AV Pro Best Practices: You Can Never Be Too Neat Nor Too Precise

precise-neat-0416We all know that consistency and accuracy are crucial standards for AV pros. When hanging a video display on the wall, or cutting out holes for speakers, and especially when hacking holes in your client’s house during retrofit installs, “eh, close enough” doesn’t really cut it.

Accuracy is always a virtue: “Measure twice, cut once,” as the saying goes. On one project I had designed, my installer had just taped templates to the wall for a pair of in-wall speakers. My client’s father who was hanging around the house, and a carpenter for fifty years, took one look at the paper templates, and in his old country accent told my installer, “They’re out of level by a 1/16 of an inch.” My guy re-measured, and it was true!

The necessary corollary to consistency and accuracy is cleanliness. The wilderness conservation slogan says, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.”

When I was being trained up as an Assistant Wire Monkey-3rd Class (also known in most companies as a “Sales Designer”) I was taught that when you’re in someone else’s home, don’t even leave footprints.

For some precision and cleanliness are practically obsessions. One of my long-time work colleagues was famous for his attention to detail, especially his preoccupation with jobsite cleaning.

He believed that there are four cardinal things that should always be in your installer’s trucks:

  • A vacuum cleaner and necessary attachments to clean up and leave the clients home looking better when you leave than when you arrived
  • Lots of clean drop sheets
  • Green or blue 2” painters tape for layout and surface protection
  • Indoor shoes for the feet

It used to be said that he would be lost without his green painters tape. Not only did he rely on it to protect edges and surfaces in the home, but also as a template to determine cutouts, and the spacing of speakers, televisions and other wall-mounted hardware. As he once told me “Tape is the best! No need to worry about erasing or mistakes when doing layout, unlike a Sharpie, or pencil or ballpoint pen.”

I would even add to that list thin white cotton gloves — all the better to avoid leaving finger marks on white ceilings during the finishing phase. Also, if you do screw up and leave marks, M.r Clean Magic Erasers are a handy cleanup tool.

I’ve already implied that you should always leave the clients house looking as good as you left it, if not better, but sometimes this can be hazardous. My old friend once joked, “Once I had a customer phone the shop I used to work out of to complain that the room I was working in was cleaned to the point that he was embarrassed into doing the rest of the house. He was really pissed!”

Then again, most clients will be a little more grateful for your attention to detail than that.

Ralph Waldo Emerson intended it as an insult when he said, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” If he were alive today, I would ask him how many AV installations he’d completed, and how satisfied his clients were.