Each week, I am highlighting some of the incredible people who are in the Audio Video Industry. As this blog is mostly about AV insiders, today we are profiling Jeremy Birch .
Here is a brief intro about him.
Jeremy Birch has worked in the Audiovisual industry since 1999. He is currently an AV Consultant at PlanNet in Southern California.
1. Describe your journey in the AV industry? How did it start?
Lucky for me, my first job out of college was at Extron. I say “lucky” because, looking back, I couldn’t have asked for a better training ground in the ProAV industry. I was going to Cal State Fullerton at the time…working on finishing up my Electrical Engineering degree. But me and a buddy ditched class one day to go 30 min. North to a job fair at Cal Poly Pomona, ’cause that’s where more companies showed up looking for engineers. That’s where I found Extron.
After about 3 years at Extron, working as an Applications Engineer, I transitioned to the integrator side of the industry. That’s where I rounded out my AV education by learning audio and control…not just video.
2. What’s your superpower?
As an “outgoing introvert” I’ve found that I’m fantastic at listening. And listening, not talking, is what I think makes me stand out among other consultants. I’m also good in front of clients, but I’m still adjusting to talking to more C-suite execs vs. technical guys in my transition from integrator to consultant.
3. What’s a highlight in your life right now? What are you super-excited about?
A couple years ago I embarked on a side project to solve a painful, expensive problem in the ProAV industry via software. I didn’t want it to be my own idea, though. I wanted it to be something others wanted first and foremost, so I interviewed 20 of the best AV Systems Engineers around the US. I asked them which tasks were the most tedious and time-consuming, and quickly came to the conclusion that the industry is in desperate need of a new kind of quoting software. I’m at the stage now where I’m pre-selling the solution in order to fund development. It’s very exciting…and a little scary. 😉 Here’s a video if you want to learn more.
4. What in your opinion would you change in the industry? What are the negatives that are prevalent?
After 12 years working for some of the largest integrators in SoCal I can say unequivocally that we, as an industry, take the customer into the kitchen WAAAAAYY too often.
What do I mean by that?
When you go to a nice restaurant with your family or significant other, you do it so you can be waited on, right? You’re paying someone else to do the cooking and the dishes for you. But imagine if, when you order your branzino with lemon risotto, your waiter says “Ahhh, yes. I know that’s on the menu, but it’s tricky to make. Let me take you back to the kitchen and show you what it’ll take to create this for you.” Ridiculous, right? But we do it all the time with our customers! We have to remember they’re paying for the results…the experience. HOW we get them those results is for us to figure out.
[RELATED] : If you have missed any of the previous interviews, please click here.
5. Describe your ideal client? What do you wish clients to know before hiring you?
As a consultant, many of PlanNet’s clients are architects. And, like most clients, they don’t usually know their AV budget until you put together a ROM (rough order of magnitude) budget based on their requirements. That said, I was pleasantly shocked in a client kickoff meeting just last week where the architect actually gave us a number! Either way, I’m developing the skill of estimating those ROM budgets without diving into full-blown “engineering mode”. That wastes too much time working out the technical details before you even know if it fits the client’s budget!
6. If you were going to start over, what would you do differently?
There’s a lot of turnover inherent in a tech industry like ours, and that’s created a lot of turmoil for me and my family. If I could go back, I’d implore my younger self to take more control of my life by transitioning earlier from employee to entrepreneur…from “digging ditches” to “selling shovels”, so to speak.
7. Describe a typical workday for you. What are your daily disciplines?
Since research has demonstrated that willpower and focus are finite resources that weaken throughout the day, I reserve my mornings for my most important tasks. And by “important” I don’t mean reading email or checking social media. But rather doing things that are meaningful but not urgent…things like studying the Bible, planning my day, practicing gratitude, and advancing my software business. With a family of four, I know I really won’t get uninterrupted time to do any of these later in the day. And once I get to the office, all bets are off when it comes to controlling my schedule. So getting up at 4:45 gives me a solid hour or so to work on me. I’m not as consistent as I’d like to be with this, but I use a great new planner called the SELF Journal (https://bestself.co/products/self-journal) to help me track if I’m spending my time on the right things.
8. Describe the apps and gear that you use daily which makes you more productive?
The SELF Journal mentioned above is one of the most powerful resources I use daily. It not only helps me plan a proactive day, but bakes in daily habits shared by the most successful people in the world. Habits like scrubbing negative thinking through practicing gratitude, creating a manageable 13-week goals roadmap, and wrapping up each day & week by reflecting on wins and lessons learned.
At work, there are 2 apps I never used before starting at PlanNet that have now become indispensable…and both can be useful for consultants and integrators alike. The first is Bluebeam Revu (bluebeam.com). It’s a fantastic markup tool for architectural PDFs. It allows you to define your own scale, using a door (3 ft.) or an existing dimension as a reference, and then drop in AV infrastructure elements in just the right places. With the help of a customized symbol library that we’ve developed, it allows us the freedom to make edits quickly and send them off to the architect or end user for feedback before sending it to our CAD drafters.
The 2nd “game changing” app is PlanGrid (plangrid.com). It’s designed to make field markups easier for construction-related industries. We use it for creating punch lists, and it makes us look like geniuses! On the PlanGrid website we create the project, upload the drawings, and then share access with our other team members. Then, whoever goes out to do the punch walk has access to those same project drawings from the PlanGrid app on their mobile device (Android or iOS, phone or tablet). Running PlanGrid on a device with a front-facing camera is the key to getting the most out of it because it enables you to add photos to each punch item…not just a room number and description. It also allows you to create punch items exactly where they appear on the plan drawings, so your floor plans serve as a graphical “heat map” showing where the issues are. It also creates dead sexy reports! ;-P
9. Name 3 business, marketing, or personal growth books that have changed your thinking. What was your main takeaway from each?
The 4-Hour Workweek (by Tim Ferriss): You don’t have to retire in a wheelchair. This book provides a blueprint for how, in our current Internet Age, it’s now possible to build a business without being a millionaire, frees you from trading hours for dollars, and funds the lifestyle of your dreams.
The Big Leap (by Gay Hendricks): Why are times of unprecedented success in our lives followed by times of monstrous setbacks? The reason is that each of us possesses an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love, success and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. When we exceed this ceiling, we typically follow big leaps forward with equally big mess-ups. This book outlines the 4 common fears that define that ceiling, this “Upper Limit Problem”, along with how to dismantle them.
The ONE Thing (by Jay Papasan & Gary Keller): This one question will bring clarity to both your short- and long-term priorities: “What’s the ONE thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else will become easier or unnecessary?”