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Beware Saving a Nickel to Spend a Dollar

True story: A homeowner, ready to build their country dream home, hired the contractor that came in with the lowest bid.  As preparations for move-in day were being made, the homeowner asked when they would see their 225-foot concrete driveway constructed.  “Oh, you’d like us to build the driveway also?” replied their contractor, “Our original estimate was only to build your house.”

Like every industry, the A/V business has plenty of wanna-be’s and start-ups who will price your A/V work at bargain prices just so they can turn a dollar.  I’ve been in this business long enough to have to go behind their work later when frustrated homeowners call us because they can’t find their original installer.  In short, they’re hoping we can make the substandard workmanship sparkle.  Mostly, it can’t be done–not without making considerable changes to get them the performance they originally envisioned.

To save yourself an unexpected “hit” in the future, here are some guidelines to help you get the best value for your money at the outset of your A/V installation.

1.  Strictly define the scope of work.  In nearly every case, the real difference in pricing is in what different A/V companies are proposing the scope of work should entail.  Have everyone stick with the original scope of work so you can compare apples with apples.  Then, if an audio-video integrator recommends additional work to better round out your system, have them present that as a separate proposal.

2.  What is being left out?  There is a significant difference between being priced a stripped-down version of what you think you want versus a version that may offer better equipment with perhaps better warranties AND capacity for future expansion.  Growing your system later need not require the future expense of replacing perfectly good components when you could have gone with something more than the “just enough” model.

3.  How long have they been in business?  We all know companies that close just to reopen under another name later to shake off their own reputation.

4.  Are they using subcontractors?  Some contractors don’t have their own team.  Instead they put them together on a per job basis with whoever they know is available at the time.  Make sure they have their own employees who can be there for every phase of your project.

5.  Verify the installer you choose has prior experience putting in a system like yours especially involving equipment from the manufacturers you wish to stay with.  We have been called in to jobs in which the original installer got in way over their heads trying to work with equipment they didn’t know and lacked manufacturers’ training.  You don’t want someone trying to learn the products while they’re working on your project!

Its all about value.  You’ll want your new A/V system to be durable, expandable, using quality components and installed by companies with a long-standing reputation to take care of you in the future.  Hiring the cheap guy may cost you much more in the end.

by Bryan Naquin.  Follow Bryan on Twitter @ACIexperts.  And you can always contact him at 225.906.2589 or by email at bryan@aciexperts.net. Bryan Naquin is president of Acadian Home Theater and Automation based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  CEPro Magazine has ranked Acadian in the top 100 consumer electronic companies in the U.S. for the third year in a row.

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