How to Deal With Job Site Delays


I don’t know about the rest of you, but I felt like I needed a break from thinking about and talking about the impact of COVID-19 and the quarantine measures that we are taking — personally and professionally.

That said, the topic is at least a little inescapable. For my dealers who’ve still been open the past few months, one of the many challenges they’ve faced has been delays on the commercial/industrial installations they were working on. That got me thinking about dealing with job site delays, and how to deal with them.

It’s comforting to know that — whatever the situation — there’s always an aphorism, or at the very least a sports analogy that sums up the situation nicely.

One classic aphorism states that “work expands to fill the time available.” There’s also a corollary of the obverse that states, “if there can be delays on a project, then there will be delays.” We’ve all experienced this firsthand.

There can be any number of reasons for delays. Mostly they fall into two categories: reasons that you’re responsible for, reasons that you aren’t.

The most egregious delay on a project that I can recall was about six months. As you well know, if you’re doing the AV, you’re going in last, after all the other major trades are done or mostly done. In this instance, it was both the electricians and the HVAC guys who kept telling the client “Oops!” and having to go back and make changes. For six months. Six. Months.

Why the client kept them on the job was a mystery. Meanwhile, I spent most of my time working on other projects, reviewing my design work for the project mentioned above, and periodically reassuring the client that when it was our turn, we wouldn’t be as annoying as their other contractors.

AV pros are more or less dependent on the work of several trades on the job site. Your installation depends on the electrician, the HVAC guy, the cabinetmaker and maybe even the pool contractor. Even if you aren’t causing delays, with that many variables, delays are almost inevitable.

Operationally, delays can sometimes be a blessing; delays on one project allow you to get more done on other jobs. Telling other clients and site supers that they’ve been moved up on your schedule rather than back is better than the reverse.

Of course, if every single one of the projects you have on the go gets delayed, that can be a problem.

And I don’t want to imply that facing delays is always good, either. There’s a financial risk that comes with having projects delayed. As the saying goes, time is money. For that matter, money is money. Sitting on hold impacts your cash flow. And you still have expenses while you’re sitting there not getting paid.

There are strategies to minimize risk. One is to endeavor to keep your project portfolio mixed with projects of varying sizes. Large, complex projects are more likely to face delays. Having several smaller projects queued up at any one time goes a long way to filling in the gaps.

Many AV pros I’ve dealt with make an effort to keep a steady stream of one and two-day AV jobs in the pipe and slot those in between the multiday install phases of their big six-figure jobs. That keeps them cash-flow positive while they’re stuck waiting for phase payments for their big jobs.

Tangentially, one AV pro I used to know shunned large, complex projects and specialized entirely on small and medium-sized residential jobs. He applied the adage “more money, more problems” and focused on quick projects that he got paid equally quickly on. That might not be the right solution for you, but it’s definitely one solution.