a rare time when we have everybody in the shop, to do a little teambuilding. A holiday party is great and I highly recommend it. But most of the time, a holiday party takes a single evening and is something many of us will forget afterward. But the opportunity to set ourselves up for a more successful year is a present that we can all give each other.

Stay tuned for next month, when we will cover the New Year’s resolutions that every AV staff should avoid making.

Happy holidays.

Joel Rollins

About Joel Rollins

rAVe Rental [and Staging] contributor Joel R. Rollins is the founder of Steamroller Digital and is well known throughout the professional AV industry for his contributions to industry training and his extensive background in AV rental, staging and installation. Joel can be reached at joelrollins@mac.com.