Sales, Engineering, and Operations: SEO. Not to shortchange administration, management, shipping, etc., but these are the three critical components of a successful Pro AV project. Frankly, although we are in the communications business, the lack of communication between these groups of dedicated individuals can often be described as the AV triangle of doom.
[Cutting Corner Concerns] (opens in new tab)
I am not talking about superficial talk between the group, I am talking about real communication. I define communication as a conversation between two or more wherein serious questions are asked—and there is serious thought taken between the time of the question and the answer. The sub-levels and context of the conversation are thought about; sometimes you may even juxtapose yourself with the other party to consider the ramifications of your response/decision and how it will affect the issue at hand, as well as your future relationship/communication.
I have observed some, shall I say, possibly selfish behavior from one’s group to the others. For example, in sales, well, they may press a little harder than they should for engineering to come up with a design, price, and proposal sooner than they are able. The result is often errors and omissions.
Engineering, well, we may take longer than we should for the design and proposal because it needs to be perfect in every way. That means taking into consideration every actual and possible detail that may cause the system to not be perfect. In addition, you may not be in the same neighborhood as sales when it comes to the price. After all, we know what is best for the client, right? Engineer’s disease, a conversation for another day.
Operations, well, it needs to be installed and signed off during a specific time period in order for other projects to be installed on time. This may mean that some equipment may need to be replaced due to situations in the field, or connectivity may not actually follow the wiring schematics, etc. At the end of the day, from the proposal to the carefully engineered design to the actual system installation, it may bear little resemblance to that original proposal.
Each participant is sure their ideas were better and/or the absolute right way things should have gone. This is more common than most of us would like to admit—and as this builds up over time, trust can become an issue as well. The end result is reduced margins, animosity, and reduced profitability on the project.
What can you do to improve these relationships and turn the AV triangle of doom to the AV triangle of success?
Sales: First and foremost, no scheduling engineering or operations for site visits without checking with them. This is not the proverbial “better to ask forgiveness than permission” scenario. Just do not do this.
[Viewpoint: If You Need Something, Just Ask] (opens in new tab)
In fact, the next time you do ask and they are busy, say you understand, ask for some tips, and step up (literally on that ladder) and get the information yourself. You just have no idea how much that will go to show the team you are willing to compromise. Getting your hands dirty here will pay off in the long run. The next time you ask and they say they are busy, you can say you would do it yourself (and have creditability there), but what you need here is beyond your abilities.
Engineering: The next time you are being pressed by sales for a proposal in an unreasonable amount of time, maybe put in a little extra effort, get it done, and put it in your “goodwill toward sales" box. You just can’t say no all the time.
The next time you are pressed by operations to change a design to accommodate some intricacies of the project—and usually say no—try to say yes (remember, think before you answer). Small decisions like these will go a long way toward the team understanding the importance of compromise.
Operations: Yes, you need it done by this date and engineering does not want to make the changes you want. You may even need to take a man off another project for a day to do it to engineering’s specs. Just do it—not all the time, but don’t be so quick to say no. When sales wants that site visit by Friday, and you do not have anybody, go and do it yourself. Show your team that you are willing to compromise as well.
[Do You Go the Extra Yard?] (opens in new tab)
The order of the day here is for each member of the team to think before they speak, consider the subtleties of the issues, and take into account the perspectives of the other departments. Compromise, avoid conflict, and get it done in such a fashion that your team members will continue to respect you and not avoid asking you questions about issues for fear of refusal and conflict.
Cash Is Not King?
I recently needed to cash a small check and get some $5 bills to give to my kids for snacks at school. Not near my local branch, I did a Google search (opens in new tab) and found a close branch. Greeted by three gentlemen, I smiled and joked that I needed some cash. They said we have no cash—and weren't joking!
A full-size, free standing, bank with a safe but no cash? It looked normal when I entered, but looking closer, there were no tellers. I was instructed (with an attitude bordering on demeaning) to go to the ATM or another branch. Had I entered the Twilight Zone?
Turns out the branch had been converted to a new "digital branch" a few months earlier, which was quite an inconvenience because I do not use debit cards. When you Google the bank, unless you go to every search result and look at its website, you won’t know that it's a digital branch because it's not listed that way in the initial search.
Then there was the idea of a future without any cash swirling in my head. Tell me, if your child does something worthy, does it feel special to say you’ll transfer $5 onto their debit card? For me, it’s just not the same as handing them a $5 bill.
Two lessons here. First, for the bank, improve your customer service. Don’t look at us old guys like we have two heads because we walked into the wrong type of branch. Be more helpful. Second, for readers, if you want cash, know where you are going before you go to get it. Apparently, cash is no longer king—it's been dethroned by ones and zeros!