Hiring a Custom Audio/Visual Integrator for Your Next Project
There are a number of steps in selecting a technology pro from any perspective of being either the direct consumer, the architect, the builder, or contractor on site. It is a challenge to determine the good from the bad. This is why we at Kozi Media Design encourage our potential clients - whether consumer or builder, etc. - to do their research. The most important aspect is qualifying. Qualifying comes in many forms and requires the end-user to do their homework. Doing your homework greatly reduces the chances for future issues. Qualifying comes in the way of researching very important details including:
- Education: Ask the integrator about projects they have completed and what types of technology they installed in the persons home, or office, or even business. Be inquisitive and direct. If they are not able to be direct to you with an answer, take note of it. See that the installer is not dancing around the subject.
- References: Many people don't ask for client job references, and that can be a grave mistake. During a job interview, references are required, so you should ask. Ask for previous contractors or architects that they have worked with. Ask the integrator for several of their vendor manufacturer/suppliers and check that they are not in debt or credit hold to the supplier. This is another situation that if the person is hesitant, you may want to be concerned.
- Personality: Take note if they have a personality that will fit with yours. Keep in mind, as long as you have the electronics installed in your home, you will certainly want to have a reliable integrator to go to for any issues or questions. This brings up another point, how long have they been in business. Not that a short-term company is alarming, we have all started somewhere, but you should get a feel from their responses based on ability, and ability comes from experience. So if the person seems suspicious, then they probably are.
- Location/Office: Look into the integrator's business address. This is a situation where everyone has to start somewhere, but someone building your expensive and intricate custom AV system from within a home garage may not be what you want to see, or trust with your money/investment. Many mistakes and missing parts can come from un-prepared environments. Ask if they have a tech testing center (basically, it is where your system is pre-built & QA'd before install to eliminate unforeseen electronics issues, and/or a test facility where they can real-time test found issues).
- Certifications: This one can go hand in hand with the fore-mentioned education. Look into the company's or integrator's certifications. Ask for a list. Research their certifications and their validity. Your Pennsylvania integrator should hold a Subcontractor's License (not the same as a business license) and a minimum of a $2 million insurance policy. They should also be a part of an educational program like Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) which is one of the oldest organizations that helped push the education of AV integration. Another great resource is the Home Technology Association (HTA) which is new to the market. Although HTA is a relatively young organization, the founding members and board are seasoned veterans of the industry. HTA is a third party organization, not associated with AV integrators, that qualify technology pro companies through a stringent & strict vetting process. For more information, visit the HTA Web site.
For Residential Projects
If you followed the information above, you should have a good idea of the AV integrator/technology pro that you would like to move forward with. If you have the right pro, they should be able to seamlessly guide you through the rest of the process. This is where the personality pairing is important.
In most cases, the integrator will request the standard information such as home size, drawings, plans, scheduling dates, general "wish list," and rough budget, etc. The better pro will inquire into the number of adults and children, music selection of each, where do you prefer good audio or video, where do you prefer great audio or video, and continue inquisitive conversations with regards to your living style or personal interests. The reason for this is to extrapolate all the important details of things that you like and your family likes (or dislikes).
Your tech pro should also immediately educate you on what is available in the industry to compliment your interests. A tool available to the consumer is the HTA Calculate Your Budget. This walks you through a step by step process to guide you through your "wants," and in the end, it will supply you a rough budget range based not on the integrator/pro, but rather on the industry standard.
For Commercial Projects
It’s your business. The company you hire is an extension of your brand. You must build a trusted relationship with the integration company. Your integrator should be qualified, extensively trained, and certified. Check their certification list and ask for construction and manufacturer references. Contact builders and/or architects they have worked for or with.
If the tech pro is organized, knowledgeable, and represents a professional organization, they should be the least of your concerns through the process. They should be included in the plans distribution, site/project meetings, and schedules. An experienced audio & video integration firm should yield great results for you - especially with the tech savvy requirements of current projects. The time you invest in researching and finding the right company will establish a truly beneficial relationship. Consult an integrator early in the planning process to expedite the integration process and avoid costly pitfalls.