Go Big Or Go Home

One of the most crucial pieces of advice I’ve ever received was, “Don’t decide for the client how much is too much. It’s not your job to say ‘no’ on their behalf.” Put another way, don’t be afraid of overselling the job; be afraid of underselling the job.

This is a separate issue entirely from what I’ve written before about how it’s important to not overspecify and add unnecessary complexity to the project. That’s still true, but it is equally important to not sell the client short, both literally and figuratively.

That’s accomplished by both delivering on what the client both needs and wants today, as well as planning ahead for future upgrades and expansion. The ability to easily add more capability in the future is crucial to maintaining a successful long term relationship with clients.

In order to craft the project, the finished product of which the client both needs and deserves, it is essential to clearly flesh out the concept to the client from the outset, creating a framework around which they can make informed decisions. As a designer and indeed, a salesperson, you want them to choose their own path as opposed to you choosing their path for them based on your preconceived judgments about what they want or what you have to offer. Think of it as placing the responsibility for the outcome in their hands not yours.

Your job then becomes successfully identifying needs by exposing the client to the range of possibilities, then creating and executing a plan based on their needs and wants. Show them the way, and they’ll let you know how far they want to take it.

All of that is the easy part. The devil, as they say, is in the details. With larger projects come larger potential headaches. There are some key things to bear in mind to keep the whole show running smoothly.

It’s not unusual for clients with jobs of any size to want to integrate existing components into the new project. Needless to say, this can and be problematic. Sometimes it’s because clients want to save a buck, but move commonly it’s because clients have an emotional bond with some older gear, like the guy years ago who had three ancient but powerful Crown amps that he wanted me to use in his cinema room. I can empathize strongly to that; I have a whole house full of mismatched gear that I can’t bear to part with.

However, usually engineering old gear into a new project is a hassle. As the saying goes, “every solution has two problems.” It’s generally best to suggest upgrades for these older products, especially if they will save the job from unnecessary complication, or make the user experience of the finished system less than ideal.

Larger projects are longer projects. It’s important to be mindful of that, and to allow for product and model changes, if and when your suppliers discontinue one model and introduce another. It happens. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed. So prepare accordingly.

Hopefully every AV pro who’s made it this long in their career knows the need to keep their your financial ducks in a row.

One of the things that separates successful AV pros from the unsuccessful ones is that the former never starts a job he cannot properly internally finance from the outset. And they always allow for a deposit and progress payment schedule so that they are working with the client’s money.

That means that accounting on every ongoing project must be kept current so that you always know where you are at. It’s important not just to ensure that you have the resources you need to proceed, but are protected if the client or the project goes sideways. You still have bills to pay, no matter what.

It was explained to me a long time ago that selling big jobs is one thing, executing them is another. But with the right approach, and both consistency and discipline, both are landing big projects and delivering on them are attainable.