I have worked in education for over twenty years. When August hits, we know that summer has ended for us. The pace picks up quickly as the days get closer to September and the level of anxiety begins to rise. By the end of the month, we are in an all out sprint. Will all our installs be done in time? Will our maintenance work get done in time? What about the training that has to happen with the new faculty and staff members that are coming on board. Max Goodwin, the head doctor from the NBC show “New Amsterdam” always asks his staff, “How can I help?” Now that we are into September, here are some ideas for firms who want to ask me that question and are looking to build some new business and relationships.
While my college does not completely shut down over the summer, we slow down during those months. Various conferences and camps take place, but there is enough slow down for us to take preventative maintenance to rooms. This is not a sexy job by any means. It involves moving around every space and installation on campus (we have more than 140 and we’re a small campus) and making sure the basic maintenance is done. This may include changing out projector filters and changing out lamps. Yes, in higher ed we still have many projectors that are not laser and require this work. It also may include things like cleaning out the fans in systems, making sure batteries in UPSes are changed out. Maybe even doing some simple work like installing UPSes in classrooms. Over the course of the school year, emergency fixes may have been put into place and making these permanent by cleaning up the install and updating the drawings and databases needs to happen.
Checks for the Upcoming Year
Another time consuming task for staff is the checking of every single classroom. We need someone to go through and turn everything on, verify that all programming is working and all sound and video is working from all of the various devices. This task, if done correctly, can take 10-20 minutes per space. It has to be a different process than the preventative maintenance process, because that happens earlier in the year. We don’t want to fix something in a room in June, to have it stop working in July without anyone knowing, and get stuck at the beginning of the school year.
There are about eight weeks from August to September where our staff works over 40 hours per week on a regular basis. We are staffed well enough, even for the busy time, as long as all our staff are healthy and present. However, if someone gets sick, or leaves the school, we would be in a serious pinch. This happened to us in late August several years ago. Having the knowledge that an integrator could give us a person to temporarily step into that role would be very valuable.
There are likely some firms who would not be interested in these tasks. But this provides real value to me as an education customer. I want my staff working on things that provides true long term value for the college, so them performing our installs during the summer months makes sense. They are going to be the one to go to an emergency call to a classroom; they need to know how it was installed and programmed. However, for them to go around and do maintenance or checks does not provide long term value. It needs to be done and provides value, but not long-term value. This is the perfect opportunity for the integration firm. It also provides value for the integration firm in several ways. First, and most obviously, they are going to charge me something for this service and they ought to charge me an amount that makes sense for them. Clearly, I don’t expect them to lose money. Second, and maybe most important, is they are developing a relationship with me. We deal with many firms still who want to sell us equipment, and do installs, but they don’t focus on relationship building. Tangential to that relationship is that the integrator will get a detailed view of what we do and what we have on campus. They can use that knowledge down the road in bidding processes and helping us understand how new products fit our needs. Finally, they can hire a rookie in the industry and use these jobs as on the job training, since we don’t need the most experienced AV tech to be doing them.